Dodgers can't overcome Ely's short start

Dodgers can't overcome Ely's short start

LOS ANGELES -- A decent start, maybe even a mediocre one, could have given John Ely and the Dodgers some assurance in the second-to-last game before the All-Star break. Ely would have, again, showed he can bounce back, and the Dodgers could have maintained their contentment with the rotation.

Maybe this is why, even with all the woes in the bullpen, the Dodgers are still just as interested in starting pitching as relief help before the Trade Deadline.

Ely recorded just seven outs and allowed six runs on Saturday afternoon in a 7-3 Dodgers loss to the Cubs at Dodger Stadium. That's one out fewer and one more run allowed than his last start.

"Right now, I'm not getting it done, but I know I can," Ely said. "I think everybody knows here I'm capable of doing the job and getting it done well. Right now, it's just not happening."

Aside from a two-out single in the top of the first, there weren't signs of trouble for Ely in the first. The second inning, though, started with a four-pitch walk to Marlon Byrd. A groundout moved Byrd to second, and Starlin Castro singled him home for a 1-0 lead.

One pitch later, it fell apart. Cubs catcher Geovany Soto got all of Ely's 88-mph fastball and hit his ninth home run of the season to left for a 3-0 lead.

"I think Soto's home run took a lot of the wind out of his sails," said catcher A.J. Ellis, who gave Russell Martin the day off until the eighth, when Martin pinch-hit. "He just had a hard time rebounding from that."

Another three runs came around in the second. Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez had back-to-back one-out singles and Ely again put Byrd on base without making him swing the bat, this time hitting him. With the bases now loaded, Ely walked Alfonso Soriano on five pitches, forcing in a run and ending Ely's afternoon.

Travis Schlichting allowed two run-scoring singles -- with the runs charged to Ely's line -- but those were the only knocks he allowed in 2 2/3 innings of relief. His defense picked up the second out of the third inning for him when left fielder Xavier Paul threw Byrd out at the plate on one hop, and Ellis caught some of Byrd in a collision at the plate.

"It was more in the thigh [where he got me]," Ellis said of the 245-pound Byrd. "He got me pretty good. That's a big boy coming around third."

"To me, he throws strikes," manager Joe Torre said of Schlichting, who was asked to come on with the bases loaded in the third. "I think that's the biggest part about what Schlichting does, plus the fact that he sinks the ball pretty good."

As was the case in Ely's last start, the Dodgers' bullpen gave the lineup a chance. The lone run the Cubs scored after the third came on Aramis Ramirez's home run in the seventh, which was also Carlos Monasterios' lone mistake in his first appearance since returning from the disabled list. He went two innings, allowing two hits and one walk while striking out three.

Andre Ethier's sky-high bloop single into left off Cubs starter Tom Gorzelanny, and Byrd's curious throwing error from center field on the same play in the fifth -- he threw to third base, where Ramirez was at least 10 feet off the bag -- allowed the first two L.A. runs to score.

The Dodgers thought they might be able to build something, but Gorzelanny went six innings and struck out seven. The Dodgers scored off closer Carlos Marmol in a non-save situation, and they were a hit away from bringing the tying run to the plate in the ninth when James Loney lined out softly to short.

"It was tough to lose a starter that early and give a club a six-run start. That was tough," Torre said. "When we got the two back, we felt a little lucky getting the second one. We felt if we can just keep the momentum on our side, but then we just couldn't do it anymore."

Ely, who's a "touch-and-feel" pitcher in Torre's mind and his own, was unable to control his changeup and offspeed pitches Saturday, and that will doom a pitcher who lives in the high 80s. Ely is always pleasant to the media, and a reporter after the game wondered if he wasn't hiding some anger inside him after lasting a combined five innings in his two most recent starts.

"I don't know how you can't be frustrated, especially after getting back on track," Ely said. "That's baseball, it's a frustrating start."

The Harvey, Ill., native -- who did not grow up a Cubs fan, but a White Sox fan -- said he planned to spend the break at home, which puts him in the company of friends and family, and just a stone's throw from St. Louis, where Los Angeles starts after the break.

"I guarantee I'll come out of this," Ely said. "It's not anything physical, I just got to snap out of it."

Ely won't likely pitch again until the first game at Dodger Stadium after the break, on July 19 against the Giants. That's barring a move, of course.

"He's still scheduled," Torre said. "Again, we're looking to try to help ourselves by the end of the month by the [July 31 non-waiver] Trade Deadline, but you know as well as I do there's no guarantee that's going to happen."

Evan Drellich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.