Ruiz hurt as Phillies lose to Blue Jays

Posted: June 16, 2012

TORONTO - Charlie Manuel is not a man of many words, but even the most verbose observer of this Phillies season would be left speechless. Carlos Ruiz was his rock, the player having a career season amid so many other unfulfilled expectations, the name that brought a smile to any teammate's face.

Then Ruiz took one mighty swing in the sixth inning Friday night, pulled a muscle in his left side, and proved nothing is sacred in this charmless Phillies season.

"It's, uh, you know," Manuel said. "It's . . ." The manager's voice trailed off into an exasperated sigh. Then he chuckled because gallows humor is all that remains as comfort.

The immediate result from nine innings of baseball Friday was a 3-0 Phillies loss to the Blue Jays. But of paramount concern was Ruiz, who will be examined Saturday with a trip to the disabled list likely. It could cost the 33-year-old an all-but-guaranteed trip to his first All-Star Game.

And it is a crushing blow to these floundering Phillies.

"That's a big one," Manuel said. "He's our .360 hitter. He's the guy who's been hot. He's the guy who's been consistent."

The Phillies could not win Friday even though Toronto was forced to use its bullpen just three batters into the game. They fumbled balls on defense yet again. The offense failed to support a solid pitching performance by Vance Worley.

The obituary for this team isn't written yet, but this may prove to be the cruelest twist of fate. Manuel's roster is already depleted. He started three utility players in the infield, and with Ruiz out, 35-year-old Brian Schneider would assume the everyday catching job.

How many more blows can the Phillies withstand?

"I don't know," Manuel said. "That's a good question. I don't know. But we have to keep going."

Ruiz's value is hard to overstate. Roy Halladay has long called him the best catcher in the National League. His offensive surge this season finally opened the rest of baseball's eyes to that possibility.

Entering Friday, Ruiz ranked among the National League leaders with a .361 batting average (third), .420 on-base percentage (fourth), and .579 slugging percentage (sixth).

"It would be terrible," Worley said of a potential long absence by Ruiz. "He's been one of our most consistent guys."

Ruiz would have batted in the eighth with runners on second and third - the Phillies' best chance to score. Instead, it was Schneider, who was forced to face a lefthanded pitcher. He took a Darren Oliver breaking ball for strike three and the rally was dead.

There should have been more opportunities. For the second time in three days, an opposing starter could not complete one inning against the Phillies because of an injury. Blue Jays righthander Drew Hutchison headed to the dugout after nine pitches with right elbow soreness.

He was the third Toronto starting pitcher to succumb to injury in a span of five days. But the Phillies left five runners on base in the game's first three innings and never sniffed a run.

Worley was the victim of shoddy defense again. This loss was not totally to blame on errors. Toronto got on the board when Worley permitted back-to-back doubles on breaking balls in the third.

But the game was pushed further from reach in the fourth when Mike Fontenot turned a possible double-play ball into a three-base error and unearned run with a wild throw not even remotely close to second base.

Fontenot was at third only because Placido Polanco was not in the starting lineup (he pinch-hit in the ninth). The 36-year-old's glove is exceedingly valuable, but his body is fragile. That Manuel needed to massage Polanco's schedule so as to not use him for more than two consecutive days should say plenty.

Without a set infield, the defense has predictably suffered. The Phillies have allowed 25 unearned runs in 66 games this season. They allowed 34 in all of 2011.

By the end of the night, though, Fontenot's error was hardly what worried anyone. When words escaped him, Manuel was asked if he sometimes wanted to scream in frustration.

"I want to," Manuel said. "I might want to do more than that."


Contact Matt Gelb at mgelb@phillynews.com. Follow @magelb on Twitter.

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