Ellis' single wins it for Dodgers in 11th
Backup catcher's big week capped by walk-off heroics
LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis earned this moment.
Ellis earned the joy of being mobbed by teammates after hitting a walk-off RBI single on Sunday that scored Russell Martin. He earned the right to be the hero of the Dodgers' 5-4 win in 11 innings over Atlanta.
He earned the good things that happened Sunday at Dodger Stadium because of what he sacrificed: the chance to be home in Milwaukee for the birth of his son about a week ago.
"It was great," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "This kid is a little bit of a throwback to the old days. I think he knew when his wife was due, but he saw it as an opportunity to be in the big leagues. ... I was really happy for him."
Ellis opted -- with his wife's approval, of course -- to stay with the Dodgers instead of flying home to witness the birth of his son, Lucas Joshua Ellis, on May 29.
For most of his career, Ellis has been relegated to the Minors. He was called up to the Majors from Triple-A Albuquerque a few times in 2008 and '09, but this year marked his best chance to earn a spot with the club when Brad Ausmus was put on the disabled list retroactive to April 9.
This was Ellis' big chance, and his wife, Cindy, wouldn't let him miss the opportunity.
"She's a big athlete. When we met in college, she was a volleyball player," Ellis said. "She knows the game, and she understands the business and the unfortunate burden that it puts on families. She's great. I wouldn't be here right now if it wasn't for her.
"A lot of other wives would have tried to encourage me to do something else after we got married. But she stuck with it, she believed in me and I'm just really fortunate that I have her."
Ellis said that he's flying home next Sunday to be with his family, and then they'll come to Los Angeles at the end of June.
Until Ellis' dramatic 11th-inning single, the Dodgers and the Braves were mired in a contest that tested the depth of each squad's bullpen.
For Los Angeles, it wasn't the most opportune time for such a game. The previous night, the relief corps gave up six runs in three innings and were beaten up to the point where Torre nearly had Ellis pitch mopup duty.
Extra innings was the last thing the group needed, but after rookie starter John Ely uncharacteristically lasted just five innings, that's what it got.
This time, though, the relievers answered the challenge and held the Braves scoreless for six innings to set the stage for Ellis' walk-off RBI single.
Justin Miller, Hong-Chih Kuo, Jeff Weaver, Jonathan Broxton and Ronald Belisario combined to give up just three hits and two walks while striking out five.
"I love to see [that]," Ely said. "Those guys are great. They're going to be good all year. There's bumps in the road for everybody, and yesterday was one for the bullpen. Today was a small bump for me."
Resorting to reserve arms hasn't been something Torre has had to concern himself with during Ely's starts this year.
The young right-hander entered Sunday having assembled a dream start to his Major League career.
Since he gave up five runs in six innings in his big league debut April 28, Ely had allowed no more than two runs in any of his next six outings.
His day against the Braves was another matter.
"The count wasn't in his favor as much as it was in the past," Torre said. "He wasn't wild but he was off a little bit, and a lot of his pitches were elevated and didn't stay down."
Ely allowed at least one baserunner each inning and surrendered his first pair of long balls in the fifth.
The first was a solo blast by Martin Prado that broke a 1-1 tie. The second was a two-run shot off the bat of Brian McCann that landed in Dodger Stadium's Loge Level.
Miller relieved Ely in the sixth. It was the first time Ely was pulled before pitching at least six innings.
"We haven't had one of these outings from him in a while," Torre said. "We escaped it, and hopefully we can get back on track with him."
After the Braves scored three in the top of the fifth, the Dodgers roared back to tie in the bottom of the inning.
Rafael Furcal made it a 4-2 game with a solo home run that just barely cleared the right-field fence. James Loney tied it with a two-run single that scored Jamey Carroll and Andre Ethier.
David Ely is a contributor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.