Don't call it a comeback for Carlos Ruiz

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Don't call it a comeback for Carlos Ruiz

When he stepped to the plate, the crowd clapped loudly. Then came the familiar refrain, the long, drawn-out collective chorus that stretches his nickname from South Philly to South Street. Choooooooch, they cried. And there he was.

Carlos Ruiz hadn’t played a game for the Phillies since hurting his hamstring back on May 19. He wasn’t supposed to play a game for the Phillies on Tuesday, either. The catcher was scheduled to make a rehab appearance for Double A Reading on Tuesday and Wednesday. Then the schedule changed and he was activated. The schedule has a way of doing that when the other options at catcher aren’t really options at all.

In his first at-bat, Ruiz pushed a soft, looping bloop into right field. Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth could have caught the ball, but it slipped beneath his glove, and the official scorer gave Ruiz a hit. The crowd was pleased with all of that -- Ruiz’s return, the hit, Werth’s mistake, the whole thing seemed to delight the Citizens Bank Park assembly.

In his second and third at-bats, Ruiz struck out and grounded out, but the Phillies beat the Nationals, 4-2 (see Instant Replay).

About the injury, Ruiz said he’s fine, that he doesn’t “feel anything,” and that he’s “almost running normal.” He swore his accelerated return had nothing to do with the other catchers -- the ones not named Erik Kratz (who’s also injured) -- and their lack of production. Ruiz said he wanted to return early because he feels “great,” which evidently dovetails with that part he said about not feeling anything.

However he actually feels, he’s back. How he will hit now that he’s in the lineup is another matter. Charlie Manuel started Ruiz out in the eight hole on Tuesday as a way to ease him back into things.

“That was my thinking -- put him down there and let him get some at-bats,” Manuel said. “On nights we have a good night, he’ll get four at-bats. On nights we aren’t getting runs, he’ll get three, probably. We’ll see where he’s at.”

Where he was before the injury wasn’t a good place. It has not been an easy year for Ruiz. He missed the first 25 games of the season after violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Then he played 16 games. Then he hurt his hamstring. Then he had to press pause on the season again.

In those 16 games, Ruiz hit .235/.286/.275 with just two RBIs. He didn’t have a home run. He still doesn’t. All that after having his best season at the plate last year when he was named an All-Star and hit .325/.394/.540 with 16 home runs and 68 RBIs.

At the moment, this version of Ruiz is a long way from looking like that version of Ruiz. But how long might it take to resemble even an old approximation of the Chooch train that chugged up the hitting hill?

“I don’t want to think about that,” Ruiz said. “Just one at-bat at a time. Sometimes you get your timing back right away. Maybe you don’t have it. For me, I go up there and play good defense, call a good game and win the game.”

How he handles the staff might be the most pressing concern in the short term. As of Tuesday, the Phillies had the seventh-worst team ERA in the majors.

“I want him to be a really good catcher for now,” Manuel said. “I want him to throw, block balls and call the games like he always has, and his hitting will be a plus to us. I’m sure he’ll hit enough to hold his own. He’ll get a big hit for you sometimes. But his defense and game-calling means a whole lot to us. We’ve had some trouble with that.

“I don’t mean it was a problem, I mean that he’s been very good at it. I shouldn’t say it was a problem. Hopefully I can take that back.

“He does a really good job for us. He’s been a really solid catcher for us for two-and-a-half, three years. He does a tremendous job for us on defense, and in the last year-and-a-half when he came into his own as a hitter, it’s been big for us.”

Instant Replay: Marlins 7, Phillies 4 (Game 2)

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Instant Replay: Marlins 7, Phillies 4 (Game 2)

BOX SCORE

The Phillies fell behind early and never made it back in losing Game 2 of a doubleheader to the Miami Marlins, 7-4, on Tuesday night.

Miami swept the doubleheader. The Marlins won the first game, 12-8 (see Instant Replay). Miami has won nine of its last 11 to pull to .500 at 62-62.

The Phillies, meanwhile, slipped deeper into the abyss at 45-79.

The Phillies hit eight home runs in the doubleheader, but could not win a game. The Marlins hit six homers in the two games.

The Phils were out-hit, 27-16, in the doubleheader.

Starting pitching report
Nick Pivetta needed 46 pitches to get through the first inning. He got only one out in the second inning before being lifted. In all, he gave up seven hits and six runs. Two of the hits were homers, a two-run shot in the first and a three-run poke in the second.

