SAN FRANCISCO — Cody Ross keeps doing his best Barry Bonds imitation.
With the home run king watching and cheering from a front-row seat, Ross delivered again, Matt Cain outdueled Cole Hamels and the San Francisco Giants beat the Philadelphia Phillies 3-0 Tuesday for a 2-1 lead in the NL championship series.
Picked up off waivers in August from Florida, Ross added to his quickly growing postseason legacy. He homered three times in the first two games at Philadelphia and hit an RBI single in Game 3 to break a scoreless tie.
"He plays with no fear," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "That's what you love about the guy."
The modest Ross insists he's far from deserving of comparisons to Bonds or Mr. October himself, Reggie Jackson.
Bochy even tinkered with his lineup, moving Ross up into the No. 5 spot. The good-natured guy who aspired to be a rodeo clown as a kid came to the plate to chants of "Cody! Cody!"
"It's an easy name to chant, that's probably why. Two syllables," Ross said. "It's been an unbelievable experience for me so far. A month and a half, two months, ago, I didn't dream I'd be in this situation. The Giants were awesome to bring me over here. It's just been a great ride."
San Francisco grabbed the edge in its best-of-seven series against the two-time defending NL champions – with two more games in their home ballpark.
Bonds, wearing his old No. 25 jersey, got the towel-waving sellout crowd of 43,320 going at AT&T Park when introduced on the field before first pitch with three other ex-Giants. He threw his arms up in the air and waved, generating wild cheers.
The Giants have never won the World Series since moving West to San Francisco before the 1958 season. They came within six outs of a title in 2002, led by Bonds' slugging.
The last time this franchise won it all was in 1954, as the New York Giants. On a team that included future Hall of Famer Willie Mays and other big-name players, it was a part-time outfielder who hit .253 in his career – Dusty Rhodes – who emerged as the Series star with two homers in six at-bats.
So far this postseason, that role of unlikely hero belongs entirely to Ross, an outfielder with a lifetime .265 mark. Ross and Rhodes both played seven seasons and reached the postseason just once.
"He's our spark plug," Aubrey Huff said.
Ross hit an RBI single in the fourth inning to break a scoreless tie and fellow playoff first-timer Huff followed with a run-scoring single.
"He's definitely hot," Hamels said. "He's been battling and hitting pitches that most normal people can't hit at this time."
"Hit him," Hamels kidded.
This marked the third impressive pitcher's duel in as many games of this NLCS. First, it was Roy Halladay vs. Tim Lincecum, then Roy Oswalt and Jonathan Sanchez.
Joe Blanton will start for the Phillies in Game 4 on Wednesday night, though manager Charlie Manuel considered Halladay on short rest. Blanton last pitched one inning of relief on the final day of the season, an 8-7 loss at Atlanta, and has not started since Sept. 29.
Rookie Madison Bumgarner starts for the Giants in his first career matchup with the Phillies. He pitched the division series clincher at Atlanta.
"I would say tomorrow is the biggest game we've played so far," Manuel said.
On a beautiful and festive fall day in the Bay Area, Bochy made all the right moves.
Along with Ross moving up, Aaron Rowand earned a start in center field, then doubled and scored on Freddy Sanchez's fifth-inning single.
"We kind of had the old lineup out there and everybody battled against a tough, tough lefty," Huff said. "This guy's been mowing people down pretty much all year long, so it was a big win to come home and get the first one."
Cain allowed two hits over seven innings, struck out five and walked three in a strong 119-pitch effort.
Javier Lopez pitched the eighth and Brian Wilson finished it for his fourth postseason save and second in as many tries this series.
"Usually someone steps up but that wasn't the case today," Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins said. "When you get a guy on, you get him in. That's the way to jump start it."
Cain and 2008 World Series MVP Hamels each began with three scoreless innings. The left-handed Hamels didn't allow a hit until Edgar Renteria's single to start the fourth, while Carlos Ruiz's one-out single in the third was the first off Cain.
After Renteria's hit, Sanchez sacrificed him to second. Buster Posey struck out swinging and former Phillies outfielder Pat Burrell walked. Ross followed with his single.
San Francisco managed only four hits in losing 6-1 on Sunday night at Citizens Bank Park. The Giants knew they needed to do more Tuesday to swing the momentum back in their favor.
Bochy started Rowand against his former club in place of the struggling Andres Torres. Bochy said Torres would be back in the lineup Wednesday against a right-hander. When Rowand scored, the first person to greet Rowand in the dugout was Torres.
"You feel good for them. They're pros," Bochy said of Rowand and Renteria. "They've done a great job of setting aside their ego. We've got guys who are used to being out there every day. Aaron kept himself ready and gets a start today, gets a big hit, scores a run. They've been a big part of this."
Freddy Sanchez in the No. 2 hole was the only Giant to stay in the same spot in the order. Shortstop Renteria moved into Torres' regular leadoff hole, while Huff was moved down to sixth from third.
Juan Uribe played after he was scratched late before Game 2 with a bruised left wrist. An MRI exam Monday showed no structural damage.
Cain showed no signs of a long layoff in earning his first career postseason victory. Pitching on 10 days' rest since a no-decision in Game 2 of the division series against Atlanta on Oct. 8, Cain beat the Phillies for the first time. He had been 0-3 lifetime with a 6.23 ERA in his first five career starts against Philadelphia.
Bochy visited Cain after the right-hander hit Ruiz and then walked pinch-hitter Ross Gload with two outs in the seventh, but stuck with him. Cain retired Shane Victorino on a groundout.
Cain shut down the heart of the Phillies' loaded lineup, too.
Chase Utley, batting second for the second straight game, came in 7 for 15 with three home runs against Cain. He went 0 for 4. As did Placido Polanco and Raul Ibanez, who grounded into a game-ending double play.
Ibanez is in an 0-for-15 funk dating to the division series with Cincinnati.
"There's not enough time to analyze situations. Let's go out there and worry about tomorrow," Victorino said. "Let's not sit back and reflect on what we haven't done."
Hamels, coming off a five-hit shutout against Cincinnati on Oct. 10 in his last outing, was tagged for three runs and five hits in six innings. He struck out eight and walked one.
Notes: Giants starters have yet to allow an earned run in 22 2-3 innings at home this postseason. ... Bonds, J.T. Snow, Robb Nen and Shawon Dunston all threw out ceremonial first pitches. ... Huff batted sixth for just the fourth time all season. ... Rowand's double was his first postseason extra-base hit since a home run on Oct. 3, 2007, against Colorado while with the Phillies. ... Cain went 11-0 this season when the Giants scored three runs or more for him. ... Wilson has 10 postseason strikeouts, five this series after five against Atlanta.