When Lance Cormier threw two straight slow curves -- one for a strike, another for a ball -- to Cody Ross in the ninth inning Wednesday night, I thought to myself: throw him another. He'll be waiting.
That's why I was surprised to hear Ross say he wasn't looking for another curve, that he was looking for a cutter. But he identified the curve early and reacted.
And boy did he react. The thing is that it was the kind of pitch, a slow curve inside, that most pull sharply but foul. But Ross put on a perfect swing to keep it fair: he pulled his arms in just a bit and gave it an almost inside-out swing with an upper-cut yank.
Not only was it a perfect swing, but it was antidote to the miseries that have befallen the Giants on this road trip. It was the big blow the Giants have been searching for all season.
Oh, they've had their dramatic moments, pulled out a lot of tight ones. But a game decided on a late home run has not been a part of the Giants' arsenal. Three-run shots have come all too rare, let alone in a key moment that simultaneously erases a bullpen meltdown and catapults them to victory. Even in their three-run fourth inning, the rally that gave them a 4-0 lead, the Giants had to scratch and claw: four singles, a walk and a sacrifice fly.
And isn't Ross' home run trot about as stylish as they come? He has toned it down since last year, when he would raise his arms, leap and skip -- remember his bat throw after hitting a HR off Matt Cain? Still, there's that little fling of the bat, the look of sheer malevolence (is it disdain?) directed toward the flight of the ball but meant for the pitcher, the nod and fist pump to teammates in the first-base dugout, and the triumphant, graceful stride around the bases punctuated by muscular high fives at the plate.
Ross' athletic triumphs are easy to celebrate because he has the look of Everyman, with his round, almost cherubic face, his medium stature, his bald pate. He also speaks in media-friendly, thoughtful ways. But don't mistake him for ordinary. Ross is a true athlete with speed, a strong throwing arm, a good glove and power. He can beat you in many ways. Remember, he stole second ahead of Miguel Tejada's RBI single that gave the Giants a 5-2 lead in the eighth.
Up until the bullpen meltdown (in which Brian Wilson's pitching line bears no resemblance to the disaster that unfolded on his watch), Tejada's RBI single was the Giants' biggest blow. It came after the Dodgers had narrowed the Giants lead to 4-2, and folks were wondering if the Giants offense had, once again, turned in early.
He drove in Ross, who had walked and stole second, with a soft, sinking line drive to left field -- the "add on run" that Boss Bochy keeps imploring the boys to be mindful of. Tejada had an earlier RBI single with the bases loaded, and now has five hits in his last 12 at bats. He also had a nice play up the middle on a hard hit grounder by pitcher Clayton Kershaw.
Maybe his critics will give him a break as they watch him emerge from his funk. When he's hitting, he brings a zest and spark to the field that could be infectious.
The win went to the vulture, Wilson, who at 4-1 is the Giants leader in wins, though he allowed two inherited base runners to score and a third from his own ledger.
His confrontation with ex-Giant Juan Uribe was most puzzling. In running the count full, Wilson appeared to dominate Uribe with the fastball, but did Uribe a favor with a 88 MPH cut fastball on the payoff pitch, speeding up Uribe's bat. It was a mistake up, which all Giants fans know Uribe feasts on.
The James Loney RBI single that followed was just as puzzling: what the heck was Aubrey Huff thinking when he let it go by him? It was a slow bounder just to his right, while Sanchez was playing straightaway at second. He couldn't have thought Freddie Sanchez was pulled so far over the right side, or if he did, he sure hadn't looked to confirm it.
But all that was forgotten when Ross circled the bases with that part-cherubic, part-malevolent grin.