Phillies top Rockies in dramatic fashion for second night in a row
With Chase Utley signed and Charlie Manuel replaced with Ryne Sandberg, as long as the interim tag is removed, at least two potential items Ruben Amaro Jr. had to take care of this winter have been addressed.
And they were undoubtedly two very important offseason items.
But the strength of a successful baseball team lies in the makeup of the entirety of the 25-man roster. The Phillies had a core of accomplished veterans entering last winter, but Amaro failed to enhance it.
Mike Adams and Ben Revere got hurt, Delmon Young was never an ideal fit and John Lannan was either hurt or ineffective. Michael Young has been the clear-cut best acquisition from last winter and he entered Thursday night hitting .268 with eight home runs in 116 games.
If Amaro hopes to avoid the same fate as Manuel, he’ll have to have a better offseason batting average this time around. A few of the decisions he’ll have to make in the coming months were in display Thursday night, when the Phillies pulled off a 5-4 walkoff win over the Colorado Rockies.
Free agent-to-be Carlos Ruiz had three hits, rising outfielder Darin Ruf hit his seventh home run of the month to ignite a late rally in the eighth and Domonic Brown completed the comeback with a walk-off single in the ninth. Brown was attacked by a raucous mob of red-pinstriped men at second base when Young crossed the plate with the game-ending run.
"We’re having a lot of fun," Brown said. "Mike’s had some big knocks the last three or four nights, so we just feeding off of him, off the energy that we got in the clubhouse. We got a lot of new faces and a lot of young guys in the clubhouse, but the energy is still there. I think we got 30 games left and we’re trying to make a statement coming into next year."
Young, the walkoff hero on Wednesday, tied Thursday night’s game by legging out an infield single. Jimmy Rollins, who entered the day mired in a 1-for-17 slump, kick-started the ninth inning rally with a two-out double off Rockies closer Rafael Betancourt.
The victory was the fourth in the last five games for the previously free-falling Phils. It was their second straight in walk-off fashion.
It saved Kyle Kendrick from another forgettable night, too.
After holding the Rockies to two singles in the game’s first four innings, Kendrick surrendered four runs on six hits in his last two frames. He was removed before recording an out in the sixth, when the Rockies greeted him with four straight hits.
The biggest blow came from Colorado catcher Wilin Rosario: his three-run home run broke a 1-1 tie. The home run was Rosario’s third in three nights at Citizens Bank Park; Rosario has five home runs and 13 RBIs in nine career games in South Philly.
With one swing on Thursday night, Rosario continued Kendrick’s late summer struggles, which could affect his future in the Phillies rotation.
After a startling start to the season – he had a 3.12 ERA after 12 starts – Kendrick has reverted to the shaky, unreliable starter of the past. Kendrick is 3-6 with a 6.51 ERA in nine starts since the beginning of July.
Since May 18, Kendrick has a 5.49 ERA in 18 starts.
"Tonight he was fine through five (innings)," Sandberg said. "He threw strikes, they had a couple of singles and a hot hitter was up. And he squared one up on him. But other than that, he’s a guy we like going out there. … He’s still throwing the ball well."
Kendrick, who turns 29 on Monday, is in the second year of a two-year, $7.5 million deal. He is arbitration eligible this winter and eligible to be a free agent after 2014.
While Kendrick’s place on next year’s roster is less certain, Ruiz has played himself into consideration for a new contract. With little on the free agent mark aside from the left-handed hitting Brian McCann, and their catching prospects not ready yet for the major leagues, Ruiz, who turns 35 this winter, could make sense on a one-year deal.
After getting off to a slow start this season with a suspension and trip to the disabled list, Ruiz’s bat has come back to life. He’s hitting .364 in 18 games in August.
Since returning in mid-June from a hamstring injury, Ruiz is batting .292 in 50 games. In a left-handed heavy lineup, Ruiz’s bat could be a useful piece in the 2014 lineup.
"If I said no, I’d be lying to you," Ruiz said of whether he’s thought about his upcoming free agency. "It’s something I was thinking maybe not every day, but once in a while. But who knows, it’s not in my hands. All that’s in my hands is to play hard and see what happens."
Ruf also looks like a more than capable righthanded bat for 2014.
With the Phillies four outs away from defeat, Ruf popped a two-run home run to left-center to bring them within a run. The home run was his seventh in 20 games this month.
Among major league hitters, only Chris Davis (Orioles), Alfonso Soriano (Yankees), Miguel Cabrera (Tigers), Donnie Murphy (Cubs), and Justin Upton (Braves) have more home runs in August. Each of them has eight.
"He has a chance to be a really good player," Young said of Ruf. "He’s working hard, working hard on his defense at a position that is kind of unfamiliar to him. We know he can play first and can play left, so if he can show he can play right field, that’s something that can give the manager options and he can be an extremely valuable player."
Ruf is hitting .269 with nine home runs and 15 RBI in 39 games since his recall from Triple-A Lehigh Valley last month. His .368 OBP leads all of the regulars in the Phillies lineup.