Dominican Republic 15, Phillies 2: Ruf's struggles continue

slideshow-030513-phillies-ruf-ap.jpg

Dominican Republic 15, Phillies 2: Ruf's struggles continue

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Darin Ruf’s first big-league spring training camp has not gone well so far, but the Phillies remain patient with him.

“Right now things are not going good for him, but he’ll be all right,” manager Charlie Manuel said after Tuesday’s 15-2 loss to the Dominican Republic at Bright House Field.

Ruf went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts. The game was not an official Grapefruit League contest, so statistics did not count. In eight official games, Ruf is hitting .130 (3 for 23) with a .286 on-base percentage and a .174 slugging percentage.

Ruf is clearly pressing at the plate.

“It looks like he’s trying too hard,” Manuel said.

Phillies officials aren’t about to panic about Ruf’s struggles at the plate or read too much into them. He proved he could swing the bat last season when he hit .317 with 38 homers and 104 RBIs at Double A Reading. Good hitters can go through tough times and that appears to be what’s happening here.

What Phillies officials cannot ignore is Ruf’s defensive shortcomings in leftfield. He misplayed a catchable ball that went for a double in Tuesday’s game. He has had several misplays in leftfield this spring. Ruf, 26, is a lifelong first baseman trying to make the conversion to leftfield.

If Ruf were hitting, his defensive struggles might blend into the scenery a little. But that’s not happening right now.

There are still 20 more games to play in Florida, plenty of time for Ruf to win a spot on the club. But he needs to start producing just the same.

Ruf does have minor-league options so he can be sent to Triple A.

Dubee defends Hamels
In his third start of the spring, Cole Hamels was tagged for 12 hits and eight runs by the Dominicans (see story). Pitching coach Rich Dubee was unfazed after Hamels’ 59-pitch effort.

“I thought Cole was fine,” Dubee said. “Spring training has a purpose, and one of those things is you have to get your fastball going. And he knows they’re all fastball hitters over there. He threw five curves, seven changes and nine cutters. But he wants to get his fastball command going. That’s the purpose today. It’s not about results.

“His goal was to get 60 pitches in and to try to control his fastball. Heck, he’s facing an all-star team and he doesn’t have all of his weapons. He’s not going to start ripping all of his pitches in a spring training game. When you try to ramp it up too soon, that’s when you have problems. He kept it under control and he made some mistakes with his fastball. But that’s where we have to get to. In this game, you pitch off your fastball, and that was the goal today, to command his fastball.”

Young gets checkup
Phillies officials are expecting to be updated on Delmon Young’s condition some time Tuesday night or Wednesday morning. Young had his surgically repaired right ankle examined by doctors in Los Angeles on Tuesday. If all looks good, he could be cleared to ramp up baseball activities.

Young will not be ready for opening day and will need time and work in right field. It would not be surprising if he needed much of April to get ready for game action.

Feature attraction
Wednesday’s pitching matchup is marquee-worthy: Roy Halladay against Washington’s Stephen Strasburg at Bright House Field.

Manuel said Ryan Howard would be in the starting lineup. Howard has started every game as Manuel tries to make sure his slugging first baseman is physically ready for opening day.

Cameron Rupp, Phillies rally in 7th to beat Giants ace Madison Bumgarner

Cameron Rupp, Phillies rally in 7th to beat Giants ace Madison Bumgarner

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO -- Three hours before game time Saturday night, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin was asked what he was thinking as his team got ready to face San Francisco Giants ace Madison Bumgarner.
 
“I’m thinking that I hope he has a bad day, that he’s not hitting his spots, that’s what I’m thinking,” Mackanin said.
 
Mackanin was told that Bumgarner hadn’t given up more than two earned runs in his last 12 starts, dating to April 15.
 
“Thanks for putting me in a good mood,” he said, pretending to be perturbed.
 
When the long day at the ballpark ended, Mackanin wasn’t just kidding about being in a good mood. He really was in one. That’s because his struggling Phillies, losers of 27 of their previous 34 games, actually went out and beat the high-flying Giants and their ace lefty.
 
The final score from sold-out AT&T Park was 3-2 (see Instant Replay). The Phillies did all their scoring in the top of the seventh with Cameron Rupp, their burly catcher, putting them over the top with a two-run homer on a full-count Bumgarner fastball.
 
Rupp’s seventh homer of the season was a no-doubt-about-it shot over the centerfield wall.
 
It traveled 433 feet.
 
“Nice wind-blown homer,” Mackanin deadpanned.
 
He laughed.

“Nah, he crushed that,” the manager said. “Big Head, he’s come up with some big hits for us. He’s been working on his swing path and little by little he’s been getting results.”
 
