Jonathan Broxton doesn’t lose a lead, only his job, as Dodgers fall

The Dodgers weren’t ahead. In fact, they were down by a run. And the game wasn’t in the ninth inning.

But on the mound stood Jonathan Broxton.

Stripped of his title of closer on Friday, Broxton pitched an unspectacular, scoreless eighth inning in the Dodgers’ 1-0 loss to the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field as part of a plan to regain the form that made him a two-time All-Star.

“We want to get his feet under him without the spotlight of the save situation,” Manager Joe Torre said.

Torre described the move as temporary.

Until Broxton reclaims his role, left-hander Hong-Chih Kuo will serve as the Dodgers’ primary ninth-inning pitcher.

Torre said that even before Broxton blew a three-run lead in a loss to the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday night, he’d told him he would be sharing the job with Kuo.

Asked if he was fine with Torre’s decision, Broxton replied, “The way I’ve been pitching the last four weeks? Until I can get back, Joe wants to get me out in non-pressure situations. Just got to get some work in. Can’t be doing it in the ninth, especially the way I’ve been struggling lately.”

Broxton has blown three saves and posted a 10.13 earned-run average in eight appearances since the All-Star break.

Because Kuo is a survivor of four elbow operations and requires regular rest, Torre said he would probably turn to recently acquired Octavio Dotel to close games on days Kuo is unavailable.

Dotel saved 21 games for Pittsburgh before his July 31 trade to the Dodgers. Because Kuo pitched Wednesday and Thursday in Philadelphia, Torre said he would have called on Dotel to close Friday — or pitch the eighth and ninth if the score was tied.

Torre didn’t have to.

The Dodgers were held to four hits, including three over the first eighth innings by Tim Hudson, who improved to 14-5.

Hudson was nearly matched by Hiroki Kuroda, whose only mistake was serving up a solo home run to Brooks Conrad in the seventh inning.

“He’s pitched so well this year,” Torre said of Kuroda, who is 8-11. “He hasn’t had very many games where he’s just given it up.”

This marked the fifth time this season Kuroda lost a game in which the Dodgers were shut out.

Informed of that, he chuckled.

The pitchers he faced in those five games were Johan Santana, Clay Buchholz, Josh Johnson, Adam Wainwright and Hudson.

Kuroda’s ERA in his six starts since the All-Star break is 2.37, but he is 1-4.

But the 1-0 deficit Friday served at least one purpose, which was to give Broxton time to work out of his funk.

Broxton was in the bullpen with coaches Rick Honeycutt and Ken Howell before the game, working on preventing his torso from rotating too much when releasing the ball. Come game time, Torre said, “He looked like he was still feeling for it.”

The inning started with Broxton giving up an infield hit to Omar Infante. He got Jason Heyward to fly out to left and Alex Gonzalez to ground into a forceout. Brian McCann flied out to Matt Kemp at the warning track in center field for the final out of the inning.

Broxton said he was pleased.

“It’s a positive step tonight,” he said.