"I wasn't thinking, 'Here we go again' by no means," Sandberg said.
No, that is because his Phillies prevailed, 7-3, to capture a four-game series from the $238 million Dodgers. They won because Carlos Ruiz carried them. He batted five times, reached base in all five, and delivered the go-ahead double in the four-run Phillies ninth. The relievers _ Jake Diekman, Mike Adams, and Jonathan Papelbon _ avoided disaster one night after yet another bullpen nightmare.
The Phillies are 4-3 on this 10-game road swing that concludes in Arizona against the Diamondbacks, who own the worst record (7-18) in baseball. They are primed for a successful trip west.
"It feels real good," Sandberg said.
Ruiz batted 7 for 14 in this series with four doubles, a triple, a homer, and four walks. He raised his OPS 258 points in four days. He batted second Thursday and lived in the middle of both Phillies rallies. Cody Asche, 2 for his last 26, ignited the ninth-inning onslaught with a single. Ben Revere advanced him to second on a single to left. Ruiz sent them both home.
Ruiz batted fourth, fifth, seventh and second for Sandberg. The 35-year-old catcher found his stroke with a mechanical adjustment to his swing Monday.
"I feel a lot better," Ruiz said. "I'm seeing the ball real well. I'm working the count. I'm not trying to do too much. I feel good."
Adams, less than nine months removed from shoulder surgery, permitted the game-tying home run to Adrian Gonzalez in the seventh. But Adams recovered for his first two-inning outing since June 6, 2010, to earn the win. That served as the bridge to Papelbon, who threw 27 pitches in a non-save situation.
Sandberg opted for Kendrick to start the sixth after 93 stressful pitches. The righthander induced a weak grounder from Juan Uribe to shortstop. Freddy Galvis, hitting .042 for the season and playing because of his defensive acumen, did not charge it. He double-clutched and threw. It was too late.
Sandberg challenged the call. A 1-minute, 44-second review confirmed Galvis' mistake. Kendrick, forced to loiter during two replay delays in two innings, recovered. He retired the next two Dodgers. Then Gordon singled, and the bullpen door opened.
Diekman confronted Matt Kemp, who pinch-hit. He fanned on five pitches, the last of which was a 98-m.p.h. heater.
Kendrick departed with a 3-2 lead because his fielders made plays in the fifth inning, and Los Angeles' did not. Chase Utley tapped a possible double-play ball to Gonzalez, the first baseman. He booted it. A run scored, and the inning continued to Marlon Byrd. He lashed a two-run double that just eluded an outstretched Yasiel Puig.
The Dodgers threatened in the bottom half with back-to-back singles by Hanley Ramirez and Gonzalez. Puig chopped one to Asche, who backhanded it on a high hop and fired home. Ruiz tagged Ramirez, who never slid. Los Angeles manager Don Mattingly sprinted from the dugout and pleaded for a replay review.
"It's hard," Ruiz said. "Those plays happen so fast. You don't have time to think."
Ruiz, under experimental Rule 7.19, was not permitted to block the plate without the ball. His right knee covered a portion of the plate but left a lane. A 3:18 review deemed Ruiz's play legal. Asche, benched for the previous three games partially because of his shaky fielding, contributed at a huge moment.
Sandberg called it an "awesome play." He stood on the top step of the dugout while umpires contacted New York for help. He was prepared to go ballistic.
"Yeah," Sandberg said, "that would not have been pretty."
The out was confirmed, and Sandberg could relax hours later after a resilient win.