With Howard on bench, Ruf seeing more action

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With Howard on bench, Ruf seeing more action

It’s been two days since Darin Ruf was recalled from Triple A Lehigh Valley and already there are plenty of questions about the Phillies’ future at first base.

For the second straight game, Ruf started at first as Ryan Howard was relegated to the bench. The 27-year-old went 1 for 4 with a single and a strikeout in a 2-1 Phillies win over the Giants (see game recap).

Have the past two games just been Ryne Sandberg’s attempt to help Howard clear his head? Or is the Phillies manager seriously considering moving on from the former All-Star?

Prior to the game, Sandberg used the word “platoon” in reference to Howard for the first time (see story). Afterwards, he said he met with Howard earlier in the day to clear the air about why he was sitting out for the second straight game.

“I just wanted to let him know about having a right-hander (Tim Hudson) out there that he’s had success against and I wanted to get Darin a number of at-bats before we go forward here,” Sandberg said. “[We’ll] go with the schedule and the matchups as we go.

“Ryan wants to be in there. I totally expect that and we’ll go forward and make a lineup.”

While seeing Howard sit out multiple games in a row shouldn’t be a surprise given his recent and much-documented struggles (he has hit just .154 in July), it was still curious due to his history of success against Hudson. Howard has hit .328 with seven home runs and 17 RBIs in 67 career at-bats against the four-time All-Star.

Asked about whether he thought the benching would be permanent as he left the clubhouse, Howard responded, “Talk to him … bye, talk to the manager.”

With another left-hander on deck in Arizona’s Wade Miley, whoever Sandberg starts Friday against the Diamondbacks could be very telling. Not surprisingly, he declined to say whether a decision had been made.

Still, Sandberg was clear that the past two games have been more about getting Ruf experience than removing Howard.

“A benching ... no, it’s more a case of Darin just getting here and I wanted to take a look at him for at least a couple of games,” Sandberg said. “I want to see where he’s at because I haven’t seen him in a while."

For his part, Ruf seemed too busy adjusting to being back with the Phillies after almost two months in Lehigh Valley to worry about where he and Howard stand on the depth chart.

Having started for just the third and fourth times this season the past two days, Ruf knows it is way too early for him to think of himself as the heir apparent to Howard.

“I don’t know if I’m able to [replace Howard] because I have to go out there and prove it,” Ruf said. “First of all, it has to happen, and then I have to earn that position as well. It’s not just going to be given to me.”

2014 has been a rollercoaster year for Ruf. After generating a solid amount of buzz last season by slugging 14 home runs and 30 RBIs in 253 at-bats, things went south for him right from the jump this year.

First, there was the strained oblique that forced him to start the season in Lehigh Valley. Then, after being called up on May 21, Ruf received just 10 at-bats in seven games before being sent down again on June 1. He capped off a first half to forget by crashing into a wall while fielding a foul ball and straining his left wrist two days later.

Now, finally healthy, Ruf just wants to prove that he is a viable option for the Phillies moving forward. His single off of Hudson in the fourth inning was just his second hit of the season, his first being a home run against the Rockies on May 27.

“I faced a little bit of adversity this year so far with the couple of injuries I’ve gone through,” Ruf said. “I’m just looking to be healthy for these last two months and get at-bats."

Best of MLB: Rendon explodes for 3 homers, 10 RBIs in Nats' 23-5 win vs. Mets

Best of MLB: Rendon explodes for 3 homers, 10 RBIs in Nats' 23-5 win vs. Mets

WASHINGTON -- Anthony Rendon had 10 RBIs, three home runs and six hits as the Washington Nationals took advantage of Noah Syndergaard's injury and mauled the New York Mets 23-5 on Sunday to set a franchise scoring record.

Rendon went a career-best 6 for 6 and scored five times while setting a club mark for RBIs. He became the 13th player in major league history to drive in 10 or more in a game, and first since Garret Anderson did it for the Angels in 2007.

Matt Wieters added two homers, a single and two walks as the Nationals salvaged the finale of a three-game series. Adam Lind and Bryce Harper also homered, and Harper scored four runs.

Washington finished with a season-high 23 hits and scored the most runs in the history of the Expos/Nationals franchise. The Nationals' seven homers were their most since the team moved from Montreal to Washington in 2005 (see full recap).

Keuchel improves to 5-0 with dominant start vs. Astros
HOUSTON -- Dallas Keuchel threw 7 2/3 solid innings, Marwin Gonzalez hit a three-run home run and the Houston Astros beat the Oakland Athletics 7-2 on Sunday.

Keuchel (5-0) struck out nine, while allowing one run on three hits and two walks. The left-hander has thrown at least seven innings in every outing this season. He became the second pitcher in Astros history to get five wins in April, joining Rogers Clemens, who went 5-0 in 2004.

