Heading into the bottom of the ninth inning Saturday, the Los Angeles Dodgers had six runners reach base and no runs to show for it.
San Diego Padres starter Ian Kennedy struck out eight and allowed just three hits in eight innings of work. With Padres reliever Kevin Quackenbush on the mound in the ninth, the Dodgers took advantage of an opportunity.
Adrian Gonzalez hit a leadoff double and Quackenbush intentionally walked Andre Ethier with one out. Juan Uribe worked a walk to load the bases and it set the stage for A.J. Ellis to play hero.
The Dodger catcher fell behind in the count 0-2 but managed to stay alive and hit a sacrifice fly to give the Dodgers a walk-off win.
According to an AP report on ESPN, Ellis sensed in the eighth inning there was a chance he’d get to bat in the ninth:
It’s great to be in those situations. It’s something you always want to be a part of,” Ellis said. “After the eighth inning, I looked up at the scoreboard. I saw where I was hitting and I said, `You know, there’s a chance something could happen in the ninth.’ And I got in a position to be the guy who drives in the big run.”
As for facing an infield with five men with Padres manager Bud Black’s decision to call in Jake Goebbert from left field, Ellis said he wasn’t focused on them:
You can’t even look at them,” Ellis said. “One of the worst things you can do as a hitter is try to direct the ball. You just hit it where it’s pitched. In that situation, I’m looking to get a ball in the outfield, anyway, so the infield is the least of my concerns. I’m just looking for something up that I could hit to center or right, and I was really happy to find a pitch up there.”
It’s been a less than stellar season for the 33-year-old catcher who is now hitting .217 with seven RBIs. Ellis has twice been placed on the disabled list, which invariably has had an impact on his offensive production.
His timing in throwing out baserunners has also suffered as he’s caught just three stealing compared to allowing 22 stolen bases. Ellis previously spoke of needing to earn a new contract with the Dodgers and was aware it would depend on his production.
Delivering on Saturday may be what sends the catcher in the right direction.
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