The big behemoth from Georgia lumbered to the mound to begin the top of the ninth inning with a 3-1 lead Thursday evening, in Chavez Ravine.

Jonathan Broxton closes games for the Los Angeles Dodgers, or he’s supposed to anyway.

Triple-digit fastballs, and 90 mph sliders don’t generally greet hitters with a smile.

After allowing base hits to Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, Gregg Zaun, and Craig Counsell, the Milwaukee Brewers tied the game, and forced the Dodgers to face another doom and gloom evening.

A blown lead in May can be swallowed, but this Dodgers team needed a lift. A team that occupies the bottom of the National League West needed a spark. A club that has dropped six of its last 10 games needed a hero.

Andre Ethier, meet LaTroy Hawkins. LaTroy, meet Andre.

With the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, Ethier sent a Hawkins pitch deep into the Los Angeles night, landing over the center field wall for a walk-off grand slam and a 7-3 Dodgers victory.

Ethier has two walk-off hits this season, already a third of the way to his 2009 total.

“It was important for us to bounce right back and not dwell on [the blown lead],” Ethier said. “I don’t know what it is, but for some reason I just keep getting up in that situation with an opportunity to [win the game].”

Dodgers manger Joe Torre had high praise for his right fielder after the win. “I don’t remember anybody being as heroic as he’s been out of all the guys I’ve managed,” Torre said.

Lets not forget that list includes a dude named Derek Jeter, the prince of the Big Apple who has made a living in October, and earned himself the nickname “Mr. November” for his 2001 World Series heroics; the same guy who recently became the all-time hits leader in Yankees history. Not Ruth, not Mantle, not Gehrig. Jeter.

This is not to suggest that Torre is putting Ethier in the same context as those guys—not yet anyway—but a comment like Torre’s means something, especially considering where Ethier came from.

If Ethier would have listened to Pat Murphy 10 years ago, he probably wouldn’t have been anywhere near Dodger Stadium Thursday night.

In the fall of 2000, Ethier enrolled as a freshman at Arizona State University. Murphy, then the Sun Devils’ coach, told him he wasn’t good enough to play Division I baseball, and that he should probably transfer to a junior college instead.

So, Ethier did. Murphy, notoriously known for his bulldog personality, had just earned Pac-10 Coach of the year honors in the spring. If he thought a freshman needed to go somewhere else to play, well, that’s what was going to happen.

Ethier swallowed his pride and headed Chandler-Gilbert Community College in Arizona.

Ninety-four hits and a .468 batting average later, Ethier knocked on Murphy’s door the following fall, this time as a 37th round pick of the Oakland Athletics.

Murphy had been wrong about Ethier, and he knew it. Ethier became a Sun Devil, went on to enjoy All-Pac 10 seasons in ’02 and ’03, and then signed with the A’s after being selected in the second round of the 2003 draft.

In December of 2005, A’s general manager Billy Beane thought the A’s had the type of club to win the American League West the following season.

Looking to add another piece or two, Beane shipped Ethier to the Dodgers in exchange for maligned outfielder Milton Bradley and infielder Antonio Perez. The Dodgers sold high on Perez, who hit .297 in 259 at-bats prior to the trade, and had grown tired of Bradley.

Ethier was known as one of the premier hitters in the minor leagues, but he didn’t come with superstar hype.

When the trade went through, Baseball America’s Kevin Goldstein had this to say about Ethier:  “In Ethier, the Dodgers acquired one of the top hitting prospects in the Oakland system … Ethier is a gifted hitter, but average speed and a below-average arm limit him to left field. With just average power at best, scouts are mixed as Ethier having enough offensive firepower to profile as an everyday corner outfielder in the big leagues.”

Four years later, Ethier led the Dodgers with 31 homers. His .869 OPS ranked behind only Manny Ramirez for the team lead.

In the off-season, the Dodgers inked Ethier to a two-year deal worth $15.25 million, and he has been one of the lone bright spots for the Dodgers so far this spring.

Los Angeles should be better than their 12-16 record, 4-11 on the road, but its -11 run differential through 28 games speaks to the early season troubles.

Ramirez has hit only two homers while being limited to 13 games because of a calf strain. He is scheduled to come off the disabled list on Saturday, May 8.

Matt Kemp has swung a hot bat in the early going, but management expects more from him after giving him a two-year, $10.95 million deal.

General manager Ned Colletti went on a Los Angeles-based radio station and questioned whether Kemp had become too comfortable now that he received an extension.

Kemp says there is no rift between him and Colletti, but the public comments rubbed his agent, former big leaguer Dave Stewart, the wrong way.

“When it comes time for Matt to arbitrate two years from now, we’re going to look at that situation and do what’s best for Matt,” Stewart said on The Mason and Ireland Show.

Stewart is also the agent for pitcher Chad Billingsley, a guy the Dodgers hoped would take some big steps forward this season. It hasn’t happened. Billingsley sports a 5.06 ERA, and is averaging almost four walks per nine innings.

Combine that with the recent regression of Clayton Kershaw—4.99 ERA in six starts—and the two arms L.A. hoped would transition into aces are nowhere to be found.

If the Dodgers want to compete with San Francisco, Colorado, and the rest of the division, their pitching woes will have to be worked out. Charlie Haeger and John Ely can help, but they can’t carry the slack of the rotation.

Meanwhile, Torre has been through a few of these things. He knows every season has an ebb and flow that must be endured.

There will be blown saves, injuries and, yes, walk-off wins once in a while.

At a time when so much appears to be in disarray, Torre can look into right field and find Ethier, his hero.

The man who decided to put the Dodgers on his back at a time when the glitter has fallen off Hollywood’s team.

Teddy Mitrosilis is a journalism major at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and plays baseball for the Tar Heels. Follow him on Twitter . You can reach him at

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