Pat Burrell, Jonathan Broxton, and Memories of Armando Benitez
Philadelphia Phillies rookie Pat Burrell strode to the plate on June 20, 2000, to lead off the top of the ninth inning at Shea Stadium.
Hard-throwing closer Armando Benitez was on the mound for New York's most beloved team, the Mets, who were leading the hapless Phillies, 2-1.
Burrell hit a home run off Benitez to tie the game that the Phillies would win, 3-2, in 10 innings.
The next night, the teams were tied, 5-5 in the top of the ninth inning.
The Phillies loaded the bases against John Franco. The tie was broken when the usually reliable Franco walked Ricky Jordan to force home future New York Times baseball writer, Doug Glanville.
Mets manager Bobby Valentine yanked left-hander Franco in favor of right-hander Benitez. Burrell was next to hit.
Burrell promptly hit a grand slam against Benitez to put the game out of reach.
Yesterday, July 31, 2010, Los Angeles Dodgers manager, Joe Torre, who sometimes mistakes closer Jonathan Broxton for Mariano Rivera, brought in Broxton with two outs in the eighth inning for a potential four-out save against the San Francisco Giants.
The inning started out innocently enough.
With the Dodgers leading, 2-1, left-hander Hong-Chih Kuo, who had retired the Giants in order in the seventh inning, got Freddy Sanchez out on a harmless fly ball to right fielder Garrett Anderson on one pitch.
The dangerous Aubrey Huff, one of the great acquisitions of the season, took Kuo's first pitch for a called strike, and then grounded out harmlessly to first baseman James Loney for the second out.
Buster Posey was the next batter.
According to Torre, the Dodgers didn't want to give Posey a chance to extend his arms and hit a long ball that might tie the game, so Kuo worked him inside.
The Dodgers' problem was that Kuo worked him too much inside. His first delivery hit Buster on the upper left arm, putting the potential tying run on first.
Torre, who has admitted that he sometimes overworks his most effective relievers, as Scott Proctor knows, brought in Broxton to face Burrell.
Broxton is 6'4" and weighs 295 pounds. He throws close to 100 mph.
Benitez is 6'4" and weighed 260 pounds. He threw close to 100 mph.
Burrell stepped into the batters box. Benitez—sorry, Broxton, fell behind, three balls and no strikes. Burrell took the next delivery for a called strike.
Posey took his lead off first base, Broxton went to the stretch, checked Posey at first, and delivered. Burrell fouled it off.
With the count full, Posey would be off with the next pitch.
Broxton peered in to get the signal from Russell Martin, nodded in assent, checked Posey at first, and delivered.
Burrell blasted the 3-2 pitch on a line drive into the left field seats. The crowd went wild.
Guillermo Mota did what Broxton could not.
The former Dodger, who entered the game in the top of the eighth inning with one out and struck out Rafael Furcal and Matt Kemp, retired the Dodgers in order in the ninth inning to get the win.
After the game, Burrell, whose game-winning home run was his first since June 29, and who had hit home runs to put the Giants ahead two other times this season, spoke with reporters.
"We're in a real good situation. You have to be fortunate to be in position to make the playoffs. We've got to approach every game as if it is crunch time, because in reality it is."
Manager Bruce Bochy said it best, "It's hard to get a bigger hit than that."
Tonight, the Giants and Dodgers meet again. Don't be surprised if Torre brings in Broxton again. It's only August.
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