Ruiz, relief corps come up big for Phillies

Ruiz, relief corps come up big for Phillies

Ruiz, relief corps come up big for Phillies
PHILADELPHIA -- Carlos Ruiz emerged from a back room in the Phillies' clubhouse late Tuesday night with a smile on his face.

He came to a stop and leaned against the red countertop in the middle of the room, where a reporter informed him that he is "leading the world" in hitting after going 3-for-4 with a home run and two RBIs in Tuesday's 5-4 victory over the Pirates at Citizens Bank Park. Ruiz is hitting .361, which leads the big leagues.

"Come on," Ruiz said in disbelief.

"Yeah, you're leading the world."

"Let me see," Ruiz said, trying to sneak a glance at the reporter's notebook.

"You are. Trust me."

Ruiz chuckled.

The reporter repeated that Ruiz is leading the big leagues in batting, and asked Ruiz if he pinched himself. Ruiz thought about it, pinched his left arm and smiled.

"That's me," he joked.

Ruiz is a distant third in All-Star voting for National League catchers, but he should earn his first trip to the All-Star Game. He left the ballpark on Tuesday first in the league in batting average (.361), second in OPS (1.006), third in on-base percentage (.427) and fifth in slugging percentage (.579).

Ruiz singled to score Hunter Pence from third in the first inning to hand the Phillies a one-run lead. He singled and scored on Ty Wigginton's two-run homer in the third, for a three-run lead, and he homered in the eighth inning on an 0-2 pitch from Juan Cruz to make it 5-3.

It was Ruiz's 10th homer of the season, a career high.


"When you feel good at home plate, you can find out the way they're going to pitch to you," Ruiz said. "I feel great, and that's a big thing."

The bullpen came up big, too.

Phillies relievers entered the night with a 4.44 ERA, 24th in baseball, and had allowed 39.2 percent of their inherited runners to score, which ranked 29th. So forgive fans if they thought things looked grim when Charlie Manuel asked Michael Schwimer to replace Vance Worley -- who allowed three runs in six innings to improve to 4-4 -- and protect a one-run lead with runners on second and third and no outs in the top of the seventh.

But Schwimer got Pirates left fielder Jose Tabata to ground out back to the mound for the first out and Neil Walker to fly out to left field for the second out. Michael McKenry, who was on third, tried to tag up and score, but John Mayberry Jr. threw an absolute strike to Ruiz, who applied the tag to end the inning.

Schwimer, who was backing up Ruiz on the play, screamed and offered a fist pump in celebration before bounding into the dugout.

"You call that excited? I was trying to stop myself from jumping in the crowd," Schwimer said.

Schwimer has a 1.17 ERA in his last six appearances, which he credits to a productive bullpen session in Baltimore with pitching coach Rich Dubee, who changed Schwimer's slider grip and adjusted his mechanics.

Schwimer hopes this is a step in the right direction. The Phillies would welcome it. They need some stability and consistency in the bullpen.

"Those kinds of situations I absolutely love," he said. "The bigger the situation, I really, really love it. I've had a problem in the past with kind of getting too emotional with it, which has gotten me in trouble. I feel like this time I've learned from past failures I've had in past situations. I've had a lot of those situations surprisingly. I've kind of learned from that and was able to channel that and make good pitches."

Setup man Antonio Bastardo allowed a leadoff double to Andrew McCutchen in the eighth, but he got out of the inning to hold the lead. Closer Jonathan Papelbon allowed a solo homer in the ninth but picked up his 18th save.

It was a big victory for the Phillies, who picked up their fifth win of this 10-game homestand with two more games to play.

Ruiz noticed a lot of energy at the ballpark the last couple of nights.

"We had more life," he said.

It should be even livelier on Wednesday, as Chase Utley is expected to join the lineup for the first time this season.

"I can't wait to see Chase tomorrow in the lineup," Ruiz said. "It's going to be great for us. It's going to be big. I can tell you that. I think yesterday, when he was here, I feel like everybody was excited to see him. I want to see him at second base and see what happens."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.