Pivetta, 24, has a 6.73 ERA in his first 19 big-league starts. That's the second-highest ERA by a Phillie in his first 19 career starts. Only Hal Elliot, with a 7.45 ERA in his first 19 starts in 1929-30, had a higher mark.

Marlins right-hander Jose Urena gave up five hits and three runs over five innings. Two of the hits were homers.

Bullpen report
Right-hander Yacksel Rios, called up from Triple A earlier in the day, became the 13th player to make his big-league debut for the Phillies this season. He pitched a scoreless inning and two-thirds.

Kyle Barraclough pitched two scoreless innings for the Marlins.

At the plate
Tommy Joseph and Andres Blanco homered in both ends of the doubleheader.

Blanco's homer capped a 14-pitch at-bat against Urena that included seven two-strike foul balls.

Nick Williams hit his seventh homer since coming up from Triple A. It was a 445-foot bomb to dead center.

Marcell Ozuna smacked a two-run homer to highlight the Marlins' three-run first inning. Christian Yelich smacked a 2-0 pitch from Pivetta for a three-run homer as the Marlins went ahead, 6-0, in the second inning.

J.T. Realmuto had three hits for Miami.

In the field
Miami centerfielder Yelich leaped at the center-field wall and stole a two-run homer away from Williams in the fifth inning. It would have been Williams' second homer of the night.

Two innings later, rightfielder Giancarlo Stanton sprinted into the gap and made a diving catch to take extra bases away from Cameron Perkins.

Up next
The series continues on Wednesday night with Mark Leiter Jr. (1-3, 4.38) pitching for the Phillies against Marlins lefty Justin Nicolino (2-1, 4.11).

Instant Replay: Marlins 12, Phillies 8 (Game 1)

Instant Replay: Marlins 12, Phillies 8 (Game 1)

BOX SCORE

Phillies pitching gave up six runs in the top of the seventh inning — all on home runs — in the team's 12-8 loss to the Miami Marlins in the first game of a doubleheader at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday.

Aaron Nola gave up two of the home runs en route to his second straight loss.

Rhys Hoskins belted his sixth homer in his 12th big-league game for the Phillies.

The Marlins had 10 extra-base hits, including four homers, en route to out-hitting the Phillies, 14-8. The Phils did hit five homers.

The Phillies are 2-5 against Miami this season and 45-78, worst in the majors, overall.

Starting pitching report
Nola (9-9) had his second consecutive poor outing after racking up 10 straight strong ones and a 1.71 ERA over that span. Nola was tagged for nine hits, including four doubles and two homers, and seven runs in 6 1/3 innings. He gave up seven hits and five runs in his previous outing in San Francisco.

Miami right-hander Dan Straily gave up just two hits — one was a two-run homer by Hoskins — and three runs over six innings to improve to 8-8. He had his second 10-strikeout game against the Phillies in three starts this season. 

Bullpen report
Ricardo Pinto surrendered a three-run homer to J.T. Realmuto in the ninth.

Miami's Dustin McGowan gave up three late homers as he turned a big lead into a not-so-big lead.

At the plate
The Phillies hit five home runs. 

Hoskins scorched a liner over the center-field wall with a man on base to give the Phillies a 2-1 lead in the first inning. Cameron Rupp homered for the third time in his last three games to tie the game at 3-3 in bottom of the fifth. Cesar Hernandez and Tommy Joseph each had a solo homer, and Andres Blanco had a pinch-hit, two-run shot in the ninth.

Joseph snapped an 0-for-18 skid with a double in the seventh. His homer in the ninth was his first since July 28.

Nola gave up a walk and a single to open the seventh. He then surrendered a long, three-run, pinch-hit homer to Ichiro Suzuki as the Marlins broke a 3-3 tie. Giancarlo Stanton hit his majors-high 46th homer two batters later, also off Nola. Marcell Ozuna added a two-run homer in the inning against Jesen Therrien. Realmuto clubbed the Marlins' fourth homer, a three-run shot in the ninth.

Transactions
The Phillies transferred pitcher Vince Velasquez to the 60-day disabled list and put pitcher Zach Eflin on the 10-day disabled list. Velasquez will have a surgical procedure this week (see story). Reliever Yacksel Rios was added from Triple A.

Up next
Nick Pivetta (4-8, 6.25) pitches against Marlins right-hander Jose Urena (11-5, 3.61) in the second game of the doubleheader.

The series continues on Wednesday night with Mark Leiter Jr. (1-3, 4.38) pitching for the Phillies against Marlins lefty Justin Nicolino (2-1, 4.11).