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Dodgers beat 8/26

August 28, 2010 Comments off

Bullpen gives Torre matchup luxury

MILWAUKEE — When presented with his options for closing out the ninth inning in Wednesday’s 5-4 win over the Brewers, the most intriguing option for Dodgers manager Joe Torre came with the most risk.

Torre went with it anyway, matching up right-hander Ronald Belisario, lefty George Sherrill and right-hander Octavio Dotel with Brewers sluggers Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder and Casey McGehee.

“What really caused that, and why we had the idea to do it, was based on the fact that Prince Fielder was in the middle of it,” Torre said. “When you’re in a one-run game, you just have to figure out how to navigate your way through it.

With that plan, each of the three pitchers got their respective jobs done, retiring one batter. Dotel, in fact, needed just two pitches to get McGehee out for the save. It’s a plan that worked well, but one that could have spelled disaster for the Dodgers.

If any one of the three were unable to complete their assigned task, the Dodgers could have been headed for extra innings with a thin bullpen. The plan beyond McGehee, Torre said, was to keep Dotel in the game. If it had not been for Fielder batting between Braun and McGehee, the inning would have been Dotel’s with the Brewers’ right-handed heavy lineup.

“It worked out for us,” Torre said. “We just felt we needed to do that based on the fact that you can’t ignore what Fielder is capable of doing.”

The decision may have been easier for Torre considering the pedigree of the pitchers in his bullpen. As pointed out by Brewers manager Ken Macha after Wednesday’s game, nearly every guy in the Dodgers’ bullpen has closing experience.

Lefty Hong-Chih Kuo closed Tuesday’s series-opening victory. Jonathan Broxton, who pitched a clean eighth inning on Wednesday, had been the Dodgers’ closer until recently. Sherrill closed games in Baltimore before coming to Los Angeles. Dotel, in his 12th Major League season, has closed games for a number of other teams, including the Astros, Athletics and Pirates.

“We have nice pieces down there at the end of the game, there’s no question,” Torre said. “We get a [close game] situation in the last couple innings, we’ve got a lot of choices, especially now with George, you’ve got a left-handed choice aside from Kuo.

“Hopefully we’re in a position in a lot of games to have that mean something.”

Broxton impresses in eighth-inning role

MILWAUKEE — With the Dodgers’ current situation, manager Joe Torre is more concerned with winning games than assigning specific roles to his relief pitchers.

That being the case, he admitted there was a chance for Jonathan Broxton to find himself with a ninth-inning save opportunity in the near future. But that doesn’t mean he’s ready to change whom he calls his closer.

“I wouldn’t be afraid, after what I saw tonight, to put him out there,” Torre said after Wednesday’s game. “[Hong-Chih] Kuo is still our guy in that situation. But if Prince [Fielder] is coming up the inning before, you’re going to send Kuo out there against him.

“I think the situation will dictate it, but I was very comfortable watching Brox. After the 3-0, once he started throwing strikes, I thought he was very consistent with it.”

Broxton impressed in the eighth, retiring three straight batters with 13 total pitches. After opening the count 3-0 against pinch-hitter Chris Dickerson, nine of Broxton’s final 10 pitches were strikes as he got Dickerson to ground out, Rickie Weeks to fly out and struck out Corey Hart swinging.

“That’s the Brox that we’ll send out there in the ninth inning, that guy we saw [Wednesday night],” Torre said. “That’s liable to be in the next couple of days because that certainly was a good one for him.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Bucs blow lead, lose on walk-off in 10th

July 10, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — Even All-Stars have an off night once in a while.

If there was one thing Pirates manager John Russell thought he could count on, it was the performance of relievers Joel Hanrahan, Octavio Dotel and Evan Meek.

Unfortunately for Russell and the Pirates, those three were the ones that surrendered the lead over the final three innings on Friday night as the Pirates lost, 5-4, to the Brewers at Miller Park.

“The three guys that we bring in in the eighth, ninth and 10th are guys that have done that job for us all year long and each one of them gave up runs,” Russell said. “It’s not something we see very often. Unfortunately, it happened. It’s a shame.”

With a 4-2 lead in the eighth, Hanrahan came on in relief of left-handed starter Paul Maholm, carrying an 11-inning scoreless streak with him. Brewers slugger Prince Fielder ended that streak with one swing of the bat, crushing a 1-2 slider deep into the second deck in right field.

In the ninth, closer Octavio Dotel came on looking to end it and snap the Pirates’ four-game losing skid. Dotel had converted seven consecutive saves since June 13, but he struggled after starting the inning with a groundout to third base.

Despite a bunt single, stolen base, throwing error, triple and wild pitch — all with one out — Dotel escaped with the game tied, leaving the contest in the hands of Meek, who entered the game with just a 0.94 ERA.

Meek (4-3) battled for two outs through the first three hitters, including an impressive strikeout of fellow All-Star Corey Hart. With that, it looked like Meek would escape unscathed.

But Meek was bested by fellow All-Star Ryan Braun, who drove a first-pitch slider to the wall in right, plating Rickie Weeks and giving the Brewers the walk-off win.

“To put it simply, the No. 1 priority with Braun was just to keep the ball down, and it was a bad pitch,” Meek said. “It was a breaking ball and it was up right where he was looking to hit it, and that’s really it.

“It was just a poor pitch. You’ve got to keep the ball down with all these guys, especially Braun, and the ball was up. And he did what he should’ve done to it.”

Braun got the opportunity to deliver the game-winning hit after the Pirates chose to walk Fielder with first base open.

“Of course, you always want to make the team pay when they walk Prince,” Braun said. “I’m just glad to contribute.”

Perhaps most disappointing about the bullpen’s performance on the night were the good performances that it wasted.

Before Friday’s game, Russell talked about the need for good pitching and extra-base hits to change the Pirates’ fortunes on the road.

They got some of each in the series opener against the Brewers, but unfortunately, the hitting faltered after the fifth as did the pitching following the seventh.

Maholm overcame early struggles to toss seven strong innings, allowing just two runs on three hits while giving up two walks, hitting three batters and recording four strikeouts.

After walking Weeks to lead off the game, Maholm surrendered a two-run opposite-field blast to Corey Hart, his 20th of the season. Aside from some issues with hit batters, Maholm effectively limited the Brewers the rest of the way, giving up just two hits.

“I just got [upset] and started throwing, that’s what it boils down to,” Maholm said. “It wasn’t any mechanical change. I’ve had a couple bad outings, but I just told myself that was going to be it. It was going to stop there and I was going to get deep into the game.”

Maholm had plenty of support early, as the Pirates picked up five extra-base hits — three doubles and two home runs — the first four of which contributed to the club’s four runs on the night.

They couldn’t score after the fifth inning, though, as the Brewers’ bullpen combined to toss five scoreless innings to pick up lefty starter Doug Davis, who struggled in his return from a nearly two-month stay on the disabled list.

The Brewers may have caught a break in the eighth inning, when Lastings Milledge’s single struck second-base umpire Chris Guccione in the foot on its way to center field. Garrett Jones might have tried to score from second on the play had it not struck the ump and been moving fast enough to elude second baseman Weeks, but Jones instead had to return to his base and was stranded there.

Brewers closer John Axford (4-1) picked up the win, throwing a scoreless 10th.

As the home team walked off to victory, snapping a five-game losing streak, the Pirates added a fourth game to their losing skid, and Pittsburgh came out on the losing end for the 22nd time in its last 24 road games.

“It’s just frustrating to play well and not be able to close it out,” Maholm said. “But you give those guys the ball every night and they’re going to have an off night. But you come back tomorrow and expect them to do well.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs