"Not this week," said Dodgers manager Joe Torre. "I'm getting to be a better manager all the time."
This time, Ely notched his first Major League victory, a 13-3 Dodgers blowout of the D-backs. And this time, Ely won't be management's pawn in any roster manipulation.
"That's always good to hear," Ely said when told he won't be "demoted," as he was for a few days after his start last week until a roster spot opened by putting Charlie Haeger on the disabled list.
This time, Ely earned outright a slot in the starting rotation. He outpitched Arizona ace Dan Haren with a second quality start, charged with two earned runs that scored after he left in the seventh inning. He struck out six and for the second time didn't issue a walk.
"He was good again," said Torre. "He changed speeds. It seems pretty simple the way he does it. He keeps it off the fat of the bat."
The Dodgers made sure of Ely's victory by pouring it on the D-backs' beleaguered bullpen in a seven-run eighth inning, adding two unearned runs in the ninth. In the first two games of this series, the Dodgers have scored 12 runs (10 earned) in 4 2/3 innings against Arizona relievers.
Russell Martin slugged a three-run homer, Ronnie Belliard drove in three runs and James Loney had four hits as the Dodgers have won three straight and five of their past six, while increasing their record in the National League West to 8-3.
After sabotaging his debut in New York with a botched defensive play, Ely has pitched well enough to win twice. Last week against Milwaukee, he pitched six scoreless innings, allowed a run in the seventh and was removed, then the bullpen let his win get away. This time, he pitched six scoreless innings and was removed in the seventh with two runners on base that scored, but got the win as the offense extended the lead.
"It feels great, man," said the 23-year-old right-hander, acquired from the White Sox in the Juan Pierre trade. "I'm definitely pretty happy about it. For the most part, I kept everything down and when I missed, it was a quality miss. I don't have overpowering stuff, so I need to throw strikes with all my pitches. I've always relied on attacking the zone."
Hmmm. Sounds like a strategy some hard-throwing teammates could employ.
"I hope so," said Torre. "He goes out there and gets deep into games [a minimum of six innings each start]. I was a little surprised he had that many pitches ."
But Martin, who has taken in Ely as a roommate (they have the same agent), said there's nothing surprising about him or the results.
"He seems to have a good idea out there. He doesn't seem like a rookie when he's out there," said Martin. "It just shows you don't have to throw 95 [mph] to get guys out. The main thing is to locate. When he misses, it's not in the heart of the plate. He gets the hitters out of their game plan and makes them hit pitches he wants them to hit."
Ely was technically optioned to Triple-A Albuquerque after his last start to make room for the activation of Jeff Weaver from the disabled list, but Ely never reported to Albuquerque, instead throwing a bullpen session at Class A Inland Empire and returning Monday.
"It's definitely been a roller coaster, up and down and not sure what's going to happen from day to day," said Ely, whose fastball topped out at 90 mph. "I just do what I have to do. I'm here right now and taking it day to day."
Despite the lopsided final score, the game opened as a pitchers' duel, with the first nine outs Haren recorded by strikeout. Despite that, Martin said Haren wasn't as sharp as he's seen him in the past. The Dodgers scored twice in the fourth on consecutive doubles by Loney, Casey Blake and Belliard, added a third run in the sixth on Belliard's single and a fourth on the first of two Andre Ethier doubles in the seventh.
Meanwhile, they ran up Haren's pitch count and got into the D-backs' bullpen with one out in the seventh inning.
"After the first time through the lineup we made him get the ball up," said Torre. "The fact we scored runs off him doesn't mean leave him in. We'd rather see somebody else, that's for sure."