John Ely put up yet another quality start against Houston, going seven innings while allowing just two runs, striking out eight – a new career high – and walking zero. However, he achieved even more than you think he did tonight.
Not only has John Ely not walked anyone in his last 23 innings, he hasn’t allowed an extra-base hit in his last 23 innings (@dodgerthoughts)
According to the Dodgers, it’s 84 straight hitters without a walk for Ely (@jimalexander)
Even more impressively, John Ely can change Juan Pierre into a useful starting pitcher. (@jay_jaffe)
It’s been just four starts, but Ely is quickly becoming somewhat of a folk hero among Dodger fans. Of course, that’ll happen when you’re a guy who 98% of Dodger fans hadn’t heard of (including your own right fielder, and let’s face it, the left fielder didn’t know who you were either), and you come up with the rotation falling apart and immediately contribute, all the while doing it completely opposite from how the other young starters are doing it. There’s no 90+ heat like Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw from Ely, but nor are there bouts of wildness. And by “bouts of wildness” I of course mean “any walks, ever,” because that’s now three consecutive games in a row without one. Would you be willing to put money that Billingsley or Kershaw could go three consecutive innings without a walk? Of course not.
Let’s be clear here; Ely is not going to keep this up. He’s not a 0.94 WHIP pitcher over a full season, especially not when he wasn’t close to that in the minors. There’s going to come a day, probably soon, where he doesn’t have his pinpoint control, or batters don’t flail at his looping curveball, and sit on his mid-80s fastball. But that doesn’t mean what he’s doing right now is any less extraordinary, and it’s not too soon to think that the Dodgers might have found themselves a solid starter who can get them deep into games with a chance to win, each time out. And all for the low low price of Juan Pierre! (*snicker*).
Until Blake DeWitt’s second triple of the night added some insurance in the 8th, the margin of victory was Casey Blake’s two-run double in the first inning. I mention this because it was a rare sign of life from the struggling Blake, but also for something far, far more important and nearly as mystical as Ely.
When I dissected Blake’s subpar start the other day, I said there wasn’t much that could be done, except for one thing:
So what can be done? Short of forcing him to grow back his beard, not much, unfortunately.
So you can imagine my joy tonight when I saw the beginnings of exactly that:
THE BEARD IS BACK. I don’t think it’s overstating the situation to say that Blake’s season, and indeed the entire Dodger campaign, depends on whether this was just a few days of stubble or the real deal. Judging by the jawline grooming, to avoid the dreaded Kyle Orton neckbeard? I’d say it’s back, and that means Blake is hitting 10 homers in the next two weeks. Mark it, dude.