The Phillies Suck But At Least This Darin Ruf On-Base Streak Is Fun

The Phillies Suck But At Least This Darin Ruf On-Base Streak Is Fun

Unsurprisingly, there haven't been a lot of positives to take from the Phillies' play as of late. When you lose 13 games in 14 tries and find yourself ten games further out of first place--ten games!!--than you were just a couple weeks ago, the cloud's way too big for you to find where any kind of silver lining might start. It's been a miserable, deadening slog that only got worse when the trade deadline passed and we were still stuck with the same exact crappy team that had already tanked the season beyond repair; going nowhere and unlikely to find direction anytime soon.

But yeah, there's been one good thing. It's probably been the only one, with Chase Utley and Cliff Lee slumping and the rest of our good players either injured or not really that good in the first place. But no doubt, Darin Ruf has been a find for this team. Stepping in for Ryan Howard upon the Big Piece's likely season-ending injury, Ruf has provided production that by nearly any measure has been superior to what the $125 million man was giving us, hitting at an impressive .299/.413/.494 clip, compared to the .266/.319/.465 RyHo was giving us.

The really impressive thing, though--and the only fun subplot of the Phils' post All-Star rock-bottoming--has been his on-base streak. 23 games into this season, and Ruf's yet to go a single game without safely reaching base in some manner. He's had a hit in 18 of his 23 games, and in the five hitless ones, he drew a walk in three of them and got hit by a pitch in the other two. (He already has as many HBPs as three-time league HBP champ Chase Utley this year, one of the season's more remarkable statistical feats.)

Bill Evans of the South Jersey Times even points out that going back to last year, Ruf has never failed to reach base in a game that he started, hitting safely in eight of his nine starts last year and drawing a walk in his ninth. Across both years, the streak is the longest of its kind running in baseball, and the longest for the Phils since Chase reached in 33 straight, a streak Ruf can tie tomorrow night against Chicago. And even fun streakiness aside, Ruf's ability to get on base is pretty impressive--his .413 OBP is easily the highest on the Phils (Michael Young and Ben Revere tie for second with mediocre .338s), and would be good for third in the whole NL if he qualified, which of course he doesn't in just 92 PAs.

Even with all this, Phils fans are wise to keep expectations tempered with the 26-year-old sophomore, who like his predecessor at first, also strikes out a metric ton (38 times in 35 games for his career) and plays pretty sub-par defense (worth -.3 wins already this year according to Baseball-Reference), and whose mediocre performance at Triple-A this year suggests his pro numbers may come down a bit before year's end. Still, we owe Ruf some gratitude for giving us a reason, any reason to still give the slightest of cares to this team's performance, to have something to watch for every night, no matter how trivial. It's not the same as Dom Brown's May dominance, perhaps, but we'll take what we can get on this friggin' team.

No. 24 Penn State at Purdue: Nittany Lions seek 1st road win

No. 24 Penn State at Purdue: Nittany Lions seek 1st road win

Penn State (5-2, 3-1) vs. Purdue (3-4, 1-3)
Ross-Ade Stadium, West Lafayette, Ind.
Saturday, noon, ABC/ESPN2

Scouting Penn State
The Lions upended the Buckeyes, 24-21, when safety Marcus Allen blocked a field goal and cornerback Grant Haley returned it 60 yards for a touchdown with 4:27 left in the game. The Lions, who rallied from a 21-7 deficit after three quarters, earned their third straight victory.

Allen and Haley were named Big Ten co-Special Teams Players of the Week, and linebacker Brandon Bell, who had a career-high 19 tackles in the game, earned the conference’s Defensive Player of the Week honor.

Running back Saquon Barkley has rushed for 681 yards, fifth most in the Big Ten, and is tied for the conference lead in touchdowns with nine.

Scouting Purdue
Purdue fell to Nebraska last week in the debut of Boilermakers interim coach Gerad Parker, who replaced the fired Darrell Hazell on Oct. 16. Quarterback David Blough leads the Big Ten in passing yardage (2,065) and total offense (300.7 yards per game), and has thrown 14 touchdown passes (albeit with 11 interceptions).

The Boilermakers are, however, last in the Big Ten in rushing offense (120.3), total defense (441.0), turnover margin (minus-8) and red-zone offense (15 for 23, 11 touchdowns) and next to last in rushing defense (249.0) and passing efficiency.

The Lions lead 13-3-1 and have won the last seven meetings, the most recent a 45-21 victory in 2013.

Storyline to watch
This is the ultimate trap game for PSU, and the Lions’ approach to it will say a lot about their leadership and maturity. They have also dropped their last four road games dating back to last season, including both this fall. Their last victory away from home came last Oct. 24, against Maryland in Baltimore.

What’s at stake
The Lions can become bowl-eligible with a victory.

Penn State 35, Purdue 21

Embiid and Okafor want to play together, but not just yet, says Brown

Embiid and Okafor want to play together, but not just yet, says Brown

CAMDEN, N.J. — If all goes as planned, a time will come when the Sixers can roll out a dominating frontcourt duo with Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor sharing the court in lengthy stretches.

That moment has to wait, though, as both Embiid and Okafor are on minute restrictions. As he returns from a knee injury, Okafor currently is coming off the bench and backing up Embiid.

“This conversation with Jahlil and Joel is more intelligent and applicable at a later date,” Brett Brown said at practice Friday. “When Jahlil’s minutes start going up and Joel can, then it’s a real conversation. I do think you may see them sooner than even I thought together. But as far as making it a real constant part of a strategy or rotation, it’s beyond too early days.”

In an ideal world, Brown could pair the two bigs now and use all of their allotted minutes (Embiid 20, Okafor 14) at once. That would leave an extensive workload on second-year bench player Richaun Holmes.

“This is a hot topic,” Brown said. “I will say it one more time: If I play Jahlil and Jo together, I hope Richaun can play 35 minutes.”

It’s an unrealistic expectation for Holmes, who averaged 13.8 minutes in 51 games last season. Brown caps the majority of the Sixers at six-minute segments to keep them competing at a high energy level.

“Right now, he’s a backup,” Brown said of Holmes. “I think he’s going to be an NBA player for a very long time. I just feel like in the role, he’s a second-year player that didn’t really have much of a role last year. He’s shown everybody that he’s for real. He really can play a role. At this early stage, that is the key word.”

Embiid and Okafor have been envisioning competing together since Okafor was drafted two years ago. They became friends long before they were NBA players and have an easy chemistry on the court as a result.

“I think it’s going to be exciting,” Embiid said. “We played a little bit together today in practice. We’re figuring out how to play with each other. It’s a process and we’ve got trust it.”

Yes, the players know they have to wait, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy for them to resist an opportunity to play with one another.  

“I think once we figure it out, we can really dominate together,” Okafor said. “We were able to flirt with it again today. We accidentally keep ending up on the same team even though Coach keeps telling us to make sure we alternate. But we’re having fun. We’re trying to put some pressure on it because we want to play together.”

Is that accidentally with air quotes?

“Yeah, exactly,” Okafor said with a laugh.