Saturday, December 27, 2014

Brown drives in game-winner as Phillies win in 10

Phillies left fielder Domonic Brown. (Jae C. Hong/AP)
Phillies left fielder Domonic Brown. (Jae C. Hong/AP)

LOS ANGELES - The ball hung in the air for what felt like a few minutes.

Dodgers leftfielder Carl Crawford came in and raised his right glove. But shortstop Hanley Ramirez backtracked and tried to make a play on it, too.

Carlos Ruiz, meanwhile, was making a mad dash from home plate to however far he could get before the play ended. When the ball dropped between the two Dodgers All-Stars, Ruiz was on second with one out in the 10th inning.

Three pitches later, he was en route to home plate with the game-winning run.

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  • "That’s why [you hustle]," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said of Ruiz’s pivotal baserunning.

    After the Dodgers' defensive flub and Ruiz’s 180-foot run, Domonic Brown ripped a run-scoring double to the wide, open spaces of the Dodger Stadium outfield in left-center to bring the catcher home as the Phils eked out a 3-2 win.

    Ruiz, one of the offensive heroes a night earlier when he doubled twice and homered, was disappointed with his at-bat, but it didn’t stop him from running hard, just in case something fluky happened. And then something fluky happened and he looked smart.

    "You can get frustrated, because that was a good pitch to hit, but, at the same time, you have to pick it up," Ruiz said. "Something can happen. It was a big difference in the game."

    After dropping the first two games of their current, 10-game western trip, the Phillies have won three straight, matching a season high. They also climbed back to the .500 mark (10-10) with Cole Hamels returning to the rotation tonight, when they have a chance to win the four-game series against the first-place Dodgers.

    "The guys have battled back," Sandberg said. "That says something."

    "To be .500 right now is good, because we had some close games we could have won," starter A.J. Burnett said. "But these guys aren’t content with anything. I expect them to come out and play hard just as they did tonight."

    After Brown’s go-ahead hit, Jonathan Papelbon made the one-run lead stand up, pitching a scoreless frame in the 10th inning for his sixth straight save. Antonio Bastardo, who pitched a scoreless ninth inning, got the win.

    In the game’s first seven innings, Burnett pitched well enough to earn his first win of the season. As did Cliff Lee a night earlier, Burnett set the tempo from the get-go.

    After giving up a one-out double to Puig in the first inning, Burnett sent down 11 of the next 14 batters. The only three Dodgers to reach over that four-inning span did so on a walk and two singles, one of them an infield single.

    In his first five innings, Burnett got a ground-ball out or a strikeout from 12 of the 20 batters he faced and walked only one batter. When his day was deemed done, Burnett had struck out five while walking one in 6 2/3 innings.

    "I thought A.J. was very good," Sandberg said.

    Through his first 3 weeks with the Phillies, Burnett has held the opposition to two runs or fewer in four of five starts. But Burnett has been especially stingy in his last two starts.

    Before Crawford’s fifth-inning sacrifice fly that cut the Phillies lead in half, to 2-1, Burnett had gone 13 full innings without allowing a run. The 37-year-old said his hernia diagnosis from just 9 days ago has helped himt fine-tune his mechanics.

    In two starts since his injury was identified, Burnett has allowed only two earned runs in 13-2/3 innings. After walking 14 batters in his first three starts, Burnett has walked only three batters in his last two.

    "I think so, definitely," Burnett said of the injury helping him rather than hindering him. "I’m not overdoing it, [not] overthrowing. When you feel good, you tend to overthrow. So I really have to stay in check. [The injury] is just something I have to deal with. I’m not going to change the way I prepare, change the way I lift, run. It’s going to be a part of me all year."

    Burnett also had a career day at the plate: His three hits were a career high.

    Burnett had eight hits, total, in 122 at-bats over 61 games in the last two seasons in Pittsburgh. He already has four hits this season, matching his totals from each of the last two years.

    "He told me he couldn't hit in spring training," Sandberg said. "So I said, 'Just work on your bunting.' It looked like he had [Dodgers starter Hyun-Jin] Ryu figured out. He was right on everything."

    "I was trying to swing easy, not overdo it, kind of like on the mound," Burnett said. "I got lucky."

    After arriving safely to first base after his first hit, a single to right, Burnett blinked as a line drive came bearing in on him.

    Los Angeles flamboyant rightfielder Yasiel Puig, as he is wont to do, unleashed a throw from his position in a last-ditch effort to get the baserunner. Burnett looked out to Puig and raised his hands by his hips, as if to say, "Easy, fella."

    "I knew he was going to do that," Burnett said, smiling, afterward. "That’s the way he plays, trying to get outs. I guess he saw a 37-year-old with a hernia [out there]."

     

    On Twitter: @rlawrence21

    RYAN LAWRENCE Daily News Staff Writer rlawrence@phillynews.com
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