Dodgers, John Ely, run into bad Wrigley Field breaks in 1-0 loss to Cubs
Reporting from Chicago -- There might come a day when Xavier Paul laughs about the joke Wrigley Field played on him Thursday. There might come a day when he can chuckle at the video, as he tries to chase down a ball in the outfield without his glove.
But Thursday was not that day, not after the rookie outfielder misplayed two balls that led to the only run of the game.
Paul is not the first outfielder to have a hostile initiation at the Friendly Confines, and he won’t be the last. His misfortune, however, could not be obscured by a lopsided score.
The Dodgers lost to the Chicago Cubs, 1-0, with Paul’s blunders tagging John Ely with a loss on what should have been a happy homecoming for the rookie pitcher.
There was no shortage of weirdness at the ballpark.
-- The Dodgers, among the top-scoring teams in the majors, were shut out for the second time in three days. They have been shut out seven times this season. So have the Pittsburgh Pirates. No major league team has been shut out more.
-- Second baseman Blake DeWitt leaped to catch a line drive, had the ball pop out of his glove, then snatched it out of the air and fell face down.
-- Ely put up his glove to protect his head from a line drive, somehow caught the ball and looked skyward in thanks.
“I didn’t even see the damn thing,” Ely said. “I just put my hand up.
“Thank God it didn’t hit me on the right side of the head. It might have knocked me out.”
Ely grew up in Chicago, as a White Sox fan. He said his father would not set foot in Wrigley Field -- his father also would find the ancient stadium difficult to navigate in his wheelchair -- but his mother and dozens of family and friends showed up to support him.
“I tried to put on a pretty good show,” Ely said.
He did, limiting the Cubs to two hits and no runs going into the eighth inning. The afternoon already had been eventful for Paul, who had chased down a foul pop twisting so wildly in the wind that he had to dodge DeWitt — and fall on the bullpen mound near the right field line.
Mike Fontenot, leading off the bottom of the eighth, lined a ball inside first base and toward the right-field corner.
“Mike’s from my hometown [Slidell, La.], and he’s got some legs, so I went at it aggressively,” Paul said. “If that ball gets in the corner, he’s looking to get three.”
Paul raced across the foul line, going to the wall to try to cut off the ball and hold Fontenot to a double. Instead, Paul ran into the wall, knocking his glove off his hand. By the time the barehanded Paul chased down the ball, Fontenot had his triple.
Ely struck out Geovany Soto. Tyler Colvin then hit a high bouncer toward first base, normally a routine play for James Loney. But, with Fontenot on third rather than second, the infield was drawn in, so the ball skipped past Loney. Paul misplayed that one too, with Colvin credited with a double and taking third on the error.
That was the run, and the game. Manager Joe Torre said he was not worried that Paul might lose confidence, and Paul said Torre should not be.
“I wouldn’t call it a learning experience,” Paul said. “It’s baseball. You go out there and play hard. As long as you go aggressive, I don’t think these guys are going to say very much.”
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