Phillies sweep Mets as Ruiz returns

Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz made his season debut Sunday, going 1 for 4 with a double.
Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz made his season debut Sunday, going 1 for 4 with a double. (SETH WENIG / Associated Press)
Posted: April 30, 2013

NEW YORK - Before Ryan Howard smashed a dramatic double, before Chase Utley added another run, before Jimmy Rollins and Laynce Nix touched off the winning rally with two singles, John Buck could not catch a foul pop Sunday.

It floated toward the Phillies dugout at Citi Field. Buck ripped off his catcher's mask and looked to the sky. The ball nicked his glove; Nix's at-bat continued. There were two outs in the seventh inning of a 5-1 Phillies win, and Buck could have prevented chaos.

"Oh," Nix said. "I forgot about that."

That very sequence, a perfectly banal moment, contained the beauty of a 2-hour, 55-minute game. The Phillies swept New York in convincing fashion this weekend. Fortuitous bounces with the right timing make the results encouraging.

Cole Hamels walked six batters and still got his first win. Howard did not start and contributed the game's vital hit. Carlos Ruiz returned from his suspension, batted fifth, and doubled.

The Phillies accomplished what was expected of them. They destroyed the Mets, a bad baseball team in a stretch full of them. After Monday's day off, the Phillies play two at last-place Cleveland. Then, the hapless Miami Marlins come to Citizens Bank Park for four games. This is the chance to atone for a lackluster initial three weeks.

The game turned on Buck's missed catch. Nix, presented with another chance, slapped a single to left for his seventh pinch hit of the season. That is more than any other hitter in baseball.

Rollins fought for nine pitches and singled through the same hole. Mets starter Jonathon Niese made one mistake in the first six innings - a solo home run to Freddy Galvis in the fifth - but the pitch Rollins hit was his 117th. That forced New York to open one of the worst bullpens in baseball.

Charlie Manuel seized the advantage. Howard sat against the tough lefthander Niese. But when Mets manager Terry Collins summoned a righthander, Scott Atchison, Howard entered.

"Even though you don't start the game, you remain mentally in the game," Howard said. "You do things to keep yourself loose and watch the flow of the game because you know there eventually could be a situation where you'll come up to hit. And it's usually in a situation where you can turn the tide of the game."

The two-run double made Howard a lifetime .421 pinch-hitter, with 11 of his 16 hits for extra bases. He has a 10-game hitting streak. Utley drove him in with a single. The 4-1 lead was sufficient for the relief threesome of Antonio Bastardo, Mike Adams, and Jonathan Papelbon.

Ruiz did not factor into the game's outcome, but there he was behind the plate with the calming presence the Phillies craved. A driver had taken Ruiz from Reading to New York late Saturday night.

"It was a long ride," Ruiz said.

He thought about the suspension for Adderall that robbed him of 25 games and nearly $700,000. He thought about the miserable feeling of helplessness while watching his teammates on TV. He thought about how excited his family was to see him play.

"I was real happy to get here, and it was nice," Ruiz said. "A nice feeling that everything was over."

When Ruiz stepped to the plate in the first inning, he tapped the umpire and Buck with his bat as a greeting. He reached base on an error. In the sixth inning, he doubled on a 3-0 pitch. He flied to the warning track in the eighth inning.

The pitching staff had missed his guidance. The immediate payoff was delayed by Hamels' erratic day. His line epitomized weird. He was the first major-league pitcher to allow two or fewer hits and six or more walks with at least eight strikeouts since Brett Myers in 2008. The six walks tied a career high. None of them scored, but the walks heightened Hamels' pitch count.

He navigated six innings on 111 pitches and ceded to a pinch-hitter in the seventh. That is when Nix popped one foul and a path to victory arose.


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