A well-placed double just inside the left-field line came at the worst moment Wednesday afternoon for Isotopes starter John Ely.
An out away from throwing the first no-hitter in club history, Ely watched his bid fall apart when Iowa's Marquez Smith laced the first pitch he saw from the Dodgers right-hander over third base, just inside the foul line. Third base umpire Tripp Gibson made the call immediately, ending a fine effort by the Major League veteran.
"I was just hoping I could keep the ball down, to be honest," said Ely. "Just to make my pitches and hoping nothing was squared up enough. Obviously, that last out didn't roll my way, but it is what it is. I'm still happy about it."
The 24-year-old who spent most of last summer in the Majors retired Matt Camp for the final out on a grounder to third, sealing up the 3-0 one-hitter over the I-Cubs in the second game of a doubleheader. He struck out seven, walked four and hit a batter, throwing 96 pitches en route to his first win.
"I think that's the second time I've had the [pitch] count up that high since the season started," Ely said. "It's early, but I got a little tired by the end. Chances are that would have been my last inning. I could have kept going if they would have let me, but it is what it is. You always like those doubleheaders, it's always a chance for a complete game. But I'm happy with the way things worked out."
Ely said his teammates kept quiet and never spoke of the no-hit bid in the dugout. After walking a few batters and dealing with baserunners, it took Ely a little while before he even realized he'd held Iowa hitless.
"I was in the stretch," Ely said. "But when I looked up and I said, I don't have any hits -- it's hard not to think about it when you're trying not to. You can't focus on that. It was a close game, it could have gotten out of hand if you don't go out and try to attack. I'm happy we were able to win the game, especially after we're coming off a tough, tough duel the game before.
"Obviously everyone knows, but they did a good job, acting like nothing was different," he added. "You get a veteran group of guys keeping guiet, business as usual. But after [the hit], everyone was like, 'Oh, alright, let's just get the out and win the game."
It was the closest Ely has come to a no-hitter since his former roommate, Matt Zaleski, combined on a seven-inning no-no for Winston-Salem on April 29, 2008. Ely had started the first game of the doubleheader that day and, ironically, Zaleski also threw a one-hitter for Double-A Birmingham on Tuesday.
Wednesday's start wasn't without some trouble, though -- Ely dealt with baserunners in several innings, including the fourth, when he issued consecutive walks to Bryan LaHair and Bobby Scales. 'Topes catcher Damaso Espino fired a throw down to first, though, picking off Scales to end the threat.
Tony Campana was the only other batter to reach second after getting beaned and advancing to second on a fly ball in the sixth.
"It was a good mix [of pitches], I finally found my feel with my cut fastball, I got that into the zone," he said. "I haven't had that as much. I spotted my fastball well too. Commanding my fastball, I had all my other stuff working off of that, and that was really the key."
Albuquerque finally gave its starter some support in the fourth when Justin Sellers worked a leadoff walk and came home on Corey Smith's RBI double to right.
Trayvon Robinson, the Dodgers' top-rated outfield prospect, smacked a two-run homer to right in the fifth, giving him his third longball of the season, all against Iowa.
The Harvey, Ill., native had a good spring for the Dodgers -- he was 2-1 with a 3.60 ERA in 15 innings -- but was optioned to Triple-A after camp broke. His first outing, though, came with the Dodgers in a spot start in place of Jon Garland, who was sidelined with an oblique injury.
Ely surrendered four runs and six hits in 5 2/3 innings during Los Angeles' 7-2 loss to San Diego on April 10 and was returned to Albuquerque the following day. He gave up seven runs in six frames in his debut with the 'Topes, a loss to Oklahoma City on April 15.
A third-round pick by the White Sox in 2007, Ely climbed his way up to the Majors last year. He made 18 starts for the Dodgers, finishing 4-10 with a 5.49 in 100 innings.
Robert Coello, a 6-foot-5 righty acquired from the Red Sox for Tony Thomas this spring, allowed three runs over six frames to suffer the loss for the Cubs. He struck out six.
Iowa won the first game of the twinbill, 3-1, behind six strong innings from Austin Bibens-Dirkx. Cubs pitching prospect Chris Carpenter earned the save despite walking two in the seventh.