"He's certainly, as Yogi [Berra] likes to say, making himself necessary," manager Joe Torre said. "The kid continues to impress."
Ely wasn't as sharp Saturday as he had been in his previous three starts -- he finally allowed a walk -- but he went six innings and the Dodgers' bullpen, if narrowly, preserved a 6-4 win over the Tigers at Dodger Stadium.
The Dodgers remained tied atop the National League West with the Padres, who defeated the Mariners, 2-1, on Saturday. Six games back and in last place in the division on May 9, the resurgent Dodgers on Sunday can sweep a series for the third time all season and the third time in 10 days.
"We're trying to win each game, that's the most important thing. It'd be a great way to go on this road trip," Torre said. "This ballclub that came in here, they were a first-place team when they came in here."
It was proven on Saturday that Ely's concentration can break. Entering the game, he had faced 84 consecutive batters without issuing a walk, and in the first inning he allowed the first five batters of the game two runs on three hits -- but no walks. But the next batter, Brandon Inge, drew a two-out free pass on four pitches, ending the streak at 89. The Tigers did not score or walk again while Ely was on the mound.
"I was made aware of the streak several times. It is what it is," said Ely, who finished with eight hits allowed and three strikeouts. "I'm just trying to throw strikes, I'm not really worried about walking people or not walking people. ... I just had a little bit of trouble getting on top of the first inning."
Matt Kemp keyed the offensive side of the Dodgers' 12th win in 13 games.
Kemp, 2-for-4, doubled down the left-field line leading off the fourth inning and scored one pitch later on James Loney's opposite-field single for a 3-2 Dodgers lead. Casey Blake, who hit a solo homer to the tie the game at 2 in the second inning, followed with a single and Blake DeWitt added a triple for a 5-2 lead. Blake finished with three hits and two runs scored.
Kemp knocked Tigers starter Armando Galarraga out of the game with a homer to left on a 1-1 hanging breaking ball with two out in the fifth inning. Kemp's ninth homer of the season gave the Dodgers a 6-2 lead.
Ely was removed after a leadoff single in the seventh inning, and it was dicey from there for the Dodgers' bullpen. On Taiwan Day at Dodger Stadium, Tainan City resident Hong-Chih Kuo was tested after a Blake error when a walk loaded the bases for Miguel Cabrera with two outs.
On Kuo's first pitch, Cabrera hit a soft grounder 50 feet up the third-base line, which Kuo raced to, fielded and threw like a fastball to first base to end the inning. Kuo pumped his fist and fans seated in the soldout My Town Taiwan section drummed their thunder sticks.
Taiwan native Fu-Te Ni, a reliever for the Tigers, also pitched.
"I just tried to go out there and focus," said Kuo, who hasn't allowed a run in his past 10 outings and has held opponents to a .094 average on the season. "[The day] is good for Taiwan, it's a beautiful island."
Ramon Troncoso gave up a solo home run to Brennan Boesch in the eighth, which brought the Tigers within three. The Tigers drew closer yet in the ninth against closer Jonathan Broxton, whose slider fell flat in his third consecutive day of work. Johnny Damon singled off the pitch and Ramon Santiago did the same.
Blake, who nearly cost the Dodgers with his fielding two innings earlier, made a diving stop with runners on first and second and Cabrera at the plate. Blake threw on to second for a fielder's choice and the second out of the inning. Boesch, 2-for-5 with three RBIs, again stung the Dodgers with a ground-rule double that cut the lead to 6-4 and put the tying runs in scoring position.
With Inge at the plate and a 2-2 count, Broxton caught him looking with an outside-corner fastball to end the game. Like Kuo, Broxton finished with a fist pump.
"It's his third day [in a row], and that's usually our limit with him," Torre said.
The scariest fastball of the game was thrown by a wild Troncoso to Austin Jackson in the eighth inning. Two pitches after he nearly hit Jackson with a breaking ball, Troncoso hit Jackson in the helmet with a heater. Jackson was taken out of the game to the hospital, and Troncoso was removed for Jeff Weaver.
"[Jackson] appears to be OK," manager Jim Leyland said, "but you have to be extremely cautious with that type of situation. So we're sending him over to the hospital to have him looked at, and then we'll go from there."
Evan Drellich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.