The sound of the ball coming off Rupp’s bat quieted the 445th straight sellout crowd in San Francisco. What did it feel like coming off the bat?
 
“I don’t know if I did feel it,” Rupp said. “The moment, the adrenaline, time of the game, against a guy like that.”
 
But Rupp did concede this: “I crushed it.”
 
Rupp wasn’t the only bit of power on display in this game. Edubray Ramos, the 23-year-old reliever just called up on Friday, had a dominant 1-2-3 performance in the bottom of the seventh to protect the lead. His fastball topped 95 mph and his breaking ball had serious downward bite. He threw 10 pitches and got two of his outs on strikeouts.
 
“It was nice to see the new guy,” Mackanin said. “I’m pretty excited about what I saw. For a guy like that to come in and throw that hard and throw his breaking stuff and attack the hitters – I like what I saw.”
 
“He’s got fire coming out of his hand,” Rupp said.
 
The eighth inning got a little hairy with David Hernandez allowing two base runners in a one-run game. Left fielder Tyler Goeddel saved Hernandez when he made shoestring catch of Brandon Crawford’s sinking liner and doubled-up Joe Panik at second after Panik misread the ball in his haste to score the tying run.
 
“That was a nice catch by Goeddel,” Mackanin said. “That could have been disastrous.”
 
Jeanmar Gomez got a smooth save.
 
Jeremy Hellickson kept the Phils in the game with six innings of two-run ball. He left with a sore back after taking a big swing against Bumgarner.
 
“I don’t know why I swung so hard, especially against that guy because you can’t even see the ball come out of his hand,” Hellickson said.
 
Bumgarner entered the game with a 1.85 ERA, third lowest in the NL. He did not allow a hit until the fifth inning and gave up just five in all. Three of them came in the Phillies’ seventh. Tommy Joseph doubled and Andres Blanco singled him home before Rupp’s big homer.
 
Rupp has been working on his power stroke in batting practice.
 
“For me, getting on first base means it takes three hits to score me because I can’t run so I’ve been working on driving the ball in batting practice and trying to take that into the game,” Rupp said. “I’m trying to drive the ball in the gaps and hit the ball out of the ballpark when I get pitches to do that. That’s the kind of hitter I need to be.”
 
Rupp was a focal point before the game as Mackanin announced he would not be behind the plate for Aaron Nola’s start Sunday. Rupp has caught every one of Nola’s 28 big-league starts. But Nola has pitched poorly his last three starts and Mackanin wants to put Carlos Ruiz, a more experienced game-caller, with Nola to see if it breaks him out of his slump.
 
“Catching is first for me,” Rupp said. “Anything I do at the plate is a plus. And I want to be back there every day, but I respect his decision. And Chooch could help Nola. (Nola) is a guy that’s never struggled in the big leagues. Chooch has been back there, World Series, no-hitters, perfect game, it’s a guy that could get him back on track. I’m all for it. We need him to be on his A game every fifth day and if that’s what it takes, absolutely.”
 
Entering the day, the Giants had won 31 of 40. Hot. Hot. Hot.
 
The Phillies have been cold, cold, cold. But this win felt good.
 
“It was huge,” Mackanin said. “These guys have been very vocal in the dugout. You can tell they want to beat this team because they are such a good team and because the guy that was pitching is such a good pitcher. It showed me a lot. It makes you a competitor. You know we’ve got a bunch of competitors there. That’s what I like about it.”

Instant Replay: Phillies 3, Giants 2

Instant Replay: Phillies 3, Giants 2

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO – The lowly Phillies rallied for three runs in the top of the seventh inning to beat one of the best pitchers in baseball Saturday night.
 
Cameron Rupp’s two-run homer to deep center capped the rally and pushed the Phillies to a 3-2 win over the San Francisco Giants and their ace left-hander, Madison Bumgarner.
 
The win was just the Phillies’ eighth in the last 35 games.
 
The Giants, who lead the NL West, had won 31 of their previous 40 games coming into tonight.
 
Starting pitching report
Jeremy Hellickson gave up just five hits and two runs, one earned, over six innings. He is 5-6 with a 4.23 ERA.
 
Bumgarner entered the game with a 1.85 ERA, third lowest in the NL.
 
He did not allow a hit through the first four innings and gave up just five overall. Three of them came in the seventh when the Phillies rallied for their only three runs to take the lead.
 
Bumgarner had not allowed more than two earned runs in his previous 12 starts.
 
