Phillies shut out, trail series

Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels shows his frustration after a pitch was called a ball in the fifth inning of Tuesday's 3-0 loss in Game 3.
Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels shows his frustration after a pitch was called a ball in the fifth inning of Tuesday's 3-0 loss in Game 3.
Posted: October 20, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO - The fourth pitch to Cody Ross was a fastball low and on the outside edge of the plate. It went, Cole Hamels said, right where Carlos Ruiz's glove was placed.

"I don't know too many guys that can lift that up over a third baseman," Hamels said. "Most guys normally hit it into the ground."

In the fourth inning of a 3-0 Giants victory over the Phillies in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series, Ross lined the fastball to left for a run-scoring single. It was the deciding run in the shutout, the first time the Phillies had been blanked in the postseason since Game 5 of the 1983 World Series.

The Phillies managed just three hits off three Giants pitchers. San Francisco leads the best-of-seven series, two games to one. Game 4 is Wednesday night at AT&T Park.

Before the postseason began, Ross was just another hitter. The Giants acquired him off waivers only so the San Diego Padres could not. Now . . .

"He's hitting pitches that most normal people can't hit at this time," Hamels said.

Ross has become a baseball folk hero. He inexplicably hits home run after home run for the Giants and then talks daily about his childhood desire to be a rodeo clown.

It almost was different. Two baseball sources confirmed that the Phillies put a claim on Ross when the Florida Marlins waived him. So did San Francisco, of course. Because the Giants had a worse record than the Phils at that point, they were awarded the outfielder.

Both teams had their motivations. The Giants didn't want San Diego, then in first place in the NL West, to acquire Ross. So they blocked them by issuing the claim.

Ross is a player the Phillies have long liked, partially because of the way he's played against their team. But the move also would have blocked Ross from slipping to the Braves, who had a 21/2-game lead then and needed outfield help.

Phillies officials declined to comment because of the confidentiality of the waiver process.

Ross was passed up by the nine teams in the National League with a worse record than the Giants on Aug. 19. Three days later, the Marlins and Giants worked out a deal for San Francisco to assume the $1 million or so left on Ross' contract.

In the NLCS, Ross has driven in four runs in three games, almost half the total of the entire Phillies team. At AT&T Park, they chanted his first name Tuesday, a bit player living out his dream scenario.

"It's an easy name to chant, that's probably why," Ross said. "It's two syllables."

On Wednesday, down two games to one, the Phillies will send their fourth starter, Joe Blanton, to the mound in their most important game of the season.

They have not hit the Giants' pitching. They have made critical mistakes in the field. The breaks haven't gone their way, either - on so many levels.

If Ross didn't hit what he called a pitch he "probably shouldn't have swung at," the inning would have ended without two runs scoring. If Chase Utley caught Freddy Sanchez's in-between liner that fooled him in the fifth, another run would have been spared.

The Phillies never had a runner reach third against Matt Cain, Javier Lopez, or Brian Wilson. Cain went seven innings, yielding just two hits.

"The only way you beat good pitching is you've got to pitch well, too," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.

You get lucky, too, like accidentally acquiring Cody Ross, who then proceeds to hit home runs off Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt, then drives in the game-winning run against Hamels to push the Phillies closer to the brink.

Strange game, baseball.

"And," Ross said, "it's nothing I can really explain with words."

Contact staff writer Matt Gelb

at 215-854-2928 or Follow on Twitter @magelb.

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