Welcome Back, Chooch: Carlos Ruiz Batting 8th Tonight

Welcome Back, Chooch: Carlos Ruiz Batting 8th Tonight

Now here’s a welcome sight. Carlos Ruiz, who hasn’t played since May 19, will skip the remainder of his rehab appearances and join the Phillies tonight. Is the club starting to get healthy just in the nick of time to save their season?

Not so fast. The Fightins may have eked out a win over the Nationals last night, but coming off of that horrid 3-7 road trip, #PlayoffTalk is a long way off.

Getting Chooch back in the lineup is a good first step in the right direction though. Since Erik Kratz was lost to a torn meniscus on June 8, the Phillies haven’t had a whole lot of production from their catchers. Humberto Quintero and Steven Lerud were 5-for-25 with two runs and three RBI, but no walks and just one extra base hit.

Ruiz’s 2013 numbers don’t look all that great, in part because he was suspended for the first 25 games of the season. The stroke appeared to be returning before his injury though. He was in the midst of a nine-game hitting streak when he was removed early in his last game due to the hamstring injury that sidelined him for the past month.

Ruiz is batting .235 (.286 OBP) with five runs and two RBI this season. But after demonstrating a surprising amount of power in 2012, he has just two extra base hits in 16 games, none for home runs.

That could change tonight. The last time he saw Nats starter Ross Detwiler (2-4, 3.02), Chooch came through in a big way, jacking a three-run shot off of the lefty in a 6-3 Phils victory last September. Ruiz is 3-for-14 lifetime against Detwiler.

He told David Murphy before the game that his swing is feeling good.

"The two games that I played in Lehigh, it felt great," he said. "I felt real good at home plate and it surprised me because I hadn't faced live pitching in a long time, but the at bats I had felt really good. I'm ready to go."

Then again, Ruiz will be batting eighth tonight as Charlie Manuel tries to ease him back into the lineup, so perhaps expectations should be adjusted accordingly. On the bright side, Cliff Lee (8-2, 2.55) is on the hill for the Phillies, so you gotta like their chances to win tonight, which would guarantee a series win over their NL East rivals.

That might be the only bright side in this weather though. Sounds like they should be able to get the game in, albeit it there might be a delay.

Sixers take lasting lessons from talk with Will Smith at team dinner

Sixers take lasting lessons from talk with Will Smith at team dinner

GALLOWAY, N.J. — The sprawling city skyline could have been the highlight of the Sixers' team dinner at One Liberty Place on Monday night. Instead, it was a surprise celebrity appearance that left them in awe.

Will Smith, who is part of the Sixers’ ownership, caught the players off guard when he visited with the team to offer advice and answer questions.

“Man, that’s one of my idols,” Nerlens Noel said following the first training camp session at Stockton University. “Everything he said I really took in and all the guys did too.”

Rather than entertaining the group with his acting or musical skills, Smith imparted important lessons that are applicable in sports. The 48-year-old has had decades of success across multiple platforms, and he offered pieces of wisdom that can resonate in any situation. 

“If you have bad people around you, that’s how people see you and that’s how you are,” Joel Embiid said. “He said to have good people around. That’s the main thing I got from that.”

The Sixers had differing memorable moments the morning after Smith’s visit, which demonstrated how many topics he addressed with the team. 

“He’s a good guy,” Ben Simmons said. “I definitely learned a lot from hearing him talk … You’ve got to look at things from a positive and negative with every situation.”

Jahlil Okafor was especially caught up in Smith’s appearance. Smith is Okafor’s favorite actor, most notably for his role in I Am Legend, and impressed Okafor with his character. 

“We already know about his accolades and how smart he is and obviously he’s an entertaining person,” Okafor said. “But it just seemed like he really wanted to be there to help us out. I just took away that he was a great person.”

Okafor also added, “It just helps [to hear from him] because the road to success is pretty much the same. It’s about being focused, it’s about knowing that you’re going to be knocked down, you’re going to fail. That was one of the messages that Will Smith shared, was expect failure but the main thing is to get back up.”

Noel previously had seen Smith courtside at Sixers games, and this was his first opportunity to hear directly from him. Noel listened to everything Smith had to say, from how to deal with the media to ranking his best and worst movies. 

“Never get caught up in too much of the negativity,” Noel recounted. 

While people view professional athletes as celebrities, the Sixers were on the opposite side Monday evening. 

“It’s hard to get starstruck nowadays,” Noel said. “But when you see Will Smith, it’s a whole different ballgame.”

Tonight's lineup: With only RHPs left, could Ryan Howard start every game?

Tonight's lineup: With only RHPs left, could Ryan Howard start every game?

If healthy, Ryan Howard is expected to start all three games in the Phillies' final series of the season Sept. 2-4 at home against the Mets.

He might also start the entire Braves series.

The Phillies' final six games are all against right-handed starting pitchers: Julio Teheran, Mike Foltynewicz and Josh Collmenter in Atlanta; Robert Gsellman, Bartolo Colon and Noah Syndergaard with the Mets. That could mean six starts for Howard before his time with the Phillies expires.

Howard's batting average has been below .200 for practically the entire season, but he's been much better since the All-Star break, hitting .259/.325/.598 with 11 homers, five doubles and 25 RBIs in 123 plate appearances (see game notes). He went 0 for 6 in his last two starts but homered in each of his two previous starts to reach 23 for the third year in a row.

Here's the Phillies' full lineup Tuesday against Teheran:

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Roman Quinn, LF
3. Odubel Herrera, CF
4. Maikel Franco, 3B
5. Ryan Howard, 1B
6. Cameron Rupp, C
7. Freddy Galvis, SS
8. Aaron Altherr, RF
9. Jerad Eickhoff, P

Matt Kemp is out of the Braves' lineup.

1. Ender Inciarte, CF
2. Adonis Garcia, 3B
3. Freddie Freeman, 1B
4. Nick Markakis, RF
5. Tyler Flowers, C
6. Jace Peterson, 2B
7. Dansby Swanson, SS
8. Mallex Smith, LF
9. Julio Teheran, P

Find great deals on Philadelphia Phillies tickets with TicketIQ. Buy cheap Phillies tickets with no hidden fees for all games on their 2016 schedule.