One of the more interesting stories that could play out over the next month or two is the Phillies' decision making with regard to Darin Ruf. As the Braves have shown with Evan Gattis, the answer is sometimes right under an organization's nose. And with the Phillies in need of both some offensive punch and some clarity on the future, Ruf offers the potential for both.
The Phillies team we saw on this seven-game road trip wasn't much different than the one that had taken the field over the five weeks prior. They just managed to get some big hits with runners on base. They went 4-3 despite scoring a relatively meager 25 runs in the seven games. That shouldn't diminish their overall performance: four wins over a pair of playoff contenders is significant. But the concerns about the offense showed no signs of vanishing, and until this team is able to score more than three runs on a consistent basis, it is going to struggle to break off the 15-to-20 game stretch that it needs to get itself back into the playoff conversation. There is reason the Phillies have not won more than three games in a row this season (and they have only done that twice). And that reason is the tendency for stretches of production like the one that saw them drop the final game in San Francisco and the first two Arizona games: three runs scored, one run scored, two runs scored.
Really, the Phillies are still afloat because of the tremendous pitching they've gotten. But it is hard to expect the pitching to remain this good. The Phillies are 3-1 in starts by Jonathan Pettibone, who has been the beneficiary of some good fortune: he has allowed 11 extra base hits in 86 at bats, but only two of them have come with runners on base. All four of the home runs he has allowed have been solo home runs. Opponents are just 4-for-26 against him with runners in scoring position (with a .190 BAbip). That stuff will normalize. Pettibone might prove to be an adequate No. 5 starter, but the Phillies are not going to win 75 percent of his starts on pitching alone. They'll need some offense. You can rule out trading for that offense, at least for the foreseeable future. First, there aren't many obvious targets. Second, it makes no sense for the Phillies to try to augment their roster since they do not yet look like a playoff team.
Which is why Ruf is such an intriguing player. After a slow start at the plate, the 26-year-old is hitting .415 with four home runs and five doubles in his last 53 at bats at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. At some point, the Phillies are going to have to find a way to get his bat into the major league lineup on a regular bases so that it can A) attempt to bolster the current lineup, and B) Start the process of finding out what, exactly, they can hope to get from him in future seasons.