Cody Ross is in his first year with the Red Sox, yet he has been the model of consistency and voice of reason amid the chaos surrounding him.
He’s been the most successful offseason acquisition by general manager Ben Cherington, a steady power hitter capable of playing ping-pong off the Green Monster when his swing is level. Such was the case Monday at Fenway Park, when he sent the Sox out west with some momentum by knocking in three runs in a 5-1 win over the Kansas City Royals in the finale of the four-game series.
In a weekend swallowed up by the team’s most significant transaction in decades, the Sox tried shifting their concentration from who is gone and why to playing out the final 34 games with respectability.
With Adrian Gonzalez in Los Angeles and David Ortiz having returned to the disabled list with Achilles’ tendon soreness, Ross is the team’s most feared power hitter. He clubbed two offspeed pitches from Luke Hochevar off the left-field wall to cash in three runs and give pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka some cushion during his seven-inning performance.
Ross has bounced around the major leagues the past several seasons but has seemingly found a home in Boston, a player capable of flourishing in this market with a flair for the dramatic. Monday wasn’t exactly a dramatic or pivotal game, but the Sox sought to cap the series with a victory and move further away from failed expectations.
With a smiling face and active bat, Ross is helping that transition.
“My swing has always been like this [looping],” he said. “I finally got to play in a place that it actually works. Most of those balls I hit today were legit doubles, the first one probably could have been a home run. It’s nice to use that as an advantage, that’s for sure.”
The first one was a soaring shot that nearly cleared the Monster, scoring Scott Podsednik and Dustin Pedroia for a 3-1 lead in the third inning. The ball was so crisply hit that left fielder Alex Gordon played the carom and threw out Ross at second base by three steps.
Ross ensured the final game of this homestand, filled with blown leads and back-and-forth offensive barrages, ended with little suspense by tacking on an RBI double in the sixth and scoring the final run.
“[Hochevar] threw Cody five curveballs in the first inning and struck him out. With a man on second and third [in the third inning], he didn’t throw curveball until he had two strikes on him and when he did, Cody hit it off the wall for two RBIs,” manager Bobby Valentine said. “That’s a hitter making an in-game adjustment. Batting fourth, rising to the occasion as he has all year, he’s been a really good player for us.”
Because they are out of the pennant race, the Red Sox have played more relaxed the last two games, while the influx of youth and vibrant attitudes has been refreshing for Ross.
“It’s fun, we’ve got some young guys out there that are hungry and trying to prove themselves, just playing relaxed and enjoying it,” he said. “We haven’t had a whole lot of that this year. So it’s nice to enjoy that.”
Ross is a free agent at season’s end. And since the organization dealt away two former stalwarts in their lineup over the weekend, there is seemingly a need for veteran leadership and stability, which Ross has provided.
“Those are discussions down the road, no doubt about that,” Valentine said. “I don’t know where we’d be this year without him. We’d probably be in the same void next year without him. We’ll wait till we get down the road on that one.”
Ross has repeatedly stated he would like to return. He helped the Giants win the 2010 World Series as a late-season addition, and has dramatically improved his offensive numbers from a year ago with San Francisco. At .281, he could finish with his highest batting average for a full season, and with 19 home runs and 67 RBIs, he’s enjoying his best power season since 2009 with the Marlins.
“I’d be lying to you if I tell you I don’t think about [my contract],” he said. “But I don’t put a lot of thought into it. All that stuff will work itself out. Any time you have a team that feels like they want to invest in you and your future, it’s nice. I’ve really never had that.”
Gary Washburn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.