10/17/10 2:17 AM ET
Ross no clown in first playoff rodeo
Unlikely postseason hero sets tone for Giants vs. Halladay
By Hal Bodley / MLB.com
These days Cody Ross, at 29, puts on a San Francisco Giants baseball suit, grabs a bat and he's no laughing matter.
Just ask the Philadelphia Phillies. Or the Atlanta Braves.
Ross has become the unlikeliest of heroes for the Giants in this baseball postseason.
On Saturday night, as the heralded epic pitching matchup of Roy Halladay vs. Tim Lincecum fizzled, little Cody Ross blasted two home runs to lead the Giants' 4-3 conquest of the favored Phillies in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series.
He's the first player since Minnesota's Gary Gaetti in 1987 to hit homers in his first two LCS plate appearances.
Against Atlanta in the NL Division Series, it was Ross who drove in the only run with a two-out hit in the Giants' Game 1 victory. He then broke up Derek Lowe's no-hit bid with a tying homer with one out in the sixth inning in Game 4.
If that wasn't enough, Ross drove in the decisive run with a two-out single in the 3-2 win that eliminated the Braves on Monday night.
That Ross is even still playing baseball this October is a story in itself.
He was in his fourth season with the Marlins when they put him on waivers in late August. San Diego, which was battling San Francisco for the NL West title, was poised to grab Ross. But Giants general manager Brian Sabean blocked the deal by claiming Ross.
Sabean has had quite a year resurrecting players from the scrap pile. He did the same thing earlier with Pat Burrell, who was released by Tampa Bay.
I wonder where Ross would be today had the Padres not been poised to claim him.
In fact, the Giants really didn't know what to do with him after they claimed him. There was the possibility of using him as a pinch-hitter and in the outfield occasionally.
The Giants obtained Jose Gullen from Kansas City, supposedly their big addition for the stretch run. Gullen didn't produce and isn't even on San Francisco's playoff roster.
|Cody Ross||10/16/2010||Phi.||4-3 W||2|
|Jeff Kent||10/24/2002||Ana.||16-4 W||2|
|Rich Aurilia||10/10/2002||Stl.||4-1 W||2|
|Jeff Kent||10/3/1997||Fla.||6-2 L||2|
|Will Clark||10/4/1989||CHC||11-3 W||2|
|Benny Kauff||10/11/1917||CHW||5-0 W||2|
Ross, almost like climbing on a horse to entertain the crowd, quickly rebuilt his career. He collected 10 hits, including three homers, in his final 20 at-bats of the regular season.
"He's played so well -- that's why we made the change and put him out in right field," said Giants manager Bruce Bochy.
Halladay, coming off his Game 1 no-hitter in the NLDS, retired the first seven batters he faced when Ross blasted a 1-1 pitch to the left-field seats at Citizens Bank Park. With one down in the fifth, he sent another Halladay pitch to the left-field seats, giving San Francisco and Lincecum a 2-1 lead.
The first homer was the most important. It gave the Giants renewed confidence, especially against one of the best pitchers in the Major Leagues.
"It was huge for the club," said Bochy. "I mean, you're facing one of the best pitchers in the game. And [Ross] gets you on the board at that point. We weren't doing a lot then. But when somebody hits a home run like that -- which he did in Atlanta -- it does a lot for the club."
Burrell, who doubled home the third run in the Giants' two-run sixth, said the first homer "was huge for us. As far as momentum goes, everyone is familiar with how he did in his last game [against Atlanta]. More than anything, it calmed down our offense."
Ross was with the Marlins when Halladay threw his perfect game against them on May 29.
"He's got the potential to go out there and do that every night he pitches," said Ross, adding that waiting on a pitcher like Halladay is almost impossible.
"We tried that against Derek Lowe in Atlanta," he said. "Our game plan was to go in, try to make him work and get his pitch count up early. He wasn't having any part of it. He was going strike one, strike two and then nibbling off the plate. We were swinging at it and out in three pitches.
"With Halladay, you can't go up there and think, 'I'm going to work the count.' You have to look for a pitch to hit, and when you get it, you can't miss it. And hopefully it finds a hole. But, really, you aren't going to get a lot of those pitches."
By the age of 5, Ross was roping and riding calves and steers at Southwestern rodeos. His dad, Kenny, who was involved in rodeos through the 1980s, always took his son with him.
Cody became interested in clowns and became close to Quail Dobbs, the most popular clown at the time. Dobbs incorporated young Ross in his act.
"It was something I had aspirations of doing when I was in my adolescent years -- 5 to 10," Ross said Saturday night. "My dad was in the rodeo. I used to dress up like him and go to the rodeos. I guess the reason I was drawn to them so much is because those guys have no fear. They would put their life on the line to save a cowboy."
Cody's father, in a previous interview, said he felt the rodeos "definitely toughened Cody up. He never had a fear of anything."
Certainly not failure in baseball.
He has proven that in this postseason.
"Two months ago, I was down in South Florida and I thought my season's about to end," Ross said. "I'm going to be on the couch watching the playoffs, and the next thing I know, I got the opportunity to come over here.
"And it's just been a dream come true."
Even better than dreaming of being a rodeo clown.
Hal Bodley is the senior correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.