Thursday, May 17, 2012

Phillies hold on for fifth straight win

CHICAGO – Ten months earlier, Roy Halladay suffered through one of the most agonizing starts of his career at Wrigley Field. The throwback pitcher who takes pride in finishing what he starts had to take himself out of a game.
After throwing four pitches in the fifth inning, Halladay backed off the mound, tried to catch his breath and then couldn’t go on. Heat exhaustion knocked Halladay out as Drew Carpenter was summoned in to take his place.

Halladay was unavailable to the media afterward. In perhaps a show of solidarity, his catcher, the normally affable Carlos Ruiz, politely declined to talk when the game was over.
Ruiz takes his catching responsibilities personally. Wearing a glum expression as he sat in the cramped visiting clubhouse, it was almost as if Ruiz felt he let his starting pitcher down.
The Phillies' talented battery returned to the scene of the crime Thursday night and even if they didn’t have last July on their minds, they sure played like a tandem eager to get a victory at Wrigley this time around.
Halladay held the Cubs in check for eight innings while the red-hot Ruiz had four hits and three RBIs as the Phillies swept their second, two-game series of the week, beating Chicago 8-7.
“Better weather, that’s for sure,” Halladay joked about taking the mound on a night when it was 30 degrees cooler than that muggy, forgettable evening last July.
The victory, which got dicey in the final inning when rookie Jake Diekman took over for Halladay and couldn’t corral his command, moved the Phillies (20-19) above the .500 mark for the first time since Opening Day and it extended their win streak to a season-high five games.
It also snapped a run that saw them lose five straight Halladay starts coming into the night. Prior to this season, no Halladay team had lost five of his starts in a row since the 1999 Toronto Blue Jays.
The win was also Halladay's first ever at Wrigley Field.
“We’ve won five in a row now, we’re over .500 and I think that’s the bigger picture, it’s what we’re all excited about,” Halladay said. “We’ve been playing a lot better lately. Ultimately that’s what it’s all about. Like I said after my last start, whether you get the win as a starter or the team gets a win, as long as you’re walking out with a win you’re not going to complain.”
Halladay, who allowed three runs on seven hits while striking out four and walking zero, picked up his first win since April 16. In the five games in between wins, Halladay had his worst start since joining the Phillies – coughing up a 6-0 lead in Atlanta – but pitched well in the remaining four games.
In four of those five games, the Phillies had scored a total of five runs for Halladay. They matched that total in the first seven innings at Wrigley on Thursday, thanks in part to Ruiz (4-for-5).
With two on and two out in the first, Ruiz ripped a run-scoring single to left to hand Halladay a 1-0 lead before he took the mound. In the fifth, Ruiz rapped a RBI single to right.
In between, Hunter Pence ripped a two-run double in a three-run second inning that chased Cubs starter Chris Volstad from the game. Volstad, a former Marlin, has given up eight runs in eight innings of two starts against the Phillies this season.
In his career, Volstad is 2-6 with a 6.22 ERA (50 earned runs in 72 1/3 innings) against the Phils.
Long after Volstad left, the Phillies tacked on three important runs in the eighth. Ruiz was once again right in the middle of the rally.
He collected his fourth hit of the night with a two-out, RBI double to right. The four-hit game was the first for Ruiz since Sept. 25, 2011.

“He's hot. He's been playing great, man,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “I can't say enough about him. And good he is, because we definitely need it. We need every bit of that.”
“I feel great,” said Ruiz, who had six multi-hit games this month. “When you feel great at home plate you’re going to have a lot of good at-bats. I feel relaxed. I’m seeing the ball well. I’m using the whole field and I have a very good idea at the plate and I’m swinging at good pitches.”
Ruiz, who is hitting .429 with four home runs and 17 RBIs in 15 games this month, isn’t just garnering well-deserved All-Star Game consideration, but he’s putting up numbers that would make a strong argument that he’s currently the best catcher in baseball.
Ruiz leads all major league catchers in batting average (.363), hits (42), OPS (1.024) and on-base percentage (.405). He’s second in home runs (seven) and extra-base hits (16).
Among National League players, regardless of position, Ruiz is third in hitting, trailing only New York’s David Wright (.411) and St. Louis’ Rafael Furcal (.367).
“He takes what you give him, he never seems to get greedy… he sees the pitch well,” Halladay said of Ruiz. “Those are tough guys to pitch to, when you make a mistake, they’re going to get you. When you make a good pitch, they go the other way with it. For me, the best catcher in the National League right now. We’ve said it for years. Unfortunately you have to really hit to get that notoriety and he’s doing that right now. Hopefully people take notice.”
Halladay and his battery mate share a mutual admiration.
“I’m so happy he got that win, you know?” Ruiz said. “It was a big win for us and also for Roy. He pitched real well today.”


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