PHILADELPHIA -- One of the beautiful things about the baseball postseason is that it can turn strangers into heroes, for a moment, and also forever.
And so, San Francisco's
Move forward to Saturday night, Philadelphia, third inning of the Phillies-Giants NL Championship Series Game 1, and the air felt electrified. This game was about as hyped as any postseason game in memory because of the two pitchers, the Phillies'
And, sure enough, Halladay retired the first seven batters and seemed to be in complete control. Lincecum seemed a bit shakier -- he allowed a couple of hard-hit balls and a double to
Then Ross stepped up. Halladay had thrown 11 hitless innings. He had gotten the first out of the third. He then threw Ross a 93-mph fastball on the inside part of the plate. And Ross turned on it, crushed it, knew it was gone just an instant after he had made contact. The ball sailed into the seats. And the whole complexion of the game, the night, the series changed.
"It's huge for the club," Giants manager
"It was huge for us," Giants left fielder
"Obviously, it was huge," Bochy would reiterate.
Yes, the word of the night was "huge" -- well, the idea was to search for as big a word as possible. Ross came to the Giants just less than two months ago ... they had claimed him on waivers from Florida. There is some thought that the Giants did not particularly want Ross, that they only claimed him in an effort to keep their division rival San Diego Padres from getting him (this thought is so prominent that it is on
But they wanted him enough to make the claim. And though he didn't play every day -- the Giants seemed to prefer another castoff,
And then he hit that huge home run off Halladay.
The game opened up from there. Philadelphia's
In the fifth Ross came back up. Halladay -- being Halladay -- immediately backed him off the plate with a buzzing fastball. Halladay then tried to paint the outside corner, and just missed. With the count 2-0, Halladay once again challenged Ross with an inside fastball. And Ross once again turned on it, crushed it, knew it was gone an instant after he made contact.
"I've tried everything against that guy," said Ross after the game, his face still locked in disbelief. "I've tried to wait him out. I've tried to be aggressive. I guess I was in between tonight ..."
The game wasn't exactly decided on Ross' home runs. No, those home runs only shaped the game. As far as the baseball goes, Burrell's run-scoring double one pitch after Halladay thought he had a strikeout (the pitch was called a ball) was crucial. As far as the game goes,
But those Ross home runs, especially the first one, well, as Burrell said: "Everybody's familiar with what (Halladay) did in the last game. We just needed to go out there and put something on the board, I think, more than anything, just to kind of calm down our offense. Because when you look at the last start (Halladay) had, there wasn't a whole lot to hit for those guys."
Now Ross is finding himself in the spotlight, finds himself repeating the charming story about how when he was a kid he really wanted to be a rodeo clown. His father had been in rodeo, and Ross was thrilled by the clowns and how they would put themselves in danger in order to protect the cowboys. That's what he wanted to do. And, of course, that never quite went away.
"I just try to take pride in going up there every single at-bat and try to get something going for my team, whether it's drawing a walk or hitting a home run," he said. "Anything that you can do to spark your club and get the emotions rolling."
The emotions roll now. The Giants landed a serious blow Saturday night -- they came to Philadelphia and beat Halladay. The Phillies are two-time NL champs, and they have a star-studded lineup with two former MVPs and five other All-Stars, while the Giants used a lineup Saturday that included just three players who started on Opening Day (and one of those was Lincecum). But the series is wide open now. The Giants have at least a split, they have a hot pitcher,
"I don't think it's a surprise at all," Bochy said when asked about Ross' success. "I mean, he's a nice player."