With switch to right field, Ruf's bat stays hot

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With switch to right field, Ruf's bat stays hot

Whether he's positioned at first base, in left field or across the way in right, Darin Ruf and his approach in the batter's box remain the same.

Consistency is something Ruf has focused on since joining the Phillies in early July, but in the field he's been jockeyed around quite a bit.

The 27-year-old call-up began his time in Philadelphia at first base, shifted to the left side of the outfield and, on Tuesday night, played in right for the first time in his MLB career after Domonic Brown was activated from the disabled list.

Ruf, who is on a torrid pace at the plate, said he doesn't let his offensive mindset cross paths with the defensive one, and that was certainly the case in the Phillies' series-opening win over the Cubs (see game recap).

The Phillies’ new rightfielder went 2 for 4 with a home run, a double and two RBIs, all while registering a couple of putouts.

"I think Ruf is going to have to hit, but I think he can," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "It seems like he gets better the more he plays, so that's good."

Ruf stretched his on-base streak to 33 games, the longest for a Phillie since Chase Utley did so from September 2008 to April 2009. Ruf currently holds the longest active on-base streak in the bigs.

The Nebraska native said his pitch selection has been on-point and that he and the coaching staff formulate a plan of attack before each plate appearance.

"I'm seeing the ball well," Ruf said. "It's nice when you get a good pitch to hit, you're swinging at strikes and having a plan every at-bat. That's what we've kind of been talking about and it's nice to go up there and execute."

Outside of the streak, Ruf's statistical value has, accordingly, spiked dramatically.

His two-hit performance against Chicago pushed his batting average to .309 through 25 games in 2013. The right-handed hitter hasn't just steadily reached base safely, his slugging percentage has risen as well, making him a more complete hitter.

Ruf's OPS is at .960 on the season. He isn't qualified to be ranked in the category because of his short stint so far in the majors, but just for comparison's sake, Colorado's Carlos Gonzalez (.958) and Cincinnati's Joey Votto (.951) are fifth and sixth in the league, respectively, in OPS.

Ruf feels as though he's taking advantage of an opportunity presented to him by Manuel and the Phillies, but one month of stellar hitting isn't an end result.

"So far, yeah. But there's still 50 or so games left and it's important to stay consistent," Ruf said. "It's nice to have a month of success right now, but that's not the ultimate goal to have one month of success. It's to have a successful career. Multiple seasons of playing baseball well."

Phillies' clubhouse reflects on life of Marlins' Jose Fernandez

Phillies' clubhouse reflects on life of Marlins' Jose Fernandez

NEW YORK — The clubhouse mood following the Phillies17-0 loss to the Mets Sunday was somber, in part because of the disastrous game that had just wrapped up, but also because of the tragic news of Marlins star pitcher Jose Fernandez’s death in a boating accident early Sunday morning.

“It was rough. People are devastated. I didn’t even know him and I was crushed,” Phillies starter Jake Thompson said. “I can only imagine how that clubhouse feels. That’s something that I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy, to deal with something of that magnitude.”

Both teams paused for a moment of silence before Sunday’s game and the Mets taped a jersey bearing Fernandez’s name and number onto their dugout wall.

“This morning, that was quite a surprise,” manager Pete Mackanin said of the atmosphere of the day. “I don’t think it affected the players once the game started. It was such bad news this morning that everybody was kind of melancholy.”

Fernandez had built a strong track record against the Phillies in his young career, amassing a 2.88 ERA in six starts.

“It’s kind of cliché to say but you look at the start of his career and he could have been a Hall of Famer,” Thompson said.

Asked how he would remember facing Fernandez, Mackanin was succinct.

“He was a helluva pitcher,” he said.

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Phillies suffer worst shutout loss in modern era to Mets

Phillies suffer worst shutout loss in modern era to Mets

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK -- Jake Thompson faced the issues that a 22-year old starter in his 10th career appearance usually does Sunday against the Mets.
 
Thompson struggled with his command at times, walking the bases loaded in the fourth inning before escaping his self-induced jam with a flyout. He hit a batter and surrendered a home run to Curtis Granderson on a pitch that caught too much of the plate.
 
The righty departed after four innings in what manager Pete Mackanin declared postgame to be Thompson’s last start of the season.
 
But perhaps neither he nor the rest of the Phillies expected the extent to which his struggles would ripple through the bullpen. The Phillies’ relievers surrendered 14 runs, hit three batters and gave up a grand slam in a 17-0 loss, the franchise's worst shutout defeat in the modern era (see Instant Replay).
 
“Obviously the bullpen has scuffled for a while now,” Mackanin said. “That shows you how much the game is about pitching. It keeps you in games, gives you an opportunity to win like it did the first couple of months of the season for us. Now, the last month, it’s not keeping us in games or it’s losing games.”
 
The Phillies’ relievers were charged with 28 runs over the course of their four-game swing in New York. Their collective 4.69 ERA is the fourth-worst in the National League.
 
Sunday, Phil Klein — who hadn’t pitched since he was recalled from Lehigh Valley on Sept. 10 — and little-used Colton Murray and Patrick Schuster — who had combined for three appearances in the past two weeks — took the brunt of the damage.
 
Klein walked two batters, surrendered two singles and hit Mets catcher Rene Rivera in the left hand to force in a run. He left the bases loaded for Murray, who allowed an inherited runner to score on a wild pitch. Murray was pulled in the seventh having gotten into a bases-loaded jam of his own. His replacement, Frank Herrmann, allowed all three runs to score on a walk and a grand slam by Asdrubal Cabrera.
 
Schuster was assigned five runs in the eighth after he was tagged for three hits, walked a batter and hit Gavin Cecchini.
 
Which pitchers — if any — out of the Phillies’ cadre of middle relivers will return next year is an open question and Mackanin made it clear that he will use the remaining six games in the season to evaluate his team’s arms.
 
“It’s another audition.” Mackanin said. “We want to see who might fit in.”
 
Thompson can clearly stake a claim to his role in the Phillies’ rebuilding effort. Despite the hiccup in his final outing, he has come a long way in just two months from being the pitcher that surrendered six runs to the light-hitting Padres in his Aug. 6 debut.

His changeup — a pitch that hitters had connected on for six home runs this year, according to data from Fangraphs — was particularly lively Sunday. Cabrera chased it out of the zone in the first inning for Thompson’s only strikeout.
 
“I think the changeup’s probably been my best pitch up here,” Thompson said. “I’ve given up a lot of homers on it, too. That just shows whenever you don’t execute it, it’s a tough pitch to throw in the zone. As far as the swing-and-misses that I was getting with it, it’s kind of night and day.
 
“At this point last year I pretty much had no changeup, so that’s a big thing for me.”
 
Only 23 on Opening Day next year, Thompson has plenty of room to improve.
 
The Phillies’ bullpen does, too.

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