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A.J. Ellis delivers a Dodgers win with homer in ninth inning

His three-run home run ends a dramatic night with a 6-3 victory over the Houston Astros that prevents a three-game losing streak.

May 27, 2012|By Baxter Holmes

The game crept along like a snail in slow motion late into Saturday night, and the Dodger Stadium crowd, which was announced at 36,581, thinned as the hours passed.

But those that remained when the fourth hour neared rose from their seats to track the fly ball walloped by A.J. Ellis  in the ninth inning with two runners aboard and the score tied.

"My only thought was, drive the ball into the outfield," Ellis said.  

The catcher hit it square and drove it far. The Dodgers fans –- those that stayed –- stood and roared when it landed in the left-field pavilion, giving their team a wild 6-3 win.

It was the third career walk-off hit and first walk-off home run for Ellis, who’s now in his fifth major league season.

"It’s just a credit to him, honestly," Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly said. "He’s one of those guys you root for."

The Dodgers (31-15) were the only team in Major League Baseball that hadn’t lost three consecutive games.

Ellis’ three-run shot, which came on a 1-1 count against Wilton Lopez, allowed the Dodgers, who have won 11 of their last 15 overall, to keep that distinction.

The Dodgers improved to a major league-best 20-5 at home and increased their divisional lead against the rival San Francisco Giants to 7 1/2 games in the National League West after a game that was their longest nine-inning game so far this season: 3 hours 50 minutes

“That was a weird game,” Mattingly said.

Each team’s starter didn’t last that long –- not because they were pitching poorly, but because they were pitching a lot.

Houston started Bud Norris and he threw 116 pitches in only 4 2/3 innings. He gave up eight hits, three runs and four walks.

Chad Billingsley took the mound for the Dodgers and he left it five innings later with a pitch count of 86. He gave up five hits and two runs while striking out eight. 

They were two of the 11 pitchers used in the game. The final for the Dodgers was Kenley Jansen, who pitched 1 1/3 innings and improved to 4-0.

The final hurler for Houston, which fell to 22-24, was Wesley Wright (0-1).

And with the score tied, 3-3, Wright opened the ninth inning by hitting Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier with an 0-2 pitch. Scott Van Slyke then advanced Ethier to second base with a sacrifice bunt.

The Astros replaced Wright with Lopez, who intentionally walked James Loney to face Ellis.

"That’s the right thing to do, that’s the right baseball move," Ellis said. "You’ve got a sinkerballer on the mound. You’ve got myself: I’m not the fastest guy in the world. I’m a double-play candidate."

But Ellis had faced Lopez before and Ellis knew he would be swinging at sinkers, so he wanted to find an elevated pitch because, he said, anything low would end up a ground ball.

For the record: An earlier version of this report said that Jeff Pentland was the Dodgers pitching coach. He was the hitting coach.
Ellis got the pitch he wanted, a sinker clocked at 91 mph, and he turned it into his fifth home run of the season, three more than he managed during parts of his previous four seasons in the majors.

"He's just been working," Mattingly said of Ellis' extra batting practice regimen. "He’s worked and worked and worked on his swing. I can’t even tell you the hours this guy puts in. There was a couple years ago when he was getting called up at the end of the season at different times and he would just wear you out in the cage. And really wore (former Dodgers hitting coach) Jeff Pentland out. I would be down there to a point, and it was so much that Pentland started coming in at 1 o’clock so (Ellis) could get hit. He’d be an hour and a half, working on stuff to keep working on his swing.”

The Dodgers had 12 hits but that was the only one for Ellis in four at-bats. Ethier had two hits and knocked in the Dodgers’ first run of the night with a double in the third inning, which cut Houston’s two-run lead in half.

In the fourth inning –- and by then the game was already two hours old –- Tony Gwynn Jr.  singled down the right-field line to score Loney, who tied a season-high with three hits, from third base and Dee Gordon from second, giving the Dodgers a 3-2 lead.

In the eighth, Dodgers reliever Ronald Belisairo issued a pair of two-out walks before being replaced by Jansen. But the Astros capitalized with an RBI double that tied the score.

With the game headed for extra innings and four-plus hours, Ellis’ shot sent everyone home, finally, and soon after his name was trending worldwide on Twitter. 

In all, it marked another night when the Dodgers were able to squeeze out a win with a lineup filled by no-name players and a disabled list bloated because of a tsunami of injuries.


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