Ruf shows promise in Phillies' victory

Posted: August 20, 2014

ON THE SURFACE, it was one of those mid-August wins that years from now will be notable only for the trivia possibilities of the names in the box score. Jerome Williams and Andres Blanco. Remember those guys?

Yet even if Williams' seven solid innings and Blanco's three-run home run will prove to be of little consequence in the grand scheme of things, there were a couple of morsels buried in the Phillies' 4-1 win over the visiting Mariners that could be worth storing for future reference.

The first was Darin Ruf's at-bat against Dominic Leone in the fifth inning. Ruf was making his fifth start in 17 games, part of a four-headed rotation that manager Ryne Sandberg is determined to cycle through the corner outfield spots.

Sandberg has stressed the need for Ruf to hit lefties, and he did that at the start of last night's game, getting a base hit and a walk before Roenis Elias was yanked (after walking six and hitting one with a pitch). But the Phillies could really use a hitter who is a bit more than a platoon player, and Ruf, who has hit righties better than lefties this season, continued to provide some hope that he can offer that commodity. Leone, a hard-throwing reliever with a quirky delivery, entered the game having held righthanded batters to a .193/.262/.312 line with 36 strikeouts and seven extra-base hits in 122 plate appearances. The first fastball he threw clocked in at 95 mph. He followed it with a pair of cutters, the second of which Ruf lined over the head of centerfielder Austin Jackson for a double. Two batters later, Blanco homered to give the Phillies a 4-0 lead.

Ruf reached base three times, improving his numbers to a .256 batting average, .377 on-base percentage and .465 slugging percentage in 43 at-bats.

"It's a good sign that he's having some success against lefthanded pitching as a righthanded bat," Sandberg said. "That's a good start, because that's improvement in that area. For him to continue to hit well against lefthanded pitching and righthanded pitching that's good, he's making some adjustments and he's on a nice little roll."

The other notable moment came in the eighth inning. Williams was in control for most of the night, holding the Mariners to three hits and spotting his fastball for strikes. He did, however, put the leadoff man on base in four of the eight innings that he started, three via walk, the last via a hit batsmen that prompted his exit in the eighth. The Phillies were up 4-0 at the time, and Sandberg went to emerging star Ken Giles to finish the eighth. Giles allowed a single to Endy Chavez and then a double to Dustin Ackley that cut the lead to 4-1 and brought the tying run to the plate in the form of Robinson Cano, who was hitting .332 on the season and had not struck out in his last 17 games.

Giles threw three straight sliders and Cano swung at all three, fouling one off, and missing the last two, the first time he had struck out in 70 plate appearances.

"That was real big," said Williams, who was charged with one run in seven innings, allowing three hits, three walks and four strikeouts. "A key situation, runners on second, third - that was a big strikeout. He came in and shut that door."

Williams made his Phillies debut last week in Anaheim, holding his former teammates to two runs with three strikeouts and a walk in 5 1/3 innings of a 7-2 loss. The 32-year-old righty was claimed off waivers last week after the Phillies traded Roberto Hernandez to the Dodgers. He had a 6.04 ERA in 26 relief appearances for the Astros and then allowed 11 runs in a couple of starts for the Rangers before landing in Philadelphia.

The Phillies left the bases loaded in the third and fourth innings first on a strikeout by Cody Asche, then on a groundout by Ryan Howard. They did score a run earlier in the third inning as Marlon Byrd knocked a double into leftfield that scored Carlos Ruiz from second and moved Howard to third.


On Twitter: @ByDavidMurphy

Blog: ph.ly/HighCheese

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