Bullpen report
Rookie Edubray Ramos, in his second big-league appearance, protected a one-run lead with an impressive 10-pitch seventh inning. He showed a 95-mph-plus fastball, a sharp breaking ball and no fear. David Hernandez allowed two base runners in the eighth, but got out of trouble when Brandon Crawford lined to left fielder Tyler Goeddel who doubled up Joe Panik at second. Jeanmar Gomez earned his 20th save.
 
At the plate
Tommy Joseph started the Phillies’ go-ahead rally in the seventh with a leadoff double against Bumgarner. Andres Blanco pushed home a run with a single up the middle that Bumgarner barely missed fielding. Rupp then hit a full-count fastball far over the centerfield wall to give the Phils a 3-2 lead. It was Rupp’s seventh homer.
 
In the field
For the second night in a row, a Phillies’ first baseman made an error that led to an unearned run. This time it was Joseph. His error with two outs in the second gave the Giants their second run.
 
Move coming
The Phillies will activate right-hander Vince Velasquez from the disabled list and he will pitch Monday in Arizona, taking the spot of struggling Adam Morgan.
 
Up next
The series concludes on Sunday afternoon. Aaron Nola (5-7, 4.11) looks to bounce back from three straight poor outings against Giants right-hander Johnny Cueto (11-1, 2.06).
 
Carlos Ruiz will catch Nola for the first time in his career (see story).

Best of MLB: Kelly Johnson homers in 11th to lift Mets over Braves

Best of MLB: Kelly Johnson homers in 11th to lift Mets over Braves

ATLANTA -- Kelly Johnson said he had extra "pep" in his step when he got the chance to play against his former team.

Johnson also had extra pep in his swing.

Johnson led off the 11th inning with a pinch-hit homer, sending the New York Mets to a 1-0 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Saturday night.

Johnson pulled a pitch from Dario Alvarez (1-1) into the first row of the right-field seats for his third homer.

Johnson began the year with the Braves before he was traded to the Mets on June 8. Alvarez was claimed off waivers from the Mets in late May (see full recap).

Bour and Stanton each drive in 3, Marlins top Cubs
MIAMI -- Ichiro Suzuki slapped a ground ball toward the left side of the infield, then hustled down the line to first just in case the throw didn't get there in time.

It didn't, and the Miami Marlins were in business.

That play by Suzuki kick-started what became a four-run fifth as the Marlins took the lead for good, and they went on to beat the Chicago Cubs 9-6 on Saturday.

"Just a good team," said Justin Bour, who hit his 14th home run and finished with three RBIs. "Good vibe right now, and just got to keep it rolling."

Giancarlo Stanton had his first three-RBI game since April 26 for Miami, which got to 40 wins in 75 games - or 20 games faster than they did a year ago. Paul Clemens (1-0) allowed four runs in five innings for his first big league win since June 12, 2013, and A.J. Ramos got the last two outs for his 24th save in as many chances this season.

Going back to 2015, Ramos has saved 33 straight, tying a Marlins franchise record (see full recap).

Altuve gets 4 hits; Astros top Royals, win 7th straight
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Jose Altuve went 4 for 5, including a home run and two doubles, and the Houston Astros extended their winning streak to seven with a 13-5 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Saturday night.

Altuve drove in three runs and scored three runs. He is hitting .417 with a .484 on-base percentage while reaching base in 27 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the major leagues.

Marwin Gonzalez, Altuve and Carlos Correa, the Astros' two-three-four hitters, combined to go 8 for 15 with seven RBIs, six runs and two homers. Altuve and Correa hit consecutive homers in a seven-run second.

Houston has won 22 of 30 to move a season-best three games above .500 (39-36). The Astros are on their longest winning streak since taking 10 in a row from June 14-23 last year (see full recap).

McCutchen hits 2 HRs as Pirates beat Dodgers 6-1
PITTSBURGH -- Andrew McCutchen broke out of his slump in a big way and helped the Pittsburgh Pirates get back-to-back wins for the first time in 2 1/2 weeks.

McCutchen homered twice, Jeff Locke took a perfect game into the sixth inning, and the Pirates beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 6-1 Saturday night.

It was McCutchen's 11th career multi-homer game - second this year. The nine-year veteran's batting average had dropped to .239 - 55 points below his career average - after going 9 for 49 (.184) with 16 strikeouts in his previous 13 games.

"He's going to get to somebody sooner or later," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "It really doesn't matter who. They can be good. They could have been around. They can be young, fresh. He's going to get to somebody."

Pittsburgh has won consecutive games for the first time since sweeping a doubleheader from the New York Mets on June 7.

McCutchen had a solo shot in the fourth inning for the game's first hit and then a three-run shot - his 12th homer of the season - to start a five-run sixth that increased the Pirates' lead to 6-1 (see full recap).