"He was really champing at the bit when he came in from the bullpen," manager Joe Torre said. "He was ready to go. We still had five minutes to go, he was stalking in that dugout. I think guys feed of that energy."
And somehow, he channeled that energy into pinpoint control. Ely's walk total on Monday was zero, the same it's been his last three outings. He has faced a Major League-best 84 consecutive batters without allowing a free pass. On the season, he's struck out 25 and and walked just three in 25 2/3 innings.
"I got enough confidence in what I'm bringing to the table," said Ely, whose ERA dropped from 3.86 to 3.51. "The fact that if I execute my pitch where I want it, I feel like I have the advantage no matter who I am facing. That's the way you got to go out and feel like every time out."
Without Ethier, a National League triple crown contender so far this season, the Dodgers got their offense from Blake DeWitt and Casey Blake. Both had a pair of RBIs, and DeWitt became the first Dodgers player to hit two triples in a game since Rafael Furcal on June 13, 2007.
Torre said after the game the team would announce in the next day or so whether Ethier, who met with the team physician on Monday for the second time in two days, would go to the disabled list.
"We're just going to have to make an announcement at some point, let's put it that way," Torre said. "He didn't swing the bat at all today. It's too uncomfortable for him at this point."
The Astros, the NL's worst hitting team at .228 entering Monday, were aggressive early in the count against Ely, who threw 96 pitches, 67 for strikes. And in the first inning, it worked.
Michael Bourn led off the game with a single, moved to second on a groundout and scored on Lance Berkman's single.
"I'm not sure what they're being told over there. I would guess they know that I'm going to throw strikes, but that's what everybody's trying to do," Ely said.
The Dodgers responded with three runs in the bottom of the first, none of which were charged to Astros starter Wandy Rodriguez because of a disputed call at second base.
Reed Johnson, who had not had a hit in 14 at-bats since May 1, singled to start the inning. Manny Ramirez drew a 10-pitch walk, bringing up Matt Kemp, who hit a grounder in the hole that shortstop Geoff Blum stopped with a dive to his left.
Blum threw on to second base to attempt the force on Ramirez, who did not slide, but second-base umpire Phil Cuzzi ruled second baseman Jeff Keppinger came off the bag, although replays appeared to show Keppinger, charged an error, stayed on the bag.
With all three runners safe, James Loney tied the game at 1 on sacrifice fly, and Blake, hitless in his previous seven at-bats, doubled down the right-field line for a 3-1 lead. Ely said the early padding helped him to settle in.
"It's huge every time," he said. "It's a lot easier to pitch with a lead than it is down, a lot easier to get a little bit of a buffer zone. These guys came out swinging, and it really makes you feel good as a pitcher to have that kind of support behind me."
Ely struck out the side in the third inning, retiring the Astros' Nos. 8, 9 and 1 hitters. Twice in the game, Berkman went down swinging.
"Ely's going to make you hit it; he's going to make them do the work," Torre said. "He changes speeds so well, I think that's really the biggest reason why he's had the success early on. He's not afraid to throw the fastball any time. And behind in the count, he's not afraid to take a little off."
The Dodgers' offense kept up throughout thanks to DeWitt, who hit his first triple and then scored on a Jamey Carroll sacrifice fly to make it 4-1 in the fourth inning. That was the only earned run for Rodriguez (2-3), who allowed seven hits and two walks win 6 2/3 innings.
DeWitt drove in two with a triple in the eighth inning that once again went off the glove of Hunter Pence, who was shading the left-hander toward the right-center-field gap. That made it 6-2.
Jeff Weaver, George Sherrill and Ramon Troncoso combined to allow the Astros just one baserunner in the final two innings.