Werth, Ruiz pick up slack for Phils' big boppers
Duo plates all three runs, while rest of Philly lineup struggles
PHILADELPHIA -- As the Phillies' offense continues to labor this October, it shouldn't have been a surprise to see who did step up against Giants ace Tim Lincecum in Saturday night's Game 1 of the National League Championship Series.
Philadelphia's three runs off "The Freak" in the 4-3 loss came courtesy of a pair of home runs from Carlos Ruiz and Jayson Werth -- only the two most consistent cogs in the Phillies' lineup all season.
As the Phillies have seen their core of stars suffer through injuries -- MVPs Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard, as well as Chase Utley and Placido Polanco have all spent time on the disabled list -- it has been Ruiz and Werth who have been the offensive mainstays throughout the 2010 campaign. Werth led the team in OPS and extra-base hits, while Ruiz was tops in batting average and on-base percentage.
Perhaps the most important stat Werth led the team in was the simplest: games played.
On a night where all the focus rested on the pitcher's mound, every run came at a premium. Unable to cash in on a few rallies, the Phillies turned to an old friend in their home ballpark: the home run.
Ruiz provided a quick and equal rebuttal to Cody Ross' solo homer out of the eighth spot in the order when he took Lincecum yard in the bottom of the third on a 2-0 fastball up in the zone. The leadoff shot -- Ruiz's first of this postseason -- tied the game at 1.
With the Phillies' heart of the order not quite as fearsome as it has been in the recent past, Ruiz has lengthened the lineup. Once the easiest out, he is now quite possibly the best No. 8 hitter in the NL -- with apologies to his counterpart in that spot on Saturday, Ross.
"To have a guy like Chooch hitting eighth, I don't know what his numbers are, but they're good," said Werth. "He might be overlooked a little bit, just with all the guys we have on this team. But make no mistake about it: He's a superstar."
Before this season, Ruiz was known for his seemingly aberrational October production. He parlayed that success, though, into a career year in 2010, setting personal bests in batting average (by 43 points), on-base percentage (by 45) and slugging percentage (by 67). His regular-season numbers, in short, started to look a lot like his postseason ones.
But Senor Octubre earned that moniker for a reason. And Ruiz showed on Saturday that his regular-season success won't be coming at a postseason expense.
He now owns a .344 average in 11 NLCS games, with two homers and two doubles. His 1-for-3 night on Saturday pushed his career playoff average to an even .300 (33-for-110).
"Senor Octubre -- I can't say enough good things about him," Werth said. "He's a big part of this team. He's really the heart and soul of this team."
After his home run, though, Ruiz did let a few chances slip by. Twice he came to the plate with the go-ahead or tying run on first with two outs, and twice he was unable to extend the frame -- first with a groundout to short in the fourth, then with a strikeout in the sixth.
That's the inverse of Werth's night, as the right fielder's best chance came in his first at-bat. With Ryan Howard on second following a leadoff double, Werth not only made an out, but an unproductive one. In becoming Lincecum's first strikeout victim of the night, he didn't advance Howard to third base with fewer than two outs. Howard ended the inning on second base.
Werth did, however, get the Phillies back within striking distance with an opposite-field two-run homer with two strikes off Lincecum in the sixth. Having already fouled off one two-strike fastball from Lincecum, Werth could think back to his first at-bat, when Lincecum doubled up on the fastball for the punchout. Werth was ready for a second this time.
"He throws a lot of stuff out of the zone with two strikes, so I was just trying to be short, trying to see the ball, not chase anything," he said. "He left his fastball right in the middle of the plate there, and I was able to put a pretty good swing on it."
Remember, as much noise as Howard and Utley made last postseason, it was Werth who, somehow, slipped under the radar with seven playoff home runs -- one shy of a Major League record. In 2008, he tied a league record with seven doubles in a single postseason.
Werth was the only Phillies player to record two hits on Saturday, and he reached base three times.
Tim Britton is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.