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A.J. Ellis ends pitchers duel with walk-off sacrifice fly

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Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES -- A.J. Ellis hit a walk-off sacrifice fly to right field against Kevin Quackenbush to score Adrian Gonzalez in the ninth inning to give the Dodgers a 1-0 victory over the Padres on Saturday night at Dodger Stadium, and moved the Dodgers a game ahead of San Francisco in first place in the National League West.

Gonzalez led off the ninth inning with a double to center field off Quackenbush, using what manager Don Mattingly called "sneaky speed" to beat the throw to second base.

"[I'm fast] only when I'm being chased, or when I need to get to second base," Gonzalez quipped.

Then Matt Kemp struck out. Andre Ethier was intentionally walked to set up a possible double play, but Quackenbush then walked Juan Uribe unintentionally to load the bases for Ellis.

Ellis has the highest walk rate on the team, which made for quite a high shrimp alert, a popular term used online for a walk-off walk. Informed of this term, Ellis offered a new moniker for his sacrifice fly.

"We'll call that a scallop," Ellis said.

San Diego played with a five-man infield with Ellis at the plate, with their two outfielders in center field and right field. Left field was wide open.

"If that hole is open they're probably not going to pitch me inside, so where they're positioning helps me know where I want to go. But the last thing I'm trying to do is direct the ball, other than maybe a hit-and-run situation with a ground ball," Ellis explained. "The only directing I was trying to do was hit a ball to the outfield, hit a ball in the air. It had to be extra deep because Adrian was on third, and he's arguably the only man in this clubhouse that I'm faster than, so it was vital for me to hit it very deep."

It was just the second walk-off win of the season for the Dodgers, and their first since April 8 against Detroit.

Paul Maholm was spectacular in his first start in two months, allowing only two hits in his six innings while striking out four. He began his night by retiring the first 10 batters he faced before streak buster Chase Headley lined a single that landed just in front of a diving Carl Crawford in left field.

Maholm then retired the next eight batters, only to be greeted again by Headley with a single to left field to open the seventh inning. Maholm was lifted after the single after just 65 pitches, though that was expected since he has been pitching in relief for two months and threw 32 pitches on Tuesday in Detroit.

In his six scoreless frames, Maholm retired 18 of his 20 batters faced, including 11 ground ball outs.

The game was scoreless when Maholm left, meaning he couldn't possibly get the win, though he could have lost had his bequeathed runner scored. But that became a moot point when Brandon League induced a double play from Carlos Quentin. It was the 10th double play induced by League in 39 opportunities this season, his 25.6-percent rate leading the Dodgers and well above the NL average of 10.8 percent.

"Our pitching staff was the reason we won today," Gonzalez said.

As good as Maholm was, Ian Kennedy was able to match zeroes through eight innings. The former USC Trojan allowed three hits and four walks while striking out eight. The best opportunity for the Dodgers against Kennedy might have been in the seventh inning, when two walks and a single put the first three batters on base. But Kemp was caught stealing in the middle of that which helped neutralize the rally.

Kenley Jansen pitched a scoreless ninth for his first win of the season. Jansen struck out two and allowed two hits, but since he held Seth Smith to a single it was truly a herculean feat. Smith on the season is 8-for-17 (.471) with four home runs, a double and six walks against the Dodgers.

Saturday particulars

Home runs: none

WP - Kenley Jansen (1-3): 1 IP, 2 hits, 2 strikeouts

LP - Kevin Quackenbush (1-2): ⅔ IP, 1 hit, 1 run, 2 walks, 1 strikeout