Welcome Back, Chooch: Carlos Ruiz Batting 8th Tonight

Welcome Back, Chooch: Carlos Ruiz Batting 8th Tonight

Now here’s a welcome sight. Carlos Ruiz, who hasn’t played since May 19, will skip the remainder of his rehab appearances and join the Phillies tonight. Is the club starting to get healthy just in the nick of time to save their season?

Not so fast. The Fightins may have eked out a win over the Nationals last night, but coming off of that horrid 3-7 road trip, #PlayoffTalk is a long way off.

Getting Chooch back in the lineup is a good first step in the right direction though. Since Erik Kratz was lost to a torn meniscus on June 8, the Phillies haven’t had a whole lot of production from their catchers. Humberto Quintero and Steven Lerud were 5-for-25 with two runs and three RBI, but no walks and just one extra base hit.

Ruiz’s 2013 numbers don’t look all that great, in part because he was suspended for the first 25 games of the season. The stroke appeared to be returning before his injury though. He was in the midst of a nine-game hitting streak when he was removed early in his last game due to the hamstring injury that sidelined him for the past month.

Ruiz is batting .235 (.286 OBP) with five runs and two RBI this season. But after demonstrating a surprising amount of power in 2012, he has just two extra base hits in 16 games, none for home runs.

That could change tonight. The last time he saw Nats starter Ross Detwiler (2-4, 3.02), Chooch came through in a big way, jacking a three-run shot off of the lefty in a 6-3 Phils victory last September. Ruiz is 3-for-14 lifetime against Detwiler.

He told David Murphy before the game that his swing is feeling good.

"The two games that I played in Lehigh, it felt great," he said. "I felt real good at home plate and it surprised me because I hadn't faced live pitching in a long time, but the at bats I had felt really good. I'm ready to go."

Then again, Ruiz will be batting eighth tonight as Charlie Manuel tries to ease him back into the lineup, so perhaps expectations should be adjusted accordingly. On the bright side, Cliff Lee (8-2, 2.55) is on the hill for the Phillies, so you gotta like their chances to win tonight, which would guarantee a series win over their NL East rivals.

That might be the only bright side in this weather though. Sounds like they should be able to get the game in, albeit it there might be a delay.

Howie Kendrick hit by pitch twice, removed from rehab start at Triple A

Howie Kendrick hit by pitch twice, removed from rehab start at Triple A

Howie Kendrick experienced a painful rehab start on Thursday night.

Rehabbing with Triple A Lehigh Valley, Kendrick was hit by a pitch twice before being removed after the sixth inning of the IronPigs' 8-4 loss to Indianapolis at Coca-Cola Park.

Both times Kendrick was plunked in the upper left arm, according to Tom Housenick of the Morning Call.

There was no update on if Kendrick was injured or taken out for precautionary reasons. Thursday marked Kendrick's second rehab start as he recovers from an oblique strain that has sidelined him since April 15.

The Phillies' leftfielder started at third base Thursday. At the start of his rehab assignment, Kendrick was expected to play four games and see time at third and first base, as well as in left field.

Kendrick made a throwing error at third on Thursday and finished 0 for 1 with a run scored. In his two games, he's 0 for 3 with two strikeouts.

Kendrick hit .333 with four doubles, a triple and five RBIs in 10 games with the Phillies prior to landing on the DL.

When he returns, he could see time at third base instead of left field if Maikel Franco continues to struggle (see story).

NBA Playoffs: LeBron James makes history as Cavaliers roll into Finals

NBA Playoffs: LeBron James makes history as Cavaliers roll into Finals

BOX SCORE

BOSTON -- LeBron James scored 35 points and passed Michael Jordan to become the NBA's all-time playoff scoring leader as the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Boston Celtics 135-102 on Thursday night to claim their third straight Eastern Conference title and a return trip to the NBA Finals.

Kyrie Irving added 24 points and Kevin Love finished with 15 for the Cavs, who never trailed and led by as many as 39 points in one of their most dominating wins of the series. The Cavs set an NBA record by winning their 13th consecutive series closeout opportunity.

Cleveland's 4-1 series' win gives it a 12-1 record this postseason and sets up a third consecutive matchup with Western Conference champion Golden State, the team it beat in the Finals last season to claim the franchise's first championship.

It will mark the seventh straight trip to the Finals for James.

Avery Bradley led Boston with 23 points.

The Cavaliers basically conceded the East's top seed to the Celtics at the end of the regular season by opting to rest its starters in advance of the playoffs. But they displayed their superiority over the final two games to wrap up the series.

After allowing the Celtics to seize the early momentum in Game 4, the Cavs barely gave them the chance in Game 5.

Led by its Big Three, Cleveland quickly built a 21-point lead in the first quarter, while getting lots of contributions from their teammates.

Love continued to knock down shots from the outside, Irving sliced his way into the lane to the rim and James got free for several of his one-handed, tomahawk dunks.

It was a very welcomed sight in Irving's case, after he rolled his left ankle in the third quarter of Cleveland's Game 4 win. He showed no signs of lingering issues, though, beating several defenders off the dribble and handing out seven assists.

Meanwhile, J.R. Smith and Kyle Korver all helped spread out Boston's defenders by connecting on several wide-open scoring opportunities.

Deron Williams, who had been quiet for most of the series, also got in on the act with a series-best 14 points for Cleveland.

The Celtics did their best to keep up, but the consistent outside shooting, bench scoring and defense they relied on to stun Cleveland in Game 3 wasn't there Thursday night.

Tip-ins
Cavaliers: James has scored 30 or more points in 11 of Cleveland's 13 games this postseason. ... Improved to 36-5 against Eastern Conference opponents in the playoffs since 2015. ... The 43 points Cleveland scored in the first quarter set a team postseason record for points in a quarter.

Celtics: Injured point guard Isaiah Thomas led his teammates in a pregame huddle before they took the court for warmups. Thomas sat out the rest of the series after aggravating a hip injury in Game 2. ... Held a pregame moment of silence for the victims of the Manchester bombing. ... Were whistled for 16 fouls in the first half.