Cody Ross' sudden rise still going up
Even in a Game 2 loss against the Phillies, outfielder steps back into the spotlight
PHILADELPHIA -- As Cody Ross and Pat Burrell played catch before Game 2 of the National League Championship Series here Sunday night, a cameraman knelt in front of the Giants outfielder and shot video of Ross, the man who isn't supposed to be here.
Ross smiled, laughed and played perfectly the role of unassuming star. All while his teammates razzed him about his newfound fame.
And yet nine innings later, the legend of Cody Ross had somehow, someway almost laughably grown even larger. On Sunday night, for the third straight game, Ross hit a home run to break up a no-hitter. First, it was Derek Lowe in the clinching victory over Atlanta in the NL Division Series. Then, it was Roy Halladay in the Giants' 4-3 win Saturday night against the Phillies in Game 1. On Sunday, it was Roy Oswalt who watched history fly over his head and land in the outfield seats.
It doesn't take a Baseball Encyclopedia to know that's never happened before. In fact, no one had accomplished the task twice in the postseason, never mind three times. And the list of players who have hit their team's first four homers now reads Babe Ruth, Rusty Staub, Willie Stargell and Cody Ross.
Yes, one of those doesn't quite fit.
"The way he's swinging the bat, it's just incredible to watch," Giants first baseman Aubrey Huff said. "We're all getting [good pitches to hit]. But we're fouling them off. He's hitting them."
In the seventh inning, Ross' 405-foot fly ball fell about five feet shy of giving him back-to-back two-homer nights. A ball that would have been a homer in most parks just happened to come down in the deepest cranny of Citizens Bank.
But the man is human. In the second inning, he merely walked, thanks in part to an Oswalt fastball that tickled the hairs of his chin. And in the ninth inning, Ross actually struck out, with Ryan Madson blowing a 96 mph heater past the swinging Ross.
But that doesn't change the fact that a player some sports fans had never heard of two weeks ago has turned the playoffs upside down. Ross' performance in back-to-back games against the Phillies has elevated him from ignored pest to Michael Irvin status on the Philadelphia opposing-player hatred scale. Ross' Sammy Sosa-like hop out of the batter's box after Sunday's homer only increased the vitriol when he came to the plate in the seventh and ninth.
"That's what you want as a player," Ross said while standing in front of his locker wearing an orange Buster Posey T-shirt. "It's a weird feeling. I know they're not going to cheer for me. It definitely doesn't make me think like I should stop. I just keep playing and doing what I'm doing."
The problem, of course, is that so far Cody Ross is the only Giant doing much of anything. All four of his postseason home runs have come with the bases empty. On Sunday, his blast was one of just four hits San Francisco managed against Oswalt and Madson.
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In two NLCS games, the cumulative score in the series is Phillies 9, Ross 3, other Giants 2.
"We need to help him out," Huff said.
For now, he's a one-man show, sort of like another San Francisco slugger who once patrolled the outfield for the Giants. By now, everyone knows the story. Everyone knows the Giants claimed Ross off waivers to block him from going to the division-rival Padres. And yes, everyone knows he grew up wanting to someday be a rodeo clown.
But they didn't know there was some Babe Ruth in that black bat. They didn't know he could hop out of the box like Sammy Sosa. Win or lose, back in the Bay Area, Ross surely has to be reaching Chuck Norris-like status. You know the jokes. Cody Ross once beat a wall at tennis. Cody Ross runs until the treadmill gets tired.
The Phillies, though, aren't overly impressed. When asked Sunday night if he had any advice for Game 3 starter Cole Hamels about how to pitch Ross, Oswalt said, "Don't throw it down and in. The last three balls that he hit are in the same exact spot. Just bad pitches. I mean, throwing it right into his bat, pretty much. If you can make your pitches, you are going to do well. But if you miss down and in, that's pretty much where he's hitting them."
Even if that is the case, Ross is still hitting them over the fence. Does he think he'll see another middle-in fastball for the rest of the series? Yep.
"The last one I saw [in Game 2] was a middle-in fastball and he struck me out," Ross said. "I'm not worried about where they are pitching me. I'm just seeing the ball and trying to hit it."
At some point, there will come a morning where Cody Ross will climb out of bed and remember: Oh yeah, I'm Cody Ross. Not Babe Ruth. Not Reggie Jackson. Not Barry Bonds. I have 86 regular-season home runs in seven major league seasons. My last team let me go just so someone else would pay my salary.
Maybe that day will be Tuesday afternoon, when the Giants return to AT&T Park to face Hamels and the Phillies in Game 3. But then again, maybe not. Ross is 9-for-30 with four home runs in his career against Hamels, hinting that Sunday night might not be the end of this story.
Wayne Drehs is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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