10/26/08 6:19 PM EST
Ruiz making a name for himself
Phillies catcher attracting attention with clutch bat in playoffs
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
The Phillies catcher, a native of Panama, was twice mistakenly referred to as a Venezuelan player during broadcasts of Game 1 of the World Series. With every big hit he collects, though, a repeat of that mistake grows less likely.
On Saturday, in Game 3 of the Fall Classic, Ruiz was involved in two of the biggest plays of the night. His second-inning home run gave the Phillies a 2-1 lead, and his infield single with the bases loaded in the ninth ended the game in a 5-4 Phillies victory. After fans called for him to be benched during the regular season, he's thriving in October.
"I think he's a better hitter than what he's shown during the season," manager Charlie Manuel said. "He got in a rut during the season and had a hard time getting out of it. The last couple of weeks, especially, his bat's gotten quicker, he waits better, and he's got better balance at the plate. He's a little more aggressive, but at the same time he's been getting good balls to hit."
Ruiz had a rough regular season at the plate, batting .219 with a .320 on-base percentage and a .300 slugging percentage. That followed a fairly productive 2007 in which he put up a line of .259/.340/.396 and drove in 54 runs.
But as is typical with a catcher, Ruiz's bat is not what the other guys in the clubhouse care about. He's well regarded for his defense and as a teammate.
"He's been tremendous," said Phillies ace Cole Hamels, who will start Game 5 on Monday. "I think this year has definitely been the year for him. Last year was more of a break-in year for him to really get to know the big leagues and to know all of us as pitchers.
"And I think this year, he's definitely stepped up. I think the last half of the season is really when we've been able to connect. We've been able to anticipate pitches. I think it's really hard for a catcher and pitcher to really be together, and that's what we've been able to do through the last half of the season and through the playoffs."
Still, Ruiz has in fact been contributing at the plate this postseason. For the month, he's batting .263 with a .364 OBP and .421 slugging percentage. He has four extra-base hits and four RBIs, making it more difficult for pitchers to navigate the bottom third of the Philadelphia batting order.
"I tried to have good at-bats, take a walk or put the ball in play," Ruiz said on Saturday night. "I was looking for a pitch to hit. I was thinking I wanted to hit a fly ball to the outfield, but that didn't work out. I'll take the ground ball. It was big. The home run was, too, but the game-winner was very important. It felt good."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.