It was the Dodgers' 10th walk-off win and first time the team had two in a row since 2010. The victory kept the team 4 1/2 games behind the Giants, who also won in extra innings Monday, with six games against each other down the stretch.
After tying the game two innings earlier, Ethier started things off in the 11th with a two-out single to right. Then, a pair of longtime Minor Leaguers finally getting a chance to shine on a roster of All-Stars took over for the Dodgers.
First up was Luis Cruz, who registered his career-high fourth hit of the game with a single up the middle.
"All of a sudden, I don't know if he figures it out or if nobody is giving him a chance," manager Don Mattingly said about Cruz, who is batting .308 as the team's everyday third baseman. "You talk about opportunity knocks, well, he just kind of knocked the door down."
Up next was Ellis, who delivered the heroics with a single to right on an 0-2 changeup.
"He's not only a great story, but kind of a nice lesson for people," Mattingly said about the catcher. "There's a lot of people who doubted A.J. and always sold him short. You never worry about A.J. because you know he's going to be as good as he possibly can be."
The Dodgers are 3-0 in September after ending August 1-5 with a pair of team meetings held by Mattingly to stress the importance of urgency.
With their ace Clayton Kershaw on the mound Tuesday, the team is hopeful it can get a win that doesn't have everybody's hearts racing in the dugout heading into the ninth.
"It's September now," Ellis said. "It's time to go. We're just going to play as hard as we can, and as long as we take care of business on our end it doesn't matter what the other teams do."
As the team awaits Tuesday's news regarding whether closer Kenley Jansen has to shut it down for the season because of an irregular heartbeat, Mattingly was forced to dig deep into his bullpen yet again. Four relievers combined to throw 4 1/3 innings, including two by winning pitcher Brandon League.
It appeared the taxed bullpen might get an easy night with starter Joe Blanton cruising along despite giving up a two-run homer in the first. But with two outs in the seventh and lefty Will Venable up next, Mattingly opted to replace the righty with specialist Randy Choate, who wound up taking a comebacker off his pitching hand by pinch-hitter Logan Forsythe.
Choate, the Dodgers' only lefty reliever with Scott Elbert on the disabled list, couldn't go any longer and he was replaced by righty Ronald Belisario, who gave up an RBI single to switch-hitter Chase Headley to break a 2-2 tie. Choate said after the game that he felt fine and expects to be ready to go the next day. No X-rays were needed.
Belisario got the next batter out to end the inning, Jamey Wright threw a scoreless eighth and ninth and League pitched his own pair of scoreless innings in the 10th and 11th.
"Those guys have stepped up," Mattingly said. "Hopefully they hang on. We've had to try and spread them out to do things a little differently."
Down, 2-0, early after Blanton gave up his NL-leading 27th homer, the Dodgers tied it up thanks to an RBI single by Mark Ellis in the fifth and solo homer from Hanley Ramirez in the sixth. It was Ramirez's 10th homer and 36th RBI in 38 games since joining the Dodgers.
"It was an awful pitch," San Diego starter Andrew Werner said of the homer by Ramirez that got the Dodgers on the board. "I got two quick outs and instead of making a pitch down, I tried to get ahead in the count."