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

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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.

Chase Utley haunts Mets in Dodgers' rout at Citi Field

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Chase Utley haunts Mets in Dodgers' rout at Citi Field

NEW YORK -- Chase Utley hit a grand slam and a solo homer after Noah Syndergaard threw a 99 mph fastball behind his back, and the Los Angeles Dodgers went deep a season-high five times in routing the New York Mets 9-1 on Saturday night.

In a scene that seemed inevitable since October, Syndergaard was immediately ejected following the third-inning pitch -- almost certainly his shot at retaliation against Utley for the late takeout slide that broke the right leg of then-Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada in last year's playoffs.

Plate umpire Adam Hamari tossed Syndergaard, sending Mets manager Terry Collins into a rage, but no trouble ensued between the teams. A longtime New York nemesis, Utley raised one hand slightly in the direction of the Dodgers' bench to keep teammates calm -- and later answered by doing all sorts of damage with his bat.

Kenta Maeda (4-3) shook off an early line drive that appeared to hit him in the pitching hand and threw five shutout innings for the win. The right-hander yielded two hits, both in the first, and snapped his three-game losing streak.

Adrian Gonzalez homered and had four hits for the Dodgers, who spoiled the Mets' 30th anniversary celebration of their 1986 World Series championship. Corey Seager and Howie Kendrick also connected, all after Syndergaard was gone.

Pinch-hitter Juan Lagares homered in the eighth for New York, long after the outcome was decided.

The stoic Utley is playing at Citi Field this weekend for the first time since Tejada was injured. The Mets -- and their fans -- were incensed by the aggressive slide, which led to a change in baseball rules this season designed to protect infielders in what some call the Utley Rule.

But the Mets had not tried to retaliate until Saturday night.

With one out and nobody on in the third inning of a scoreless game, Syndergaard's first pitch to Utley sailed behind the second baseman's back by a considerable margin.

Hamari immediately ejected Syndergaard, prompting Collins to come storming out of the dugout. Collins also was ejected after screaming at Hamari and pointing in his face during an animated argument. The manager was finally escorted back toward the New York dugout by another umpire.

After waiting near the mound with teammates for some time, Syndergaard walked calmly to the Mets' dugout without showing any emotion as the crowd cheered him.

Logan Verrett (3-2) entered for the Mets and, with a vocal contingent in the sellout crowd of 42,227 urging him to hit Utley with a pitch, eventually threw a called third strike past him. But then Utley homered on Verrett's first pitch of the sixth to give the Dodgers a 1-0 lead.

Booed all night, Utley added his sixth career slam off Hansel Robles in the seventh, giving Los Angeles a 6-0 cushion with his 38th career homer against the Mets.

In the series opener Friday night, Utley was greeted with loud jeers and derisive chants. He had four RBIs in a 6-5 loss, including a three-run double that tied the score with two outs in the ninth.

Where are you now?
Tejada was released by the Mets during spring training and signed by the St. Louis Cardinals, who designated him for assignment Saturday.

Trainer's room
Dodgers: RF Trayce Thompson exited in the fifth with lower back soreness. He was replaced by Yasiel Puig, who hit an RBI single off Verrett in the sixth.

Mets: INF Wilmer Flores (hamstring) went 1 for 2 with a sacrifice fly in his fifth rehab game for Double-A Binghamton. Before the game, Collins said it was reasonable to think Flores could come off the disabled list Sunday.

Up next
Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw (7-1, 1.48 ERA) starts the series finale Sunday night against 43-year-old Bartolo Colon (4-3, 3.44). Kershaw, coming off a two-hit shutout against Cincinnati, is 7-0 with a 1.17 ERA in 10 starts against the Mets. He is 5-0 with a 0.64 ERA in May -- including a three-hit shutout of New York on May 12 at Dodger Stadium. The three-time Cy Young Award winner has struck out 55 and walked two this month.

Best of MLB: Blue Jays get walk-off win vs. Red Sox

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Best of MLB: Blue Jays get walk-off win vs. Red Sox

TORONTO -- With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, the Toronto Blue Jays' repeated comeback efforts on Saturday were starting to look like they might come up agonizingly short.

But with Justin Smoak, Russell Martin and Devon Travis all facing consecutive two-strike counts against Boston Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel, a four-time All-Star, an unlikely thing happened.

They all cashed in, and the Blue Jays walked off with a 10-9 victory, their fourth straight against Boston and their third walk-off win of the year.

"With the potency in our lineup, I feel like no lead is really big enough," said Martin, who went 3-for-5 and hit his third home run in four days in the sixth inning. "We can always find a way to get runners on and also if the other team makes a mistake, capitalizing on those mistakes. I think that was the key for us today. I think there was a couple miscues on defense for them and we were able to take advantage of that."

Martin kick-started the rally in the eighth that led Toronto back from a four-run deficit to tie the game at 8. But he really got things going in the ninth, with Ezequiel Carrera on as a pinch-runner for Smoak, doubling a fastball into left field to tie the game at 9 (see full recap).

Royals score 7 in 9th to beat White Sox; Perez hurt
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Brett Eibner wondered whether anything could surpass the Kansas City Royals' rally Friday night, when they overcome a four-run deficit to beat the Chicago White Sox in his major league debut.

