Majors' top hitter Ruiz paces Phils in win
Reporter to Carlos Ruiz after the Phillies’ MVP had three hits to lead a 5-4 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday night:
“Carlos, you’re leading the world in hitting.”
“Come on,” Ruiz responded.
“You’re leading the world,” the reporter said.
“Let me see,” said the catcher, motioning to the reporter’s notebook.
“Trust me,” the reporter responded.
“No, I’m serious,” the reporter said. “You’re leading the majors in hitting. Do you have to pinch yourself?”
Ruiz smiled and pinched his left forearm. His eyes brightened.
“That’s me,” he said, grinning ear to ear.
In the clubhouse, after a hard night’s work, Ruiz has an almost precious innocence to him. During the game, however, he is a dangerous man, especially with a bat in his hands. He drove in two of the Phillies’ five runs on Tuesday night and his second straight three-hit game – and 11th of the season -- left him leading the majors with a .361 batting average (See Instant Replay).
All the questions about whether Ruiz will make the NL All-Star team can stop. He will be in Kansas City on the second Tuesday in July. Bank on it.
“I feel good at the plate,” Ruiz said. “It’s hard to explain. I feel relaxed. I’m seeing the ball well.”
The biggest of Ruiz’ hits Tuesday night was his career-high 10th home run in the bottom of the eighth inning. It gave the Phils a two-run lead which came in handy when the Pirates cut the lead to one against Jonathan Papelbon with a homer in the ninth.
Ruiz didn’t just have a big game with the bat. He was in on two huge defensive plays late in the game. In the seventh, he was on the receiving end of leftfielder John Mayberry Jr.’s throw to cut down the potential tying run at the plate. In the eighth, he helped Antonio Bastardo get out of a jam when he dashed to the backstop to glove a popped-up bunt.
Just another great night for the Phillies’ best player in 2012.
The Phils have won two in a row over the Pirates and are 5-3 on this 10-game homestand, which will receive a bolt of electricity when Chase Utley returns Wednesday night.
Ruiz wasn’t the only major contributor to Tuesday night’s win. Ty Wigginton had an important two-run homer, winning pitcher Vance Worley was solid over six-plus innings, and relievers Michael Schwimer and Antonio Bastardo got six huge outs, all with at least a runner in scoring position to protect a one-run lead.
Schwimer had the difficult assignment of coming into a one-run game with runners on second and third and no outs in the seventh. He got a one-hopper back to the box for the first out, then watched as Mayberry hauled in a fly ball and gunned down Michael McKenry at the plate to end the frame.
Schwimer, an emotional rookie, was backing up the plate and nearly did the Lambeau Leap when Ruiz applied the tag.
“I was trying to stop myself from jumping into the crowd,” Schwimer said.
Since making a mechanical adjustment in his delivery and learning a new slider grip from pitching coach Rich Dubee a couple of weeks ago, Schwimer has allowed just one run in his last 7 2/3 innings.
“Those are the kinds of situations I absolutely love,” Schwimer said of the seventh-inning jam. “I’ve had problems getting too emotional with it in the past, but I feel like I’ve learned from past failures and been able to channel my emotion and make good pitches.”
After Schwimer doused the fire in the seventh, Bastardo survived a leadoff double in the eighth to protect the lead.
The relief work of Schwimer and Bastardo, and the hot hitting of Ruiz, electrified the sellout crowd. Citizens Bank Park rocked like the days of old. Are more of those days coming? Maybe. In the coming weeks, the Phils will get Utley, Ryan Howard and Roy Halladay back from the disabled list and maybe they will make the difference in a second-half run. Utley is due to return Wednesday night. He will likely hit third, in front of cleanup man Ruiz. (It wasn’t long ago that Ruiz was hitting eighth.)
“I think we’ll get Chase back in the lineup [Wednesday],” Ruiz said. “It’s going to be great for us. It’s going to be big. Everybody is excited to see him.”E-mail Jim Salisbury at email@example.com