Ross hit a grand slam and a three-run homer in successive at-bats and the Dodgers rode a big game from a spare outfielder whose roster status is in doubt to a 13-5 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday.
Ross started only because J.D. Drew got the afternoon off after playing the night before, and went on to drive in seven runs. He hit a go-ahead grand slam in the fifth off Oliver Perez (0-2) and a three-run drive an inning later against Damaso Marte.
Bill Mueller added a two-run double in the five-run sixth, and Olmedo Saenz had a two-run homer among his three hits and drove in four runs. Saenz went 8-for-14 with two homers and seven RBIs as the teams split the four-game series, combining for 18 homers—nine by each team—in what is supposed to be a pitchers’ park.
The 25-year-old Ross went into the game knowing it might be his last for the Dodgers. Center fielder Kenny Lofton (calf) is ready to come off the disabled list, and manager Grady Little said the logical move is to send Ross to Triple-A. However, Ross is out of options and must pass through waivers if the Dodgers try to demote him.
“Normally it’s day by day, but, seriously, it’s minute by minute around here,” Ross said. “I have no clue. I haven’t had one person say anything remotely close to what’s going on.”
After the first seven-RBIs game by a Dodgers player since Shawn Green against Milwaukee on May 23, 2002, Little backtracked somewhat. He said the Dodgers might keep Ross and send down one of the seven relievers in a bullpen that has underperformed all season.
“Is there a chance he might not be the odd man out? Yes, there is a chance he might not be,” Little said.
However, keeping Ross would mean the Dodgers have six outfielders who can’t play another position, an unwieldy situation that complicates strategy and could lead to players getting rusty on the bench.
“I’m not sure that’s something that would happen for very long,” Little said.
If nothing else, Ross gave another team an idea of what he is capable of doing. He is 6-for-12 with nine RBIs this season.
“I know somebody’s got to go down, and I’m sure they have a tough decision, but I try not to let that affect my game,” said Ross, who began the game with eight career RBIs. “It weighs on my mind, it’s stressful, but I try not to think about it during the game.”
Ross also became one of the few major leaguers in history to hit grand slams for each of his first two career homers. Before Thursday, his only previous homer was a grand slam for the Tigers on Sept. 2, 2003, against the Indians.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the only other active major leaguer to begin his career by hitting grand slams for each of his first two homers was Craig Counsell for the Marlins in 1997-98.
Ross ended that streak with his three-run drive in the sixth—not that the Dodgers cared after losing the previous two nights when the Pirates hit a combined eight homers.
Pirates manager Jim Tracy said any major league hitter would have liked the two pitches Ross homered on.
“The grand slam was a split-finger pitch by Oliver that sat in the middle of the plate,” Tracy said. “The homer off Marte was a first-pitch fastball that was right down the middle. Cody, or anybody else, is going to hit pitches like that.”
The Pirates had won three of four after dropping their first six games, but were done in again by a poor start. Perez gave up six runs and nine hits while walking five in 4 2-3 innings, raising his ERA to 8.10. He has given up 11 earned runs in eight innings in his last two starts.
“But I’m trying not to think about it too much—that’s what happened last year,” said Perez, who is trying to bounce back from a major falloff in performance last year. “I was thinking too much. My mind was lost. I’m trying to focus now on the next game.”
Dodgers starter Derek Lowe (1-1) wasn’t especially sharp while pitching on three days’ rest, allowing four runs—two earned—and six hits in six innings, but got deep enough into the game to benefit from Ross’ two homers.
After hitting four homers in each of their previous two games, the Pirates were limited to Jeromy Burnitz’s two-run drive in the fifth that temporarily cut their deficit to 6-4. The Dodgers quickly got those runs back when reliever Ryan Vogelsong permitted each of the five batters he faced in the sixth to reach base, walking two, hitting one and committing a balk. Marte then gave up Ross’ second homer of the game.
The Dodgers are 29-9 against the Pirates since 2001 and are 14-5 at PNC Park. … The Dodgers had 52 hits in the series, getting at least 11 in every game, and lead the majors with 118 hits in 10 games. … For a change, the Dodgers didn’t do much of their scoring in the first inning. Coming into the game, they had 19 runs in the first and 31 in all other innings. They were held scoreless in the first by Perez.