Ninth inning magical once again for Phils
Chooch-tober living on in May as Rockies get throttled late
DENVER -- Carlos Ruiz looks more confident, more patient at the plate.
But he said it is more than that.
Ruiz said relaxation is the key to his remarkable start in 2010. And it showed in Monday's 9-5 victory over the Rockies at Coors Field, when the Phillies' starting catcher went 4-for-5 with a home run and two RBIs -- his one-out single in the ninth inning handed Philadelphia a one-run lead.
Ruiz, who had not hit higher than .259 since he became the team's everyday catcher in 2007 -- is hitting .354 with a .481 on-base percentage and a .488 slugging percentage.
Ruiz leads the National League in on-base percentage, ranks third in batting average and 11th in OPS (.969). His slugging percentage is just .001 behind Twins stud Joe Mauer.
But this version of Ruiz should not be completely foreign to Phillies fans. It is just that they see it in the fall, a season some fans have dubbed Chooch-tober. Ruiz has hit .353 and .345 in the past two World Series and NL Championship Series, respectively.
"I was thinking that if I did it in the World Series, why can't I do that in the regular season?" Ruiz said. "I'm taking the same approach I have in the playoffs. I'm working every day, and right now it's going pretty good."
Ruiz is so hot that Phillies manager Charlie Manuel doesn't even want to talk about it.
"Hopefully he's learning from his swing while he's hot," he said. "He looks good. He looks real good right now, man. Just leave him alone and let him hit."
Ruiz's solo homer to left field in the sixth inning tied the game at 4. Shane Victorino, who went 2-for-3 with two triples and three walks, tripled with two outs and scored on a wild pitch to give the Phillies the 5-4 lead. But J.C. Romero couldn't hold it in the seventh. He walked Dexter Fowler with one out, allowed a single to right to Brad Hawpe and a broken-bat blooper to Jason Giambi that plated Fowler.
It could have been worse, but Chase Utley and Wilson Valdez turned a remarkable double play to end the inning. Melvin Mora hit a ball up the middle off a pitch from David Herndon. Utley made a diving catch and flipped the ball to Valdez, who spun and threw to Ryan Howard to end the threat.
The game remained tied until the ninth.
The Phillies must have had a feeling they would come out OK as soon as Manny Corpas hit Ryan Howard with a 0-2 pitch to lead off the frame. The Phillies won Games 3 and 4 of the 2009 NL Division Series in the ninth inning, which made Monday the third consecutive game at Coors Field they have won in their final set at the plate.
Corpas got Jayson Werth to pop out and intentionally walked Raul Ibanez for the righty-righty matchup against Ruiz.
Ruiz singled to left and Howard scored easily to give the Phillies a 6-5 lead. It was Ruiz's fourth hit of the game, which tied a career high he first set June 13, 2008, in St. Louis. Pinch-hitter Ross Gload then hit a three-run line-drive home run to right field to set the final score.
"That's good managing right there," Manuel said jokingly, when asked about Gload pinch-hitting for Valdez.
Kyle Kendrick allowed eight hits and four runs in six innings. He said he did not pitch great, but he did not pitch poorly. The Phillies had the lead when he left the game, and his effort certainly is an improvement over some of his other starts.
But Kendrick acknowledged he can be better.
Of course, in times like these, it is good to have one of the hottest hitters on the planet. Ruiz came up big again Monday, making Chooch-tober a spring event, too.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.