On a cold New York night of pitching uncertainty for the Dodgers, Mark Ellis slugged two home runs Tuesday for a 7-2 victory over the Mets that, for the time at least, took the attention off the struggles of its starting ace.
Ellis’s solo shot, the 100th homer of his career, tied game in the fifth inning, and his three-run blast in the seventh lifted the Dodgers to their second straight win as they try turning around a miserable beginning to the season.
With his 4-for-5 night at the plate, Ellis suddenly has blossomed into the Dodgers’ hottest hitter, raising his average to .348 while the rest of the team’s bats remain silent for the most part.
Ellis’ surprising offensive spark couldn’t have come at a more important time, what with Clayton Kershaw’s unexpected short outing that only deepened the questions looming over the Dodgers.
Could it be that the best pitching news the Dodgers got Tuesday was that Chad Billingsley has been lost to season-ending Tommy John surgery?
The Dodgers, after all, knew that Billingsley was damaged goods hoping for a small miracle.
The worst news may have come later Kershaw suffered his second straight disappointing start, deepening bewilderment over what has befallen the pitching rotation thought to be best in baseball just days ago.
Kershaw left the game Tuesday night after going only five innings, having thrown 111 pitches, and not even getting into the sixth inning as he did in his last start April 17, his worst in memory, at Dodger Stadium.
In those five inning, Kershaw struck out five but issued four walks and struggled, going to full counts on nine batters as he consistently failed to put away the Mets.
In his previous two starts, Kershaw had particular problems with his breaking pitches. On Tuesday night, he seemed to be bothered with command on both breaking stuff and fastballs.
And yet he had given up only three hits when he left.
It would not be one of Kershaw's masterpieces by a long shot, though, on paper, he had done what an ace is supposed to do -- put the Dodgers in position to win, which he has a habit of doing against the Mets.
Although he got no decision in the game, Kershaw is 5-0 lifetime against the Mets, and the Dodgers are now 7-0 against the Mets when he starts a game.
As he did in his previous start, Kershaw appeared to unravel out of the clear blue after he had retired the first eight batters he faced.
That’s when Kershaw issued costly back-to-back walks with two outs in the third inning, including one base-on-balls to reliever Robert Carson who scored when Daniel Murphy pushed a ground ball single up the middle.
David Wright then put the Mets ahead on a lazy drive to center field that scored Ruben Tejada and moved Murphy to third when Kemp bobbled the ball, his second error in the last two games.
Kershaw was bailed out by the Dodgers' bullpen -- Ronald Belisario, Paco Rodriguez, Matt Guerrier and Josh Wall -- which shut out the Mets the rest of the way.
While Ellis was clearly the offensive star of the game, the Dodgers also got production from Justin Sellers who was 3-for-4 and drove in a run and Kemp who was 2-for-5, including a double, his first extra-base hit of the road trip.
"That was a lot of fun and the best part is that we needed both of them (his homers), and that's always nice and we got to win the ball game," Ellis said after the game of his unusual two-homer output
"It would be great if we scored seven runs every night. We can' just count on Kersh when he's out there. Sometimes when he's out there, we think he's going to be so good that we go out there and relax a bit, and we need to score runs no matter who's pitching for us."