Darin Ruf continued his assault on major league pitching on Tuesday night (AP Photo).
The Phillies playoff hopes are long gone, but fans desperately searching for a reason to keep watching need to look no further than Domonic Brown, Darin Ruf and Cody Asche. The contracts and lack of production from the Phillies aging offensive core make their development critical for the team’s future, and all three delivered in some way on Tuesday night in a 9-8 comeback win over the Cubs.
The trio of 20-somethings combined for five hits, three runs and four RBIs on the night, bailing out Kyle Kendrick who was mediocre in his six innings of work. The Phils trailed 4-1 and 5-2, before they stormed back. Kendrick gave up five runs (four earned) on six hits, and was hurt by two long balls before he settled down. Chase Utley also had a big night, collecting three hits, two runs and two RBIs.
Jonathan Papelbon was very shaky in the ninth and Brown dropped a routine fly ball in the process, but the Phils were able to escape with their second win in their last 15 games.
PHILS BATS COME ALIVE
- The Phils offense hasn’t showed up like it did tonight since the first game back from the All-Star break, a 13-8 win over the Mets. They pounded out 13 hits, seven of which went for extra bases, and added a pair of walks. If young lefty Alex Wood (Sunday night’s opposing starter) was the exact type of pitcher these Phils typically struggle against, hard-throwing righty Edwin Jackson was just the opposite on Tuesday.
- Ruf punished the baseball in each of his first three at-bats, resulting in a scorching line drive out, an RBI double and a solo home run. He has now reached base in 33 straight games going back to 2012. Perhaps most important, he has done plenty to dispel the idea that his ceiling is as the right side of an outfield platoon. Ruf entered Tuesday night with an OPS of .918 against right handers, and then proceeded to tee off on Jackson. His OPS on the season is an imposing .960.
- Brown looked solid offensively in his return to the lineup, singling in the first and then attempting a stolen base (that led to a line drive double play). He had only one hit, but knocked in two. Brown was originally scheduled to come up Wednesday, but after going 3-for-5 with a home run in last night’s rehab assignment, got the call today. He hadn’t played since July 23 due to a concussion.
- Asche worked his way out of an 0-2 hole in the second inning, eventually lacing a 3-2 pitch down the right field line for a double. It was Asche’s first major league (non-bunt) hit. Asche came around to score on a Kendrick single two batters later, cutting the Cubs lead to 4-2. Asche walked in the fourth and singled in the sixth, again scoring.
KENDRICK STAYS COLD
- While Kendrick was coming off a July in which he tallied an earned run average of 7.36, the Cubs entered Tuesday night without a run in 23 innings. Something had to give, and that something was Kendrick. The righty gave up four runs (three earned) in the second and another in the third on an Anthony Rizzo bomb.
- A defensive mistake by Asche and a catcher’s interference call didn’t help Kendrick much in the four-run second, but he still allowed five hits in the first three innings and was clearly struggling as he has for more than a month now. The big blow in the inning was a three-run bomb by career minor leaguer Donnie Murphy, who was called up by the Cubs over the weekend.
- To his credit, Kendrick settled down after surrendering the five runs, retiring seven straight Cubs through the end of the fifth inning and getting through six overall for his 10th win on the season. Kendrick has never won more than 11 games in a season.
DESPITE WIN, PHILS CONTINUE TO MAKE DUMB MISTAKES
- In the four-run second, Asche foolishly threw home on a grounder hit right at him in an attempt to get Nate Schierholtz. Schierholtz was off on contact from third and easily beat the throw. Welington Castillo, who hit the grounder, would later score on Murphy’s three-run blast.
- Kendrick didn’t cover the bag in the third inning on a broken bat flare that Michael Young fielded at first base, allowing Schierholtz to reach on an infield single. It appeared to be a brain fart on Kendrick’s part, who could have either been distracted by flying shards of lumber or still mad about Rizzo’s home run in the previous at-bat.
- Ruf was gunned down at third trying to stretch his third inning drive into a triple. Considering what he did tonight at the plate this is pretty much the definition of nitpicking, but with only one out in the inning, that can’t happen with the Phils still down 5-4 in the game.
- Brown’s drop in the ninth inning, which would have ended the game, was egregious. It was hard to tell if he lost it in the lights or just lost his concentration, but you almost have to (or want to) believe it couldn’t have been a physical error. The ball was hit hard, but it was a routine play.
DID YOU NOTICE?
- Ruf, sprinting to his left, made a nice grab in right field in the second inning on a Starlin Castro fly ball, which at the time prevented a run. He made another running catch in the third. Ruf told reporters before the game he had made only one career start in right field, and it was in the Winter League. So far so good.
- While I’ve been vocal in my advocacy for a rebuild, it is not hard to understand why the Phillies want to keep Utley around. Beyond what he did at the plate, Ut went first-to-third in the third inning on a Jimmy Rollins bloop single, reading it perfectly. No one does that better than Utley, who then proceeded to score on an RBI groundout.
- Carlos Ruiz hit a home run to left field in the eighth inning. After being nearly invisible at the plate in his first 150 at-bats, Ruiz’s bat has shown some signs of life in the last week. Since last Tuesday, he has two home runs and two doubles, one of which hit the absolute top of the fence on Sunday night and was originally called a home run before being reversed. Chooch’s final two months deserve attention, as the Phils don’t really have an internal replacement for the soon-to-be free agent.
- Papelbon entered in the ninth with a 9-5 lead and proceeded to allow three runs (two earned) on three hits, and got booed by his home crowd again. His ERA, under two less than a month ago, now stands at 2.82. It is pretty clear Papelbon has lost this fan base, but he still has two years and $26 million left on his deal after this season. The mercurial closer is a poster boy for the front office’s shortcomings, as he should be. But he is also unlikable, which makes him the poster boy (and the whipping boy) for the fans. Regardless of his performance, if the Phillies don’t turn this thing around next year – and I don’t see how they can – this is going to end ugly.