7/20/2013 1:14 P.M. ET
Life in the bigs suits Ruf just fine
By Spencer Fordin / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- They just can't get first baseman Darin Ruf out no matter how hard they try. Ruf, a 20th-round draftee, has had immediate success with the Phillies in his first two shots at big league play.
Ruf batted .333 in a 12-game sample last season, and he's hitting .333 in his first 10 games this season. Even more impressive, he has reached base safely in 19 of his 22 games in the Major Leagues, and he has five home runs in his first 66 at-bats.
"It's been a great experience," said Ruf of being in the big leagues. "It's what every baseball player dreams of, and the fact that I've been able to help out a little bit has been nice. This next month and a half will mean a lot to the team, and hopefully, I can help us get to where we want to be."
Ruf, filling in for the injured Ryan Howard, first burst onto the scene in 2012, when he batted .317 with 38 home runs and 104 RBIs for Double-A Reading. Ruf was named the Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player in the Double-A Eastern League en route to making his big league debut.
Fast-forward a season, and Ruf faced some adversity. The right-handed hitter batted just .266 with seven home runs in 83 games for Triple-A Lehigh Valley prior to his promotion, and although he credits the pitchers for getting him out, he also said that he wasn't really at the top of his game.
"I think I got myself out more times than not, trying to be a little too aggressive in certain situations," he said of his time in Triple-A. "I was just not letting the game come to me, for the most part."
Ruf can thank his big league promotion for settling him down. Now, instead of putting pressure on himself to produce, he is relaxed, and fixated on being a good teammate.
"It's just a much faster game. Players are the best at what they do, every single one of them," said Ruf of life in the Majors. "You have to stay mentally locked in for every single pitch. You know, whether you're on defense or in the box or sitting on the bench waiting to hit, you need to stay focused."
Veteran Young instrumental in Phillies' resurgence
NEW YORK -- The Phillies have been here before, and they know they can do it again. Philadelphia moved to a winning record and into second place in the National League East on Friday night, and reported to work on Saturday morning with confidence that its streak can continue.
It hasn't been easy. Regulars Delmon Young and Chase Utley have missed time this season, as have staff ace Roy Halladay and a bunch of relievers. First baseman Ryan Howard and center fielder Ben Revere are on the disabled list, but the Phillies haven't let adversity sink their season.
The Phillies were five games under .500 as recently as July 3, but they have surged to a 9-3 record in their last 12 games on the strength of their offense. Philadelphia has averaged nearly five runs in the last 12 games, and is 36-12 this year when scoring at least four runs.
"I think we were due for it," said veteran third baseman Michael Young. "At the end of the day, we all believed in each other and we knew it could come. The biggest thing was just making sure we stay focused on every at-bat and just continue to have a good ... offensive approach. I think that's one thing we've been doing really well, just bearing down on fundamentals, and things have been clicking."
Young, one of several veterans on the team, has been a big part of that resurgence, batting .327 with 17 extra-base hits in his last 37 games. The Phillies have also gotten solid play from Darin Ruf, who has reached base safely in 10 straight games.
Shortstop Jimmy Rollins hasn't been as hot. Entering Saturday's game, he had gone 161 at-bats without a home run, the fifth-longest streak of his career. He recently moved back to the leadoff slot in place of Revere, giving the Phillies a familar look up top. The move paid off against the Mets, as he sent the third pitch he saw from Zack Wheeler over the fence for his fifth homer of the season.
"Everyone in here has had big individual seasons. Everyone in here has won. So we all know that you're never out of the race," said Young. "We just have to make sure we keep believing in each other and keep our team healthy, and go out there and play hard."
The Phillies, who have the best second-half record (270-168) in the Major Leagues since 2007, trail the first-place Braves by 5 1/2 games, and they hold a half-game lead over the third-place Nationals. Things should be tight for the rest of the year, but Philadelphia can take confidence in its veteran core and in knowing it has the best record (25-14) against NL East clubs this season.
"These guys know how to approach a season. They know how to approach every single game," said Ruf. "They know what it takes to win. It's nice to be around and to learn from them. I think the Phillies' second-half record has been unbelievable the last few years, so hopefully, we can keep that going."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.