Booed in Philly, Cody Ross still says Phillies will rise

PHILADELPHIA -- Cody Ross , who still gets booed here because of that great playoff series with the San Francisco Giants , has a message for Philadelphia Phillies fans:

"They're going to be at the top of the division when it's all said and done," Ross said Friday. "They're either going to win [the division], or they'll come close."

How many people are willing to say the same about Ross' Boston Red Sox ?

The two big-money last-place teams meeting this weekend at Citizens Bank Park have had similar starts to the season, but when it was suggested to a few baseball people that both could easily recover, the answer back was, "Well, one of them could."

They were talking about the Phillies, who have won six in a row after Friday's 6-4 win over Boston.

Admittedly, the first five games of the winning streak came against the San Diego Padres , Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs . Admittedly, the schedule gets tougher over the next couple of weeks, with series against the Washington Nationals , St. Louis Cardinals , New York Mets , Miami Marlins and Los Angeles Dodgers following this weekend's three games with the Red Sox.

And admittedly, the Phillies lineup is still far from imposing. While there's some growing optimism that Ryan Howard and Chase Utley could return in June, they still have probably another month of trying to win with this group.

The Red Sox had a six-game winning streak earlier this year (against the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox ), and a five-game winning streak earlier this week (against the Cleveland Indians and Seattle Mariners ). But they've also had too many nights like Friday, which ended with Ross getting X-rays after fouling a ball off his foot, and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia at the hospital getting treated for a serious cut on his left ear.

Like the Phillies, they have star players who will return, in their case Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford and Kevin Youkilis (although there are questions about whether Crawford and Youkilis can still be considered stars).

They should have stretches where they play considerably better, and Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon suggested Friday night that his former team could do what his current team already may have done.

"Shoot, yeah," Papelbon said. "I think these teams are very similar. They can get going at the strike of a match."

Ross suggested the same thing, saying of the Red Sox: "I think we're capable of doing big things."

Ross spoke of the sense of team confidence that comes with winning. Just as Jimmy Rollins said last week that the Phillies had been finding ways to lose games the way they once found ways to win them, Ross said that at times this season the Red Sox have felt the same way.

"I think you have to prove it to yourself that you're a good team," Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said.

The Phillies seem to be doing that already, although they may not believe it for certain until Howard and/or Utley return.

Papelbon suggested that the meeting manager Charlie Manuel held after the Phils were swept last week by the Mets may have helped.

"You tell me -- we started winning games after that," Papelbon said. "We started winning games after his meeting. I think the facts speak for themselves."

Perhaps, but the facts also say that the Phillies and Red Sox both remain in last place, six weeks into the season.

From experience gained in six seasons in the National League (and several in the NL East with the Marlins), Ross believes strongly that the Phillies are much better than this. He thinks the Red Sox are, too.

How many people are willing to say the same?

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