09/19/10 10:15 PM ET
Ellis' walk-off hit in 11th caps LA's comeback
Dodgers rally from early five-run deficit against Rockies
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
They rallied from five runs down for a 7-6 walk-off win over the Rockies in 11 innings Sunday, A.J. Ellis suddenly the hottest hitter on the club with the one-out bases-loaded single.
The game also saw Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier hit homers and the Dodgers' bullpen throw seven scoreless innings, with George Sherrill bailing out a wild Jonathan Broxton.
"That team today reminds me of the team we had last year," said Kemp, who teamed with Rafael Furcal for back-to-back doubles that tied the score with one out in the bottom of the ninth. "We fought hard every day last year, fought to the end. That shows the type of team we can be. It was definitely fun, and we haven't had too much fun lately."
Kemp, hitting .176 this month, had his first three-hit game since Aug. 29.
"Matt Kemp was very, very, very good today," said outgoing manager Joe Torre. "His swing was so much better today. Hopefully he can finish up strong."
The win snapped a four-game losing streak for the Dodgers and was potentially deflating for the Rockies, who used nine pitchers, Manny Delcarmen taking the loss, but could have pulled to within a half-game of first place.
"Today was frustrating because we had the lead, because we were three outs away, but it's gotta be nothing more than that, just another loss," said closer Huston Street. "We got to still see what's in front of us and take tomorrow as just kind of a day to move past it."
The winning rally started with Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki stepping out of the way of Reed Johnson's one-hop smash, ruled a single. Furcal bounced into what appeared to be a double play, but first-base umpire Jim Reynolds ruled that Furcal beat Tulowitzki's throw. Replays showed otherwise.
Kemp singled Johnson to third and Ethier was walked intentionally to load the bases for Ellis, who had back-to-back three-hit games Friday and Saturday but was making his first plate appearance Sunday. He lined a single over Tulowitzki's head.
"We didn't get A.J. Ellis out the entire series," Colorado manager Jim Tracy said.
It was another endorsement of the work Ellis has done lately with incoming manager Don Mattingly and hitting coach Jeff Pentland as he bids for a big league catching job next year, with Russell Martin's health uncertain, Rod Barajas a free agent and Brad Ausmus retiring.
"I've changed my swing path and now can repeat my swing," said Ellis. "I had the other swing ingrained in me and Pentland thinks it may be a product of aluminum bats, staying inside the ball and pushing it more. Up here with wood bats and pitchers that cut and sink, that swing has a tough time. These aren't really the results we expected, just looking for a better swing."
Ellis was the third catcher the Dodgers used, entering the game in a 10th-inning double-switch. His only plate appearance turned into the second walk-off hit of his career and extended his current hot streak to 8-for-11.
The comeback provided a rare opportunity for the Dodgers' offense to bail out Clayton Kershaw, instead of the other way around, which had become the norm this year. This time, Kershaw was charged with six runs in four innings, his shortest start in four months, although two of the runs were unearned and a few more should have been after he was sabotaged by his defense.
Two misplays by left fielder Jay Gibbons and one by Furcal at shortstop or Kershaw would have done better coming off the first shutout of his career. That said, he did walk the first two batters he faced to start the trouble.
He almost escaped, but Jason Giambi's two-out drive in the first inning pinned Gibbons against the left-field message board, and when he tried to jump, his shoulder jammed against the board and he appeared anchored to the ground as the catchable fly fell and three runs scored.
Colorado scored three more in the second inning that started when Gibbons lost Paul Phillips' routine fly in the sun and dropped it, the inning further extended when Furcal's throw that would have completed an inning-ending double play slipped out of his hand. But the offense strung four consecutive hits (Ryan Theriot, Barajas, Jamey Carroll and Furcal) in a three-run fourth to climb back in the game.
"We haven't done much for him," Gibbons said of Kershaw. "It felt good to get him off the hook. I'm happier than anybody in here."
Kerhswaw's ERA is 2.98. He struck out two for 203 on the season, most for the Dodgers since Chan Ho Park had 218 in 2001. But he also walked four (one intentionally).
Meanwhile, Broxton walked three and allowed a single, but he induced a double-play grounder, only to turn over loaded bases to Sherrill with two outs. Sherrill struck out Carlos Gonzalez to escape the jam.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.