It was May 26th, and the Dodgers were trying to fend off the young and feisty Houston Astros in an attempt to stave off a three-game losing streak. In his first year as a starting catcher in the Majors, A.J. Ellis carved out a cult fan following, and this game was one of the highlights of his successful season.
Chad Billingsley hadn’t won a game since April 11th, and he was in his early season
We love you, A.J. Photo: Gary A. Vasquez US PRESSWIRE
winning drought which was par for the course in his up and down season. Billingsley gives up a typical 2012 Dodger first inning run to the Astros after the little second baseman Jose Altuve doubled, and Carlos Lee singled him home. Bills ends up striking out the side, but the Astros hold an early 1-0 lead.
Bills has another tough inning in the second frame, and he allows another run to Houston after Brian Bogusevic and Chris Johnson come up with back-to-back singles. Jason Castro walks to load the bases up for the Astros, and after striking out the pitcher Bud Norris, Bills walks in another run as Jordan Schafer draws the free pass.
Remember, at this point the Dodgers’ lineup included Tony Gwynn Jr., Elian Herrera, Bobby Abreu, Adam Kennedy, and James Loney. It was a much different look than later in the season after the Dodgers made the blockbuster trade with Boston.
The Dodgers get on the board in the bottom of the third inning when Elian Herrera draws a one-out walk, and Elian takes second after Abreu stands at the plate like a statue after hitting a ball right in front of the plate which he thinks is foul. Andre Ethier proceeds to double in Herrera, and the Astros now lead by only one run 2-1.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Dodgers take the lead. Loney leads off with a single which was his second hit of the game. Dee Gordon smacks a double into the left field corner, and TGJ comes up clutch by hitting a groundball single into right field to score two runs. The Dodgers take a 3-2 lead. At this point in the season, Tony Gwynn Jr. is playing very well while taking over for Matt Kemp when he was disabled. He was 10 for 21 with 5 walks and 12 RBIs with runners in scoring position at this point of the season. Sadly, we know that he tails off and ends up being designated for assignment and reassigned to AAA-Albuquerque later in the season where he finished up 2012.
Billingsley has settled down nicely, and he has a 1-2-3 inning in the fifth while retiring 7 Astros in a row. Chad Billingsley pitched 5 innings, allowing 5 hits, 2 runs, 3 walks, and 8 strikeouts on 99 pitches. He comes out of the game after the fifth, and he is relieved by Scott Elbert in the sixth who pitches a scoreless inning.
Javy Guerra pitches a good seventh inning for the Dodgers, but the eighth inning includes a Dodger bullpen meltdown which we all have come to dread over the years. Ronald Belisario walks both Bogusevic and Johnson with one out, and he is pulled by Don Mattingly after the consecutive walks. Donnie will try the old four-out save with Kenley Jansen. We all know how that usually turns out, don’t we? Jason Castro doubles down the left field line on a 3-2 count. But of course. He was only hitting .215 at that time. The tying run scores. Kenley then walks Marwin Gonzalez to load the bases. This game can really highlight how too many walks really plagued the Dodger pitching staff this past season. It was their number one weakness. Schafer flies out, but the Astros have tied it up 3-3.
Jansen is back on the mound for the ninth, and he retires the Astros on two fly balls and a comebacker to preserve the tie. It’s now up to the Dodgers in the bottom half of the ninth.
The Astros bring in a lefty, Wesley Wright, to pitch to Andre Ethier. He ends up hitting Dre with the pitch to put the winning run on first. Wilton Lopez is brought in to pitch to Scott Van Slyke. Van Slyke follows Donne’s bunting orders, and Dre takes second on a successful sacrifice. Then the Astros make the big mistake…they choose to walk James Loney to pitch to A.J. Ellis. Now Loney did have a good game going 3-for-4 on the night, but still…it’s James Loney. A.J. comes up to the plate, and he crushes a three-run walk-off homerun to give the Dodgers the win! A.J. rounds the bases as Dodger fans at Chavez Ravine and at home watching both begin their love affair with the lovable catcher.
The Dodgers are 31-15 at this point, and they are 7 1/2 games ahead of the Giants.
Wow, things really go south later in the season.
Even though the season had a disappointing finish, A.J. Ellis can do no wrong.
Dodgers 6 12 0
Astros 3 7 0
WP- Jansen (4-0)
LP- Wright (0-1)
HR- A.J. Ellis (5)