Broxton and crew boost Dodgers to best record in NL, 1-0

The thing is, Albert Pujols in the ninth inning is scary. But Jonathan Broxton just might be scarier.

No offense to Pujols, who does it all day, all year long. But Broxton is a force unto his own in the ninth, and tonight he bested Pujols and the Cardinals to preserve a 1-0 victory over St. Louis, in the teams’ first meeting since the 2009 National League Division Series.

Broxton has now faced Pujols 13 times in their careers and has allowed a single and two walks while getting him out the other 10 times. (Pujols was also 1 for 3 against Broxton in the 2009 postseason.)

The victory – the Dodgers’ second consecutive 1-0 Tuesday victory at home and third in eight days – vaults the Dodgers into first place in the National League West, with the best record in the entire league for the first time in 2010. The Dodgers have won 27 of their past 37 games to complete their worst-to-first (for now) journey.

The game was scoreless headed into the eighth. Hiroki Kuroda and Chris Carpenter dueled for seven shutout innings apiece, Kuroda allowing four hits and a walk while striking out six, Carpenter allowing six hits and a walk while striking out five. Things changed in the bottom of the eighth, when Rafael Furcal (2 for 4) led off with a single and one out later went to second on Andre Ethier’s third hit.

Manny Ramirez, 0 for 3 to that point, was up.  Ramirez had a .438 on-base percentage with runners in scoring position this season going into tonight’s game, but I’ll forgive you if it felt like he was overdue. Sure enough, Ramirez then launched one into the right-field corner for a double to drive in Furcal.

After an intentional walk to James Loney, Casey Blake and Blake DeWitt struck out to leave the bases loaded and keep the pressure on Broxton, who had to face Pujols, Matt Holliday and Ryan Ludwick in the ninth.

Pujols fouled off seven consecutive pitches in an 11-pitch at-bat before striking out for the third time tonight (10th time in his career that happened, according to Vin Scully), but Holliday, in his first ninth inning in Los Angeles since his enormous playoff error, singled to center. However, Broxton struck out Ludwick, then got an 0-2 broken-bat comebacker from Skip Schumaker for the final out.

Broxton’s 2010 numbers: 27 1/3 innings, 21 hits, three walks, 42 strikeouts, 0.99 ERA.

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With two off days between now and Vicente Padilla’s expected activation from the disabled list June 18, Carlos Monasterios might be headed back to the bullpen, writes Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.

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