NLCS 2010: Cody Ross Not a Clown, But a Gigantic Star for Misfit Giants

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NLCS 2010: Cody Ross Not a Clown, But a Gigantic Star for Misfit Giants
Chris McGrath/Getty Images

It’s easy to cheer when your team is the Giants, a town awaiting a charming moment, a town awaiting a miracle, a town awaiting a celebration in the Bay Area. Earlier this season, when a refreshing moment hardly seemed far-fetched, the San Francisco Giants mounted into a premier ballclub with the grandest turnaround as an uneventful sport enticed a large crowd near the Golden Gate Bridge.

As good as this season has been for a team riding an impressive journey, which redefines the promise of a coveted ballclub, the recent progress in terms of reaching a pinnacle is entirely a feel-good story. Now that the Giants are capable of stunning the world, the uncertainty of hope dwindles while the certainty of tangibility becomes rational.

A night that a pitching duel generated much hype as the most exciting matchup wasn’t as anticipated some of you were wishing to witness a superlative duel between two marquee pitchers on a night the Giants managed to secure a 4-3 win at Citizen Bank Park.

The significance of this win can be described as an understatement, even though it was only the first game of the best-of-seven series and a convincing win that can be the Phillies worst nightmare in the end.

Even if the duel between former Cy Young winners Roy Halladay and Tim Lincecum were actually meant to tell a tale in October, however it was very telling that the Giants told a remarkable tale.

Weeks ago, the Giants weren’t considered to leap into contention nor were they expected to beat the Phillies, a team that were swept in the division series three years ago. It wasn’t long ago when the Phillies won its first World Series title in 28 years.

But after one game, the Giants seem as if they are the franchise that can smudge the Phillies’ dream of celebrating another championship. In a contest that the Phillies were heavily favored, the Giants were resilient.

They were aggressive on the bases, bravely seizing control in a hostile environment. They were dominating offensively, compiling runs off Phillies ace. And lastly, they were intimidating and weren’t terrified of Halladay, the most convenient addition at the front of the Phillies rotation.

Even as the vast majority believes the Phillies can survive this series, the Giants believe just as much now that they’ve had a productive outing against Halladay, the probable NL Cy Young winner who had a perfect game earlier this season and a no-hitter in his most recent outing in the Division Series against the Reds.

If you somehow gather runs against an unhittable ace in Game 1 of the NLCS, it gives your team confidence. So this, by far, gives the Giants hopefulness as Game 2 looms ever quickly. But the greater story is essentially Cody Ross. It seems the accidental Giant isn’t a mistake after all.

Six weeks ago, he was accidentally claimed off waivers to keep him from joining San Diego. And not long ago, he took much criticism following a game against Colorado, when an awkward triple sailed over his head to cost the Giants a pivotal game. It wasn’t quite long ago when he spent ample time warming the bench, used as a spot starter, pinch-hitter or pinch-runner.

Shortly after, he substituted in right when Jose Guillen sustained an injured neck. To his credit, he was informed that he’ll be the everyday right fielder and has been exemplary ever since. It was clear that Giants manager Bruce Bochy trusted in his outfielder.

For now, at least, he isn’t the rodeo clown but a beneficiary in a sluggish lineup, currently lacking production at the plate. But it wasn’t the pitching duel worth witnessing, not on a night when Ross homered with one out in the third for a commanding 1-0 lead and snapped Halladay’s 12th consecutive hitless inning streak.

In his second at-bat, Ross crushed a homer again to give the Giants a 2-1 lead. Unbelievably, he connected in each of his plate appearances and belted two home runs off Halladay, the perfectionist in baseball. As the No. 8 hitter in the batting order, Ross desired being a rodeo clown when he was a kid, but even greater, he became a valuable piece to a team on the mission to win a World Series title.

Beyond all the captivating debates about a dynamic pitching duel, Ross was the turning point and has been surging of late, with three homers and an RBI single in four consecutive plate appearances. While all the hype circles Lincecum vs. Halladay, Ross has given the Giants the lead three times and tied one of the games in the postseason.

At the beginning, Halladay was unhittable and had solid throwing mechanics and command of his pitches, forcing Andre Torres to fly out to center field. The first seven batters were retired, but then eventually Ross crushed a fastball into the stands in left-center field.

With an endearing upstart for the Giants, the Dodgers and Marlins are feeling sorry, no doubt. Ross, coming off a momentous week in the NLDS, had imprinted his signature in a must-needed win.

There weren’t any similarities like in Lincecum’s last outing, but he still lasted seven innings and surrendered six hits and three walks and struck out eight. A remarkable, strikeout performance wasn’t necessary for capturing an imperative win, but the Giants relied on Ross’ sizzling hits.

As for Lincecum, he arrived in his first ever postseason start and fanned 14 batters in his Game 1 NLDS win. It was almost forgotten early with his inability to locate the mound and keep control of his command, and although he never had his best stuff, somehow he still managed to retire opposing batters.

It was very foolish of the Dodgers and Marlins to give away a valuable hitter in Ross, formerly known as a utility outfielder, now known as an everyday star. By now, we realize a star is born. Just like that, quicker than a fastball traveling at 100 mph, Ross has emerged into stardom.

“We thought it would be a close game, which it was. It’s a long series here. And it’s a start. And that’s all it is right now,” Bochy said after his Giants surprisingly won in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series.

The decision to obtain Ross was very surprising, and happened as soon as the Marlins lost interest in which he wasn’t an element worth holding onto, basically for his blunders and hitting deficiencies that have improved mightily. The requests increasingly were made by the Padres, who expressed interest in the outfielder, but since San Diego had been trailing in the NL West, the Giants denied the Padres of acquiring Ross.

With much at stake, Pat Burrell and Ross were said to be insufficient and useless, but the impact both are having in the postseason is hard to imagine. Earlier this season, Burrell was ineffective and degenerating, sent to Triple-A and Ross was still a member of the Florida Marlins.

By the time the Rays released Burrell in May, he was hitting .202 with two homers in 84 at-bats. And now, as the Giants are verified as underdogs, Burrell has hit .266 with 18 home runs in 289 at-bats with San Francisco. Greater than the recent progress of Burrell, Ross has enhanced to .288 with three home runs in 73 at-bats as a member of the Giants.

Midway in the contest, Halladay gaffed after he retired the first two batters, but strangely lost his command of the strike zone and his cool on the mound in the sixth inning. Next thing, he yielded a single to Buster Posey and eventually Burrell smashed an RBI double that drove to the left field wall, which extended the Giants’ lead to 3-1.

A beloved icon is evolving before our very eyes in San Francisco. He’s the Freak with the long hair and fast delivery to intimidate his batters, as he did against the Phillies potent batting lineup.

But as of now, everybody should be raving about the rodeo clown who is now known as more than a rodeo clown. He is known as baseball star.

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