Cody "Walkoff" Ross is his name, and three-run homers are most certainly his game.
After clubbing two on Wednesday, Cody Ross made it three homers at thee runs-a-pop Thursday night, and boy did he ever make it dramatic.
The names "Buchholz" and "Quintana" don't immediately call thoughts of a pitchers' duel to mind. Buchholz, after all, was one of the worst pitchers in the game for the first couple months of the season, and few-and-far-between are the individuals outside of Chicago who knew of Quintana when he was pitching in Advanced-A last year. But by looking a little deeper, this back-and-forth wasn't too unthinkable an outcome. Quintana, after all, had managed a 2.60 ERA through the first 62 innings of his season, while Buchholz has pitched admirably in his past six games excepting the one against New York.
The best sides of each young arm would shine through in this game, with Buchholz commanding a full repertoire to keep opponents off-balance and Quintana responding by pounding the strike zone early in the count and running through the Sox with ruthless efficiency. Buchholz would be the only one to blink surrendering a leadoff walk and single to Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko in the fourth, leading one run to come in on a sacrifice fly. Both would go eight strong innings, the difference between them being the two baserunners in the fourth and the run they combined for.
The night of frustration was made worse by a maddening missed opportunity in the seventh. Having finally put together a few good at bats and in fact loaded the basses against Quintana with one out, the Sox had Will Middlebrooks step to the plate. The two engaged in a lengthy battle, ending on the eighth pitch when Middlebrooks hit the ball sharply on the ground to short. The spin on the ball seemed ready to cross Alexei Ramirez up, but the infielder made a diving recovery and actually managed to start the double play, ending the threat.
All the frustration would melt away though in the ninth thanks to Cody Ross. Carl Crawford got the rally started with a single lined into right field, and Adrian Gonzalez put one on the ground to the same area to give the Sox two on with one out. Up came Cody Ross, hero of Wednesday, ready to retain his title for another game. The right fielder took one for a ball, one for a strike, and then got an inside fastball just barely tailing towards the middle of the plate. Ross took that moonshot golf swing that seems so tailor-made for Fenway Park, and dropped the ball into the Monster seats right of the foul pole to turn a 1-0 deficit into a 3-1 walkoff win.
The Sox are now 5-2 in the second half of the season. For the first time, at least in my mind, it can definitively be considered a strong start.