Shades of 2004: Dodgers rally with seven in ninth

Dodgers 7, Rockies 5

A.J. Ellis, who has not hit a regular-season home run in the majors or minors since 2008, will rarely be confused with a power hitter, but he provided the knockout blast today, Steve Finley-style.

Against Rockies minor-leaguers Michael Marbry and Chris Malone, the Dodgers scored seven in the bottom of the ninth to avert a 5-0 defeat, capped by Ellis’ walkoff three-run home run.

Gabe Kapler’s two-run double in the ninth, driving in Travis Denker and the unconquerable Corey Smith (6 for 9 with three walks this spring), saved the Dodgers from a shutout. Ivan De Jesus Jr. singled in Kapler, and after Juan Castro singled and Jay Gibbons walked to load the bases, Ellis stepped up.

A wild pitch by Malone made the score 5-4 and ultimately denied Ellis the chance to truly duplicate Finley with a grand slam. Instead, Ellis settled for a three-run shot to left.

Last year’s backup catcher for much of the season, Ellis has been an afterthought in Spring Training because he has an option remaining. The immediate thought is that a serious injury to Dioner Navarro would carve out a roster spot for Hector Gimenez, not Ellis, and that may well be true — Ellis hasn’t helped himself by going 3 for 28 with two walks this spring before the home run.

But given that the Dodgers’ seem to like the idea of Gimenez playing other positions besides catcher, it’s not impossible that Ellis could still end up being the guy who would replace Navarro, with Gimenez continuing to try to make the team in a utility role.

Anyway, one home run off a minor-leaguer doesn’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world, but it was a beautiful moment nonetheless.

Highlights:

  • Make it three straight six-inning outings for Dodger starting pitchers, thanks to Hiroki Kuroda, who also had a rare single at the plate.
  • Jonathan Broxton and Mike MacDougal each had a walk and a strikeout in their shutout innings.
  • DeJesus singled in his first two-bats against Rockies starter Jhoulys Chacin and finished 3 for 5.
  • Last-minute starter Gimenez went 1 for 3.
  • Castro, who preceded his single with a walk, is now hitting .400.
  • The Dodgers drew eight walks.

Lowlights:

  • Kuroda lost a quality start when a fourth run came across with two out in the sixth.
  • James Loney and Xavier Paul each went 0 for 3.
  • Matt Kemp and Loney couldn’t convert a two-on, one-out chance in the first inning, and Loney struck out with two out and two runners on in the third. The Dodgers were 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position and left nine on base through the firsteight innings.
  • After Kuroda’s single moved him to second base, Jamey Carroll got picked off. Carroll also grounded into a double play with two on in the second.

Sidelights:

  • Davey Lopes is the subject of an interview and feature by Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

    … Lopes’ baserunning tutorials this spring have included a little humor here and there, but there is no question he takes this stuff very seriously. He does as much demonstrating as he does talking. And while he covers the nuances and the technical aspects of taking a lead, rounding a corner and picking a spot, he delivers the information in a way that is easy to digest.“If I had him as a coach when I was younger, I would have 500 stolen bases right now,” said shortstop Rafael Furcal, the Dodgers’ leadoff man, who has 293 of them in 11 seasons. “You look at some of these kids like Dee Gordon and [Trayvon] Robinson, they are basically learning all this stuff right now, while they’re young, so when they get to the big leagues, they are going to be ready.

    “They are going to know how to run the bases in a way that will help this team win games.” …

  • Part 1 and Part 2 of LADodgertalk.com’s interview with Dodger exec Logan White. The second segment includes White’s defense of Jonathan Broxton against questions of mental toughness. “I do know that it’s in that man’s gut to be real good,” White says. “He doesn’t like to fail.”
  • “Beaver” Cleaver starts a baseball blog, at Halos Heaven.
  • The dithering about Neftali Feliz’s role on the Texas pitching staff has undithered — he will remain a reliever. New ESPN.com Sweet Spot blogger David Schoenfield shares his thoughts.
  • Grant Brisbee of McCovey Chronicles waxes about the injuries to San Francisco’s Brian Wilson and Cody Ross. Meanwhile, David Cameron of Fangraphs looks at the Giants’ shortstop worries.
  • Japan is eyeing an April 12 Opening Day for its baseball leagues, reports The Associated Press.
  • Nice piece on Pittsburgh college basketball player Nasir Robinson taking responsibility for his March Madness mess-up, from Eamonn Brennan of ESPN.com.
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