He did not have to wait long to find out.

Eibner singled to cap the biggest ninth-inning comeback in Royals history, a seven-run rally off David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle that lifted the World Series champions over the Chicago White Sox 8-7 Saturday.

"I didn't think I could beat yesterday and, sure enough, we come around and do this," said Eibner, who also doubled to helped spark the inning. "It's super fun. There's nothing like it. I don't think I've ever experienced that."

Kansas City's Salvador Perez was injured in the ninth when third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert slid with a forearm and elbow into the left thigh of the All-Star catcher, who called off Chien-Ming Wang (3-0), settled under Adam Eaton's foul popup about 30 feet from the plate near the third-base line and snagged the ball just before he was hit.

Perez was taken for a MRI after the game and the extent of his injury was not announced. The preliminary diagnosis was a bruised left thigh (see full recap).

Braves beat Marlins to lock up first home series win
ATLANTA -- Braves interim manager Brian Snitker says Gordon Beckham is "bouncing around like he's a teenager."

That makes sense, because the return to his childhood hometown has helped Beckham add new life to his career.

Beckham hit a three-run homer, Nick Markakis drove in two runs and Atlanta beat the Miami Marlins 7-2 on Saturday to secure their first home series win of the season.

Beckham, 29, an Atlanta native and former University of Georgia standout, spent most of his first seven seasons with the Chicago White Sox before signing with the Braves as a free agent. He is hitting .317 while earning more starts at third base and second base than was expected at the start of the season.

"I feel good," Beckham said. "I enjoy putting on this uniform every day. It's a lot of fun for me, being from Atlanta."

The Braves improved to a still-dismal 4-20 at Turner Field by winning the first two games of the three-game series. Atlanta rallied from a 2-0 deficit for the second straight day (see full recap).

Pete Mackanin: Like Chicago Italian beef, Freddy Galvis is the best

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Pete Mackanin: Like Chicago Italian beef, Freddy Galvis is the best

CHICAGO – Other than the Italian beef sandwiches from Portillo’s that he loves so much, Pete Mackanin hasn’t had much to feel good about during his trip to his hometown.
 
Mackanin’s rebuilding Phillies have been bulldozed by the powerful Chicago Cubs two days in a row (see game story) and have lost four of five games on a road trip that ends with one more in Wrigley Field on Sunday afternoon.
 
As difficult as it was to see his club get roughed up on Saturday, Mackanin was able to find a sliver of something good in the rubble of a 4-1 defeat.
 
“The highlight of the day was Freddy Galvis -- all day,” Mackanin said.
 
Mackanin listed all the things his 26-year-old shortstop did, from a tremendous relay throw to the plate to stop a run from scoring, to his two hustle plays that led to the Phillies’ only run in the ninth.
 
Galvis, who made several outstanding plays in the field on Friday, vowed to cut down on his errors after making 17 last season. He has just one in 48 games this season and Mackanin is more than impressed with the improvement.
 
“He’s making every play there is,” Mackanin said. “To me, if he’s not the best shortstop in the league, I’d like to see the guy that’s playing as consistent defense as he is.
 
“I’m thrilled with the way he’s playing. He’s playing hard and kind of taken a leadership role just with the way he goes about his business.”
 
Galvis has improved his defense by committing himself to concentrating for 27 outs and not getting careless on routine plays.
 
“I’ve been working with Larry Bowa on trying to set my feet and make the routine plays,” he said. “Don’t try to do too much. Just throw the ball, catch the ball and that’s it. So far, so good.”
 
Mackanin has made it clear that he expects his players to play hard and hustle. He made a huge statement to that effect when he benched his best player, Odubel Herrera, for not running out a ground ball in Detroit on Monday night.
 
So it was not surprising to see Mackanin heap praise on Galvis for his hustle in the top of ninth inning Saturday.
 
Galvis led off the inning with a pop up to right field. Outfielder Jason Heyward and second baseman Ben Zobrist got their signals crossed and the ball fell in. Galvis, running hard the whole way, ended up on second with a fluke double.
 
“That was huge the way he ran that out,” Mackanin said.
 
Galvis then moved to third on a ground ball and scored the Phillies’ only run on a risky base running play. Ryan Howard whiffed on a dropped third strike. As catcher Miguel Montero threw to first to complete the out, Galvis sprinted down the line and slid safely into home. He was able to get a huge jump because the Cubs shifted Howard and left third uncovered. Had Galvis been out at the plate, the game would have been over and it would have gone down as a bad play. But he made it and Mackanin loved it. 
 
“He hustled on a routine fly ball that turned into a double, advanced and scored on the throw to first after the strikeout – it made my whole day,” Mackanin said. “It burnt the shutout. I like to see a guy like that play with that kind of energy.”
 
Earlier in the game, Galvis was hit by a pitch on the right ankle. The pitch got him good and he hobbled to first base. But his dash for home in the ninth inning proved he was OK. Still, he wore an ice pack on the leg after the game. It was a noticeable enough ice pack that Galvis had to be asked whether he expected to play on Sunday.
 
“(Bleep) yeah,” he said.