Phillies show Nats they have a future, too

Phillies' rookie Darin Ruf celebrates his second-inning solo home run - and first major league hit - against the Washington Nationals Tuesday, September 25, 2012. YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Phillies' rookie Darin Ruf celebrates his second-inning solo home run - and first major league hit - against the Washington Nationals Tuesday, September 25, 2012. YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Posted: September 27, 2012

FOUR-AND-A-HALF months ago, the five-time reigning National League East champion Phillies rolled into Nationals Park with a .500 record and a chance to make some noise against a Washington team that was tied for the best record in the league.

But the young-and-upcoming Nationals dominated and the only thing that prevented them from sweeping the Phils was Cole Hamels' performance before a national audience in the infamous game he threw at Nats hotshot rookie Bryce Harper.

The early-season series was a symbolic changing of the guard within the division between the team that owned it for a half-decade and a team that used to regularly reside in the basement.

On Tuesday, the Nationals arrived at Citizens Bank Park with the best record in baseball and a chance to clinch the division title before they left town. The Phils were hovering just above the .500 mark.

But in another role reversal between the two division rivals, the once-aging and injury-plagued Phillies looked like the team with an infusion of young talent and newfound energy.

Darin Ruf and Domonic Brown both launched solo home runs as the Phils handed the Nats a 6-3 defeat.

Coupled with a walkoff win over the Marlins by the Braves, who trail Washington by four games in the division, the Phils prevented the Nationals from celebrating at Citizens Bank Park. With a magic number of five, Washington, a franchise that hasn't won a division title in 31 years, can't clinch the NL East until Friday at the earliest.

"I think we've seen quite a few in recent years," Hamels said, referring to the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants celebrating in South Philly in each of the last 2 years. "I think ultimately we just want to go out and we want to play good baseball. Obviously [Washington] is going to do something pretty special; our goal is to just go out and win ballgames, play the game right and shift the momentum for the way we need to prepare ourselves for games, months and next year."

Making good on his first career start, Ruf launched a two-out, game-tying solo home run to leftfield off Washington starter Ross Detwiler in the second inning. After Carlos Ruiz fueled a four-run third inning with a three-run homer, his 16th of the season, Brown capped the Phils' game-long power play with a solo shot to begin the sixth.

For the 26-year-old Ruf, the home run was also his first major league hit. After hitting 38 home runs at Double A Reading, Ruf erased a 1-0 deficit with his first after spending 2 weeks in a major league uniform.

"Incredible," said Ruf, who went 2-for-3 in his first big-league start.

When he returned to the dugout, Ruf was iced out by his teammates - the traditional response to a rookie's first homer. After several minutes of being ignored, high-fives and fist pumps were exchanged.

"The longest silent treatment of all time," Ruf said. "It's probably for all the times I suggested we do it to someone in Double A. I guess I had it coming to me."

"He said that made him feel bad when the bat boy blew him off," manager Charlie Manuel said with a laugh. "He figured he was a young guy, he'll talk to me. He blew him off. Didn't even look at him."

For the 25-year-old Brown, the home run was his fifth since joining the Phils' outfield July 31. But it was also his fourth in his last 14 games.

After hitting five home runs in 239 Triple A at-bats this summer, Brown has five in 162 at-bats with the Phillies.

"That's just getting the chance to play," Manuel said. "Domonic has good power when he correctly hits the ball out front. He doesn't have to try to hit home runs; he just has to consistently hit the ball correct."

The trio of home runs was necessary on a night when Hamels labored. Although he collected his 16th win of the season, setting a personal best, Hamels needed 99 pitches to get through five innings.

Hamels allowed three runs on seven hits in those five innings, which equaled his shortest start of the season.

Thankfully for Hamels, his batterymate continued his career year by following back-to-back walks to John Mayberry Jr. and Chase Utley, and a run-scoring single by Ryan Howard, with a home run. Ruiz, who missed most of August with a foot injury, is hitting .327 with a career-high 16 home runs and 65 RBI.

The other two-thirds of the Phillies' home-run hat trick at least provided the team some hope, for one night, that the Nationals aren't the only team with youth on the rise.

"For Ruf to have his first start and get a homer, that's huge," Hamels said. "That's definitely not showing any nervousness. That's what you want to see. And Brown has done a tremendous job of getting himself back here and developing into a starting player. It's looking at the excitement we can create in years to come."

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