Phillies' Ruiz a rock behind the plate

Posted: October 03, 2011

Lots of Phillies fans love Carlos Ruiz because he's a good defensive catcher who paid his dues in the minor-league system and also is a tough out at the plate, especially in the playoffs. Plus, he can take a punch. Ruiz showed his sturdy jaw again in the fourth inning as he took a forearm to the face from St. Louis centerfielder Jon Jay on a bang-bang play at the plate. Jay was trying to score from second on a two-out single by Rafael Furcal. Jay barreled into Ruiz just as the catcher received leftfielder Raul Ibanez's one-hop throw. "It was the only option I had," Jay said. "I went for it." Jay's right forearm connected solidly with Ruiz's jaw. But the Phillies' catcher held the ball as he tumbled backward, and home-plate umpire Jerry Meals called Jay out. Ruiz didn't even need a standing eight-count. He held his ground in what is one of the most dangerous plays in baseball, the most infamous of which was Pete Rose's collision with Ray Fosse in the 1970 all-star game. In late May, San Francisco's Buster Posey was lost for a season with a broken left leg when Florida's Scott Cousins plowed into the Giants catcher while scoring the winning run in the bottom of the 13th inning. "Chooch [Ruiz] is the best catcher I've ever played with as far as staying in there and blocking the plate," Ibanez said. "So it's not surprising he takes the hit and makes a great play." Ruiz showed his toughness on the play. Another Panamanian, boxer Roberto Duran, was known as "Hands of Stone." Ruiz' jaw might be made of the same stuff. Two innings later, Ruiz, Jay, and Ibanez were involved in another sequence that resulted in another bang-bang, two-out play at the plate. This time, Jay sliced a single to left. Ibanez came up throwing again, firing to cut down Theriot, who was trying to score from second. But Ibanez's throw was high. Ruiz's jaw couldn't help him. He had to jump to make the catch, and Theriot slid under the Phillies catcher to tie the score at 4-4.

Tony award for face time

Desperate times called for desperate measures for St. Louis manager Tony La Russa. From his decision to start Chris Carpenter on three days' rest to his frantic use of his team's bullpen, La Russa approached Game 2 of the NLDS like it was a do-or-die situation. "You have to prove to your team that you're going to take your best shot," La Russa said. La Russa managed like it was the seventh game of the World Series. He made scorecards look like impressionist paintings, or something that parents hang on refrigerators. It started with his decision to appeal to Carpenter's "competitive heart" and asked his ace to do something he hasn't done in his entire career. Carpenter made 338 starts before Sunday night. None of them were on three days' rest. Carpenter wasn't sharp and La Russa pinch-hit for his starter in the fourth inning. That set off a chain reaction that saw La Russa use seven pitchers in the game, including four to face four consecutive batters in the eighth inning, and use the double-switch on two occasions. La Russa was great for TV advertisers in the eighth as he made pitching changes after three consecutive batters. After Marc Rzepczynski hit Chase Utley with a pitch, La Russa brought in Mitchell Boggs to face Hunter Pence, who reached on a fielder's choice. Next came Arthur Rhodes, who struck out Ryan Howard. And then Jason Motte came in and retired Shane Victorino on a fly ball. St. Louis' bullpen was a big key to the game. The Cardinals relievers allowed just one hit and no runs over the final six innings. "This is a players' game," La Russa said. But in this game, the St. Louis manager played a major role.

Wait for it

Before the game, Jimmy Rollins said baseball was "a game of adjustments" and that the Phillies would wait to see what Carpenter was throwing to figure out how to attack the Cardinals ace. But it was clear from Rollins' leadoff appearance that the Phillies were going to force Carpenter to throw a lot of pitches. Rollins worked the count to 2-0 before ripping a double to right. Chase Utley looked at five pitches, walking on a 3-1 count. Hunter Pence walked, too. Ryan Howard worked the count to 3-2 before bouncing a two-run single up the middle, right through the spot where most teams play their shortstop against the Phillies' slugger. But the Cardinals don't play a full shift against Howard, and shortstop Rafael Furcal was on the left side of the second-base bag and unable to reach the ball. Against most teams, Howard's ground ball is a double play. Rollins, who has been a bit of a free swinger in his career, was patient again in his second at-bat in the second inning. This time, he worked the count to 3-1 before driving another double off the wall in right-center field. He scored again, too, coming home on Pence's single to give the Phillies a 4-0 lead.


Contact staff writer Phil Anastasia at 856-779-3223, panastasia@phillynews.com, or @PhilAnastasia on Twitter.

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