10/26/08 4:36 AM ET
Hero Ruiz has roller-coaster night
Phillies catcher homers, commits key error, gets game-winning hit
By Alyson Footer / MLB.com
Ruiz put his team ahead 2-0 with a solo shot off Matt Garza in the second inning, but his key error later in the evening nullified a comfortable Phillies lead and allowed the Rays tie the game at 4. Thanks to his last at-bat heroics, however, his gaffe became a mere afterthought as the Phillies inched closer to their ultimate goal.
The Phillies were up, 4-3, in the eighth, but within minutes, B.J. Upton evened the match. He led off with a single to short, stole second, stole third and scored the tying run when Ruiz's throw to third hit Upton and bounced toward the photo well to the left of the Rays dugout.
But Ruiz went from goat to hero in the bottom of the ninth when he came to the plate with the bases loaded, nobody out and five -- not four, five -- Rays infielders waiting for what they hoped would be a clean ground ball hit right to one of them.
No such luck. Ruiz bounced a slow grounder toward third, where Evan Longoria made a valiant but futile effort to scoop and throw to home. The ball sailed over Dioner Navarro's head, giving Eric Bruntlett more than enough room to score the game-winner. It marked the first walk-off infield single in World Series history.
Ruiz offered no excuses for his blunder and treated his triumphs in a matter-of-fact business-like manner. Errors happen. Sometimes swinging bunts do, too.
"When you play aggressive, you can make errors," he said. "It's part of the game, especially in the World Series, when everybody's trying to do the right thing."
The same could be said for the way the Phillies built their lead and ultimately won the game. The plays were good enough, but not spectacular. They hit three home runs, but they were all solo shots. They scored once in the opening frame, but on a groundout, not a base hit. Ruiz was the ninth-inning hero, but he'll be the first to say he didn't hit the ball particularly well.
Ruiz insisted he was simply looking to make contact, not hit it out of the park. With the Rays going with the extra infielder, he figured a fly ball was his best chance to end the game.
"I tried to have good at-bats, take a walk or put the ball in play," Ruiz said. "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."
It felt good for Bruntlett, too, who was running on contact and, with his back to Longoria, wasn't sure how close the play would be at the plate.
"I saw the ball on the ground and I took off for home plate," he said. "I was trying to figure out where I was going to slide. I saw the ball actually flying over my head. I knew it was going to be a tough play."
Ruiz, also running at full speed down the line, didn't know right away if he had done enough to score Bruntlett.
"I was trying not to turn around and see what was happening at home plate," he said. "I don't know if he had made a good play or maybe they would have a double play. When I turned around, it was a great moment."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.