After Trevor Plouffe doubled with one out in the first, Keuchel retired ten straight and 13 of the next 14 batters he faced.

Ken Giles earned his sixth save after getting Yonder Alonso to fly out with the bases loaded.

Jesse Hahn (1-2) gave up four runs on eight hits with six strikeouts in six innings.

Gonzalez hit his home run off the right field foul pole in eighth (see full recap).

Miguel Sano's 5 RBIs help hand Royals 9th-straight loss
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Miguel Sano homered and drove in five runs, helping the Minnesota Twins beat slumping Kansas City 7-5 on Sunday for the Royals' ninth straight loss.

Sano posted his fourth consecutive multihit game. He has 11 hits in his last 16 at-bats. He drove in nine runs in the two-game, rain-abbreviated series.

Sano connected in the third after Jason Hammel (0-3) walked Byron Buxton and Max Kepler. He added run-producing singles in the fourth and sixth innings.

It's the longest slide for Kansas City since a 12-game skid in April 2012 (see full recap).

Instant Replay: Dodgers 5, Phillies 3

Instant Replay: Dodgers 5, Phillies 3

BOX SCORE

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers hit two more home runs in beating the Phillies, 5-3, on Sunday afternoon.

The Dodgers swept the three-game series from the Phils, hitting seven homers in the final two games, including five on Saturday night. Three of those homers Saturday night came in the ninth inning, as the Dodgers rallied back from a three-run deficit to hang an excruciating loss on the Phils.
 
Sunday's loss was not as painful. The Phils got a leadoff triple from Cesar Hernandez and an RBI single from Freddy Galvis in the first inning then did not score again until the ninth.
 
The Dodgers out-hit the Phillies, 13-4, over the first eight innings.
 
The Phillies are 11-12 heading into Chicago to play the defending World Series champion Cubs.
 
Starting pitching report
Nick Pivetta allowed 10 baserunners in his big-league debut but managed to limit the damage to just two runs thanks to a couple of double plays, a couple of big strikeouts and a fortuitous bounce that turned a double into a ground-rule double, which meant a runner had to hold at third.
 
Four of the nine hits that Piverta allowed were for extra bases, including a homer by Chris Taylor that gave the Dodgers a 2-1 lead in the second. He walked one and struck out five.
 
Dodgers lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu held the Phillies to three hits and a run over 5 1/3 innings. He walked three and struck out nine. He is 1-4.
 
Bullpen report
Jeanmar Gomez entered the game with the Phils trailing just 2-1 in the sixth. He allowed a leadoff single, a two-out walk to pinch-hitter Chase Utley and a three-run homer to Andrew Toles as the Dodgers put the game away.
 
With Hector Neris unavailable after throwing 19 pitches in Saturday night's disaster, Mackanin was likely holding back right-handers Edubray Ramos and Pat Neshek for the late innings in case the Phils got a lead.
 
Gomez has a 9.64 ERA.
 
Kenley Jansen got the final out and the save for the Dodgers after Grant Dayton gave up a two-run, two-out homer in the ninth. Jansen struck out Hernandez on three pitches.

At the plate
Maikel Franco struck out three times, snapping a career-best streak of 32 straight plate appearances without a strikeout.

Galvis has hit in 12 straight games.

Odubel Herrera smacked a two-run homer in the ninth to make it a two-run game.
 
Justin Turner had seven hits in the series, and he didn't even start the second game. (He had a game-tying, pinch-hit homer in that one.) He had three hits Sunday, including an RBI single in the first inning.
 
Toles had two homers in the series.
 
On the bases
Cameron Rupp, who entered the day hitting .180, had a pair of doubles and a single but short-circuited a potential rally when he was picked off second by rival catcher Yasmani Grandal on a no-outs bunt play with the Phils down a run in the fifth.
 
In the field
Not only did Turner have a big series at the plate, he robbed Tommy Joseph of a hit in the seventh inning with a fabulous pick of a hot smash to third. Joseph needed the hit as he is slumping badly. He went hitless with two strikeouts and is hitting .179.
 
Up next
The Phillies move on to Chicago for four games against the defending World Series champion Cubs. Here are the pitching matchups:
 
Monday night -- RHP Vince Velasquez (1-2, 6.33) vs. LHP Brett Anderson (2-0, 3.54)
 
Tuesday night -- RHP Jeremy Hellickson (4-0, 1.80) vs. LHP Jon Lester (0-1, 3.68)
 
Wednesday night -- RHP Jerad Eickhoff (0-2, 3.56) vs. RHP Jake Arrieta (3-1, 4.66)
 
Thursday afternoon -- RHP Zach Eflin (0-0, 1.89) vs. RHP John Lackey (2-3, 5.10)