The Reading Phillies needed all 142 games of the season to secure their place in the Eastern League playoffs, clinching the wild card berth in the very last game of the season. Their reward: a right to take on the Eastern Division regular season champion Trenton Thunder in the Eastern League’s best-of-five-game divisional-round that starts tonight in Trenton.
Reading caught fire in the tail-end of the season to edge out the New Britain Rock Cats for the final playoff berth largely in part because of red-hot slugger, league Rookie of the Year and MVP Darin Ruf. Ruf, the firstbaseman turned leftfielder, bit 38 home runs on the season, a record 20 of which came in the month of August.
"I've never seen anything like the stretch he had last month -- it seemed like he could do no wrong," Reading manager Dusty Wathan told MiLB.com.
While the R-Phils will look to continue their late-season success at the plate, Trenton will counter with excellent starting pitching. Trenton’s Brett Marshall lead the E.L. with 13 wins and posted a 2.52 ERA.
The R-Phils narrowly won the regular-season series against the Thunder, seven games to six.
Reading hosts games one and two of the series, while Trenton is home to game three, four, and five (if necessary). First pitch tonight is scheduled for 7:05 tonight.
Players to watch:
Darin Ruf (1B/LF): Ruf hit .361 with a 1.215 OPS in the last 10 regular season games for Reading. His 20 home runs in August was more than the 18 he hit in every other month of the season combined. Speculation about Ruf’s future with the organization have been swirling ever since his hot-streak began: if the Phillies don’t add him to their 40-man roster, he’ll almost certainly be targeted by other teams in the Rule 5 draft if they don’t trade him first.
Trevor May (RHP): May, selected by the Phillies in the 4th round of the 2008 draft, led the R-Phils with 151 strikeouts in his 28 starts and held opposing batters to just a .249 BA in his first season of Double-A ball.
David Adams (2B): Adams hit .306 in 86 games for Trenton this season and ended the year with an even 100 hits.
Brett Marshall (RHP): Marshall’s 3.17 ERA in 17 first-half starts was good enough to earn him a spot on the 2012 Eastern League All-Star team.