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Jonathan Broxton is an elite closer, averaging 12 strikeouts per nine innings with a 2.92 ERA. Asking him to get three outs in a game his team has a 95% chance of winning is a no-brainer. And the overwhelming majority of the time, Broxton will convert the 95% chance into 100%.
Broxton has been the victim of some great Phillies memories recently. He added one more to the timeline last night.
The Phillies were down 9-2 going into the bottom of the eighth inning. FanGraphs listed their probability of winning at a whopping 1%. However, the never-say-die Phillies scored four runs on four singles and a double off of Ronald Belisario and Kenley Jansen. Still, their win probability only moved up to 3.6% by the end of the inning with the score 9-6.
Bottom of the ninth, enter Broxton, he of the career 4.91 ERA in 14.2 IP against the Phillies, highest among any team against which he has logged 11 or more innings. Was his lack of success against them running through his mind? Was he recalling:
- August 24, 2008: The Phillies are behind 2-1 with runners on first and second with two outs in the ninth. Shane Victorino reached on a single and Andy Tracy reached on a walk (Kyle Kendrick pinch-ran for him). When the second out of the inning was recorded, the Phillies had a 14.5% chance to win. Pedro Feliz brought the Phillies up to 61.3% with a game-tying single to right field. Feliz played the role of hero again in the bottom of the eleventh, hitting a walk-off three-run home run off of Jason Johnson.
- October 13, 2008: Game 4 of the National League Champsionship Series. The Phillies entered the top of the eighth inning behind 5-3. Shane Victorino tied the game with a line drive two-run home run down the right field line off of Cory Wade. Wade recorded the second out of the inning, then allowed a single to Carlos Ruiz before being pulled for Broxton. What happened next will be forever vivid in the memories of Phillies fans: Matt Stairs put one of the most beautiful swings on a Broxton fastball, hitting one of the most beautiful home runs, putting the Phillies up 7-5, the score by which they would win.
- May 14, 2009: The Phillies are behind 3-1 with two outs in the ninth. Broxton struck out Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth to start the inning, but Raul Ibanez singled and Greg Dobbs walked to bring up Carlos Ruiz. After falling behind 0-2 and fouling off two more tough pitches, Ruiz hit a double to deep right-center, scoring runs two and three to tie the game. The Phillies went from 1.6% to win after Werth’s strikeout to 61.1% after Ruiz’s double. The Phillies, however, ended up losing as Chad Durbin allowed two runs to the Dodgers in the top of the tenth. Ramon Troncoso nailed down the save.
- October 19, 2009: Game 4 of the NLCS again. The Phillies enter the bottom of the ninth trailing 4-3. Raul Ibanez grounded out for the first out of the inning, bringing up Matt Stairs. In what can only be described as sheer nervousness, Broxton walked Stairs on four pitches, three of which were low and outside. Carlos Ruiz was subsequently hit with a pitch, putting runners on first and second. Greg Dobbs lined out for the second out of the inning, bringing up Jimmy Rollins. And then this happened. Rollins laced a double to right-center, scoring the tying and go-ahead runs for a walk-off victory that put the Phillies up three games to one in the NLCS.
Back to tonight. The Phillies are down 9-6 entering the ninth inning. They have a 5% chance to win.
Broxton hit Polanco to start the ninth inning, then walked Mike Sweeney and Jayson Werth to load the bases with no outs. Ben Francisco hit a ground ball that went through Casey Blake‘s legs, scoring two runs to bring the Phillies within one run. Carlos Ruiz, always the hero, ended the game with a two-run double to left-center. Once again, Broxton walked off the field failing to have nailed down the save against the Phillies.
Here’s a look, in chart form, of Broxton’s failure to hold the Phillies scoreless. (Via FanGraphs)
It would be interesting to find out if the Phillies have information on Broxton that the rest of the league does not. While five games constitutes a very small sample, the odds of the Phillies coming from behind the way they have are astronomically low. There is likely something more to this than simple statistical variance, whether it’s Broxton’s jitters or some juicy information the Phillies have in their scouting reports.