A.J. Ellis celebrates his bases-loaded walk to force in the game-winning… (Harry How / Getty Images )
And so the legend of A.J. Ellis grows yet again. By the time this is over, they won’t be singing songs comparing him to Roy Campanella, but to Davy Crockett.
Ellis is the great surprise of the Dodgers’ 2012 season, a career minor leaguer finally given a chance to start every day in the majors at age 31, and exceeding everyone’s expectations.
Either that, or it’s time to start ripping the Dodgers for holding him down all these years.
Really, there was little from his past that could have foretold the level of his early success this season. The Dodgers knew he was strong behind the plate, would handle the staff well, and hit a little.
But he has been so much more than that. He’s quietly turned into such an offensive force that some are calling for him to be voted into the All-Star game.
His .459 on-base percentage is the second highest in the major leagues. He’s batting .327. His 23 walks lead the team, though none were more important than the one he earned in the bottom of the ninth Friday to force in the winning run in the 6-5 victory over the Cardinals. A walk-off walk.
“It’s really kind of been his trademark in the minor leagues,” said Manager Don Mattingly. “This guy has been an on-base percentage guy all the way through. I’ve even heard it in meetings, 'He has to be more aggressive, he has to swing the bat at certain points.' But the on-base has been his M.O.
“You think about him coming to the big leagues, and think he’s not going to be able to do it because they throw more strikes here. But he’s been able to basically continue the on-base thing here. But really he’s swung the bat. That’s the big thing. If you don’t get hits, they’re going to pound the strike zone. But he’s been effective enough that he’s hit some balls out of the ballpark, had some hits with men on base.
“It’s like you have to fight to get him out and that means you have to make quality pitches, and you miss. He forces you to throw the ball over the plate.”
Friday night Ellis went 1-for-4 with the walk, two RBI (19 on the season) and a run. He has reached base safely via a hit or walk in 27 consecutive games.
“I’m just trying to stay within myself and have consistent at-bats,” Ellis said.
Not everything went perfectly for him Friday. With the bases loaded in the third, he bounced into an inning-ending double play. With runners on the corners in the fifth, he was called out on strikes.
Which made his ninth-inning at-bat all the sweeter for him.
“All I’m thinking there is driving the ball into the outfield,” Ellis said. “I had that chance earlier in the game and rolled over a ball, double play. I definitely didn’t want that to happen again.”
Those kinds of things don’t tend to happen to him much this season. Anyway, that’s how the legend goes.
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