LOS ANGELES (AP) -Rookie catcher A.J. Ellis rarely gets to play for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He got his eighth start of the season Sunday and certainly made it count.
Ellis came through with an RBI single in the 11th inning for his first game-ending hit in the major leagues, giving Los Angeles a 5-4 victory over the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves and a split of their four-game series.
``We were running out of bodies, so we were happy we were able to get it done when we did,' Ellis said.
Pinch-hitter Russell Martin drew a leadoff walk from Jesse Chavez (0-1), advanced on Blake DeWitt's bunt and came home when Ellis stroked a 1-2 pitch to left field for his seventh RBI.
``Chavez has got a great fastball, and I really had to respect that,' Ellis said. ``So I just went up there looking for a fastball to hit. But he left a curveball a little bit higher than he would have liked, and I was fortunate to find a hole.'
Dodgers relievers Jonathan Broxton and Ronald Belisario ended the Braves' ninth and 10th innings with strikeouts - each stranding a runner at third. Belisario (1-0) pitched two innings of two-hit ball for the victory.
``We had a lot more opportunities to win the ballgame than they did, but we just couldn't get the big hit,' Braves manager Bobby Cox said. ``They've got some good relief pitching on their staff and they did a good job.'
Braves starter Tim Hudson allowed four runs - three earned - and nine hits in seven-plus innings. The two-time All-Star was about to make his third pitch of the eighth inning to Matt Kemp when he was distracted by someone in the crowd who had an object that was reflecting the sun right into his eyes.
``One was a purse handle, one was a mirror, and some of the people up there were playing games up there,' Cox said. ``And these seats, the way they're painted, you can't see the ball off the bat in a day game at times. So that's dangerous enough - along with somebody messing with mirrors to try to reflect light into your eyes.'
The game was held up about 5 minutes until stadium security could identify the fan in question, and Kemp singled on Hudson's next delivery. At that point, Eric O'Flaherty relieved. Kemp advanced to third on Garret Anderson's bunt and DeWitt's grounder, but Ellis was robbed of a bloop single on a diving catch by center fielder Melky Cabrera.
``It kind of stinks that (the fan) screwed with the flow of the game, but you're going to have occasions where people are idiots,' Hudson said. ``I was probably just out there for one hitter, anyway, because we had O'Flaherty warming up. We were at the point of the game where we had to start going with matchups, because one run was probably going to win or lose the game.'
Dodgers rookie John Ely gave up four runs and nine hits over five innings before he was lifted for a pinch-hitter. The right-hander had not allowed a home run in his first 50 big league innings before Martin Prado led off the fifth with his fifth of the season. Brian McCann homered three batters later after a walk to Jason Heyward to give Atlanta a 4-1 lead.
McCann's sixth home run landed in the second deck in the right-field corner. It made him the 18th player to hit a fair ball into Dodger Stadium's loge level - including former Dodger Frank Howard's drive in the 1963 World Series clincher.
Ely's teammates got him off the hook their next time up, tying the score with Rafael Furcal's first homer of the season and James Loney's two-out, two-run single.
``I got ambushed a little bit in that inning,' Hudson said. ``They came out and swung at the first pitch, which is something they hadn't been doing the whole game. They got some pretty decent pitches to hit and I paid for it.'
This was Cox's final game at Dodger Stadium as Atlanta's manager - unless the Braves meet Los Angeles in the playoffs. His regular-season record at Chavez Ravine was 71-66. He and Joe Torre, who are fourth and fifth respectively on the career wins list, deviated from their normal routine and carried out the lineup cards themselves for the pregame huddle with umpires.
NOTES: Cox and Torre, both 69, entered with 69 wins each in their head-to-head regular-season meetings. The Dodgers will be in Atlanta for a four-game series beginning Aug. 13. ... The Dodgers made Sunday a daylong celebration of the life of Jose Lima, who died on May 23 at age 37. When it was time for the national anthem, the Dodgers' Diamond Vision crew sprung from the archives a videotape of Lima singing the anthem on the field before a game - flanked by his wife and young son. Jose Lima Jr., now 11, threw out a ceremonial first pitch to fellow Dominican Manny Ramirez. His dad made a video curtain call in the seventh, singing ``God Bless America.' Lima had the only postseason victory by a Dodgers pitcher between 1998 and 2008. That was in 2004, his only season with the club.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved