Carlos Ruiz is quietly putting together his best season in the major leagues. He delivered four hits last night, and his .395 on-base percentage is one any manager would gladly take from their leadoff hitter, much less a catcher hitting down in the order. The power isn't spectacular, but at .422 it's respectable. With Philadelphia having been hit by injuries all year and still not completely healthy, Ruiz' big year has been most opportune for Charlie Manuel. The Phils also got three hits and a home run from fourth outfielder Ben Francisco, in the lineup only because Shane Victorino is hurt.
It was enough to draw in still close to Atlanta, who lost 3-2 to the Mets, and to gain on three of the four main contenders in the other divisions who also lost last night. Kyle Farnsworth came up short in his first outing as a Brave, surrendering the tying run in the seventh. Then old Atlanta outfielder Jeff Franceour haunted his old teammates with a game-winning blast in the ninth. It was a nice change-of-pace for Franceour, who's mostly haunted the Mets, giving them little production from the corner outfield spot most teams depend on for offense.
Both NL Central rivals lost, and nothing was more shocking than the absolute devastation Houston put on St. Louis. The Astros won 18-4. The beatdown of Jaime Garcia was shocking, but was likely a fluke thing. Of more concern to Tony LaRussa is that his bullpen has been completely unable to handle Houston for two straight nights, surrendering twelve runs in three innings yesterday. The 'Stros have scored 27 in the first two games of this series. The Cardinals stayed within a half-game of the Reds, who dropped a 7-6 decision in Pittsburgh Though the loss was no fault of Brandon Phillips, whose three-hit night means he's now 13-of-32 (.406) over the last week.
Out West, San Diego also lost, as Ted Lilly pitched very well in his first start as a Dodger, winning 3-2. The result enabled San Francisco to draw within one game of the Padres, as the Giants destroyed the Rockies 10-0. Seven of the eight San Francisco starters had multiple hits. The only one who didn't was Edgar Renteria. But when your #8 hitter draws two walks and that's the worst part of the game, that spells a good night.
Over in the American League, Minnesota fell to Tampa Bay 6-4. The Twins did have to be pleased with the outing of Brian Duensing. Inserted into the rotation to replace the struggling Nick Blackburn, Duensing pitched six innings and gave up three runs, a more than respectable showing against the team who has now has the best record in MLB and sits alone atop the AL East.
And if you've ever made a purchase and wanted your money back, don't look to fans in Detroit for too much sympathy. The White Sox and Tigers played a doubleheader yesterday. While they split, the combined score of the two games was 19-3. So much for interesting baseball. Although I'm sure Ozzie Guillen isn't complaining, as the split enabled him to widen his lead in the Central by another half-game over the Twins.
Image from reclinergm.com