CARLOS RUIZ was the unofficial hero of Game No. 79 on the Phillies schedule. Until he was the goat.
Ruiz jumped on a fastball from Milwaukee starter Taylor Jungmann and deposited it into the leftfield seats. The home run - Ruiz' first since Sept. 5, snapping a homerless drought of 218 at-bats - broke a tie and gave the Phillies a one-run lead in the sixth.
Two innings later, when Ken Giles was a pitch away from striking out Carlos Gomez to move his team three outs away from a win, Ruiz called timeout. Giles still threw the pitch, though, and Gomez swung and missed.
Giles began to walk off the mound, but home-plate umpire Mike DiMuro upheld Ruiz' call for time, and a vintage 2015 Phillies inning unfolded, with three straight hits and two consecutive walks, the latter bringing in the go-ahead run in the Brewers' 4-3 win.
"That happens," manager Pete Mackanin said. "Part of holding a runner is varying your delivery to the plate. held the ball longer than Chooch wanted him to."
An added kick in the you-know-what: Ruiz' home run briefly put his hard-luck battery mate, pitcher Cole Hamels, in line for a win. Instead Hamels, who held Milwaukee to two runs in seven innings, is winless in his last four starts.
But let's move on from the continuing horrors of the season. And from the players of the past, too.
Hamels and Ruiz are fan favorites, thanks to the shiny World Series championship rings they earned, but neither is likely to be here when the Phillies make another postseason run. This season is about finding just who might be apart of that next core.
With increased opportunity, Cesar Hernandez is in the early stages of showing he deserves a longer look as a regular second baseman.
Hernandez went 1-for-4 with a walk, a run scored and two stolen bases to continue his surge since playing regularly. Hernandez, 25, has hit safely in all five games of the homestand (10-for-20).
But his hot stretch began when the Phillies arrived in Baltimore on June 15, needed a designated hitter, and decided to plug Chase Utley into that spot, while giving the sure-handed Hernandez a chance at second base.
During that 14-game stretch, Hernandez is hitting .392 (20-for-51) with five doubles and seven stolen bases.
"Now that I am playing every day, I am staying comfortable," Hernandez said. "With defense, with hitting-with everything."
Color Mackanin impressed.
"That just goes to show you, when you're looking at players and you see part-time players and perhaps at times they're not doing as well as you'd like them to do, you can see now the benefit, obviously, of playing on a daily basis, how a player can be a whole different player," he said. "Cesar has been fantastic, and this is the kind of thing we're all excited about, because we always felt he had it in him . . . Now that we can , we're pretty excited."
But that leads to an interesting question, or potential road block to Hernandez' continuing big-league maturation: Where will Hernandez play when Utley returns from the disabled list? There hasn't been an update on Utley since he was placed on the DL with right ankle inflammation a week ago.
But like the 31-year-old Hamels, on the trade block, and the 36-year-old Ruiz, Utley, 36, won't be a part of the next winning team in Philadelphia. And, he's hitting an MLB-low .179.
"That's a good question," Mackanin said. "I would like to think that Cesar has proven that he deserves a chance to be the everyday second baseman. That remains to be seen. I don't know."
And then Mackanin caught himself.
"I don't want to get ahead of myself," the manager added. "Let's just wait to see when Chase is healthy and how he feels, and we'll go from there."
But in a week when the power shifted in the front office and above, and with Mackanin in place only for the next three months, surely he'll be given directives from above.
"The manager has the right to do what he wants on the field," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "We'll continue to give him suggestions. He knows who the priority players he has on the field and frankly the priority players are the young players to have them learn and develop. Pete understands that, and I think that will be reflected in the playing time our players will get."
So hold off on the "Let Cesar Play" posters you're in the process of putting together in the fear that Utley will return and his name alone will mean regular starts. For Mackanin, the kids stay in the picture.
"We were hoping that at some point we'd be able to get in, throughout the course of the season," Mackanin said. "We were hoping to get as much playing time as possible, same thing with Ruf, same thing with Brown, Herrera. We want to get these guys in there as much as possible.
"I think this is a good year to find out about guys. And Cesar is certainly making a strong showing for what he's capable of doing. The guy steals bases, plays pretty good defense - real good defense - he can run, and the ball jumps off his bat from both sides of the plate. We're waiting for the rest of the guys to come through."