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BOSTON -- David Ross had his October ruined last year by the St. Louis Cardinals, who knocked out Ross' Atlanta Braves in the National League play-in game last fall.
"How do you know they ruined my October?'' Ross said when it was put to him that way. "How do you know I didn't want to go home?''
Call it a hunch, given that Ross is 36 and until this season had never been on a team that had advanced beyond the division series round of the postseason. And the smile he cracked after he answered confirmed that he was putting on his inquisitor.
|David Ross sees a lot of the Red Sox in the Cardinals in terms of baserunning, pitching, defense and approach at the plate.|
That wasn't the first time the Cardinals had shortened Ross' October either. Back in 2004, when he was on the Dodgers, the Cardinals beat L.A., three games to one, on their way to an eventual rendezvous with the Red Sox in the World Series.
A National League lifer whose career ledger reads five NL teams -- Dodgers, Pirates, Padres, Reds and Braves -- and one AL team -- a cameo appearance with the Red Sox in 2008 and this past season in Boston -- Ross is so familiar with the Cardinals, he knows what they give the Clydesdales for a pregame meal.
So he is not surprised in the least that they are back in the World Series for the fourth time in the past 10 seasons. (It's the third trip for the Sox in that span.)
"They're a well-rounded team,'' he said. "I told my wife [Hyla] when I watched them on TV beat Pittsburgh, I said, 'I think that'll be the team we'll play in the World Series.' I was being a little cocky myself, thinking we were going to be there.
"But I watch them, they're fundamentally sound. They run the bases well. I know the National League. I played them a ton in my career. As an organization, they're thorough, they scout well, they work on the little things just like here, I think.''
You look at the Cardinals, he said, and you see a lot of the Red Sox. "We have a lot of similarities, as far as good baserunning, good solid defense, good pitching,'' he said. "They've got a really good bullpen; we've had a good bullpen. They have a deep lineup too; they don't give away at-bats.
"A buddy of mine said the other day, 'If you guys play the Cardinals, (1) that's a lot of red, and (2) your games may be six, seven hours. Those guys take pitches too.''
Ross' admiration for the Cardinals begins with their catcher, Yadier Molina, whose track record for throwing out attempted base stealers over the past five seasons is second to none, though in two of those five seasons, Ross had a higher percentage of caught stealing (although in fewer attempts). This season, Molina threw out 43.5 percent of attempted base stealers (20-of-46), while Ross was at 40.6 percent (13-of-32).
"Professional, a true professional,'' Ross said. "Probably the best catcher I've ever seen. From an outsider's perspective, seems to be a leader, he's in the MVP race every year. He's one of the faces of the franchise. You can tell how much he and his manager [Mike Matheny] communicate. They talk. His manager, being an ex-catcher himself and a really good one, you can tell they have a really good relationship.
"To me, he's a pro's pro. Goes about his business, doesn't show anybody up, roots for his teammates. You can tell he's teaching as well as competing. He's the example of what a true professional catcher should be.''
|Yadier Molina is "the example of what a true professional catcher should be," David Ross said.|
So, of course, Molina poses a formidable challenge for the Red Sox's running game, although, as Ross noted, the Sox did not run much in the American League Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers. The Sox stole five bases, with the majors' leading base stealer, Jacoby Ellsbury, stealing twice, but none of the stolen bases figured into the scoring, and Ellsbury was caught by Alex Avila in Game 6, the first time he'd been thrown out since Aug. 8, a span of 37 games.
"We didn't get to run well against the Tigers,'' Ross said. "Their pitchers were going to the slide step, so we knew if they did that, it would present some opportunities for our hitters.
"It's one of those things we're going to have to be precise in the World Series, just the way the championship series was. Every detail is highlighted. The baserunning is going to be highlighted. If you're thrown out, that's going be a big deal. You have to pick your spots to run on, maybe on off-speed stuff against [Game 1 starter Adam] Wainwright, or if he gets into any patterns. We'll have to do our homework and study. We're not going to run into outs just because we feel the need to run.''
Ross has a dozen plate appearances against Wainwright, but none since 2009. He is 2-for-11, including a home run he hit in 2007.
"I just know he can throw any pitch any time,'' Ross said. "I don't think there's a guy they have more confidence in. Him and Yadi know each other, back and forth, in and out. He's a stud. He's a strike thrower. He works around the plate instead of through it -- backdoor sinkers, cutters off the plate. He accesses both sides of the plate, and his 12-to-6 curveball is one of the best in the game.
"He's already 6-foot-7, a big presence on the mound, and that thing comes right out of the sky and drops in there.''
On the offensive side for the Cardinals, Carlos Beltran made his presence felt against the Dodgers with six hits and five walks in six games, including a walk-off base hit in the 13th inning in Game 1. But Ross balked at the suggestion that the Red Sox would single him out as the player they won't allow to beat them.
"We pitched to Miggy [Cabrera],'' Ross said, citing the Tigers slugger. "How many times did Miggy walk?" He walked twice.
"When you're at this level, there are not too many guys to pitch around. From a catching standpoint, you have to get 'em all out. You start filling up bases and someone pops one out, I'd rather give up a solo shot than a two- or three-run homer. We haven't had our meetings yet, but I feel like we'll attack everybody.''
It should not be considered coincidence, Ross said, that both the Red Sox and Cardinals are back in the World Series.
"That says a lot about the organizations, ownership, GMs, front office, scouting,'' he said. "It says a lot more about the organization than the players. But it also says a lot about core players -- [David] Ortiz, [Dustin] Pedroia, Ellsbury, Yadier Molina, Wainwright, [Chris] Carpenter, [Matt] Holliday.
"The Cardinals have done a good job of keeping guys they feel like are winners around. And that's what the Red Sox have done too.''