Linebrink threw a 93-m.p.h. fastball that didn't land until it plopped on the concrete aisle of the sixth row in the left-field seats at Turner Field for a grand slam.
"It was right there," Ruiz said. "Same pitch. And I got it."
And the game was effectively over, another Phillies pinch-hitter coming up large to make what had been a tenuous, one-run lead held by Roy Oswalt turn into a laugher. It was Ruiz's first career grand slam, first career pinch-hit home run, and the beginning of a record day for the regular catcher who spent the first six innings on the bench.
Ruiz finished with a career-high five RBIs. Two of the runners he drove in reached on pinch-hit singles, and the most absurd statistic after eight games is this: Phillies pinch-hitters are 10 for 16 (.625).
"That's unheard of, really," said catcher Brian Schneider, who also homered Saturday. "There's no way you can explain it. Pinch-hitting is not an easy thing to do. It's probably one of the hardest jobs out there, there's no doubt about it."
Last season, the Phillies hit .188 (45 for 240) as pinch-hitters, and that was the worst in the National League. It took the Phillies until June 6 to accumulate their 10th pinch-hit of 2010 - and 61 more at-bats than it did in 2011.
Ask Charlie Manuel and he could go on forever about the virtues of a good pinch-hitter. Manuel was a bench player for his six seasons in the majors and a career .164 pinch-hitter. He loves it when Ross Gload, the team's leading cold bat off the bench, stands in, works the count, and delivers what the manager calls "a professional at-bat."
He has watched Gload, John Mayberry Jr., Michael Martinez, Pete Orr, and now Ruiz do it from the bench regularly in the first week.
Before Ruiz batted and cleared the bases, Mayberry pinch-hit two batters before he did and sprayed a 1-2 fastball from lefty George Sherrill into short left for a single. It set up the inning for Ruiz.
"It's great, really," Manuel said. "What that really shows is they're doing their work. [Hitting coach Greg Gross] is putting a lot of repetitions in with them. That's what that shows. They're keeping sharp. The more at-bats we get them, the better they'll perform. Right now, they're coming out of spring training and they have at-bats. They're swinging good."
Ruiz's pinch-hit grand slam was the first for the Phillies since Matt Stairs on Sept. 10, 2009. Stairs and Greg Dobbs were two great pinch-hitters for the Phillies, but they went cold eventually because too much inactivity will do that.
In the championship season of 2008, when Dobbs was at his best, the Phillies pinch-hitters batted .253. That was second best in the league. In 2009, it dropped to .186, ranking second to last in the league.
Of course, .625 is not sustainable. But it's certainly encouraging.
"Coming from the bench," Ruiz said, "five RBIs, I'll take it."
Contact staff writer Matt Gelb at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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