Ruiz played role of unlikely hero
The plastic sheeting hung in tight rolls from the ceiling of the home clubhouse at Citizens Bank Ballpark late Monday night -- the combination of a driving rainstorm and a blundering
The Panamanian catcher
The 29-year-old Ruiz is used to being forced to wait to get what he wants, and he's been through hardships far worse than his Phillies faced Monday night. His police officer father died when he was seven, leaving his mother, a schoolteacher, to raise him and his two younger brothers. When he was a slow-footed 19-year-old middle infielder in David, Panama, he waited for a major-league scout -- any scout -- to take notice of him, and when the Phillies'
"It's a great moment right now," he said, even as many of his teammates fumed. "I'm so happy. I know this moment, I'll never forget in my life. You never know if you [are going to] come back to the World Series. So I'm just trying to enjoy the time, and hopefully we can win everything."
Two nights later, the Phillies did win everything, for the first time in 28 years. They won, in part, due to the contributions of their stars -- the deserving Series MVP Hamels, who would have more than likely become the first pitcher to win all five of his starts in the playoffs if not for Monday night's rain; the perennial NL MVP candidates
But equally crucial, perhaps to a surprising degree, were the contributions the Phillies got from their role players, their supporting actors, like
What Ruiz was expected to do was to handle Philadelphia's pitching staff with aplomb. "He blocks the ball good," said Manuel. "He receives the ball good. He's really improved in calling the game. The pitchers really relate to him good and he throws good." Hamels considers last season to have been a "break-in year" in which Ruiz accrued intimate knowledge of each pitcher's tendencies, and he's put that knowledge to good use this season. "
Philadelphia's staff improvement -- they jumped from 23rd in the majors in ERA (4.77) in 2007 to sixth (3.88) in '08 -- could be partially attributed to Ruiz's steadier hand behind the plate. So could their stellar Series, in which they posted a 2.83 ERA and received unexpected gems from Jamie Moyer (in Game 3) and
What the Phillies could not have expected, but only hoped for, were Ruiz's offensive contributions. After a fine rookie season in which he hit .259 with 54 RBIs, Ruiz struggled this year, finishing at .219 and driving in just 31 runs. In the World Series, though, his .375 batting average trailed only Werth's; his 11 total bases trailed only Werth and Howard; and his Game 3 performance, in which he homered in the bottom of the second to give the Phillies a 2-1 lead, and then hit the bottom of the ninth, bases-loaded infield single that won the game at 1:47 a.m., turned the Series in Philadelphia's favor for good. "When Chooch hit that ball, I think I went from my seat to the ceiling," Moyer said of Ruiz's game-winning bouncer.
As the Phillies rushed inside to give each other champagne facials in their clubhouse Wednesday night (one blast came from a bottle that was announced to be "