10 years ago today: Carlos Ruiz played long ball and small ball to give Phillies a World Series lead

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10 years ago today: Carlos Ruiz played long ball and small ball to give Phillies a World Series lead

Ten years ago this month, the Phillies won their second World Series title in franchise history. Over the next few weeks, Jim Salisbury will look back at the team’s run through the NLCS and World Series.

Mother Nature didn’t exactly roll out the welcome mat as the 2008 World Series shifted from domed Tropicana Field to Citizens Bank Park. Surely, you remember how rain impacted the decisive Game 5. But it also had an effect on Game 3.

A cold rain fell in Philadelphia throughout the early evening, but baseball officials were confident it would stop at some point and the game would be played. So fans waited and waited. They huddled under the concourse and watched the Penn State-Ohio State football game on TV.

At about 9:20, with rain still falling, there was a sign that there would be baseball soon: A Phillies batboy emerged from the clubhouse and brought a carafe of coffee out to the bullpen. Fifteen minutes later, starting pitcher Jamie Moyer popped out of the dugout and made his way to the bullpen. I can still see the television close-up of his feet splashing through standing water in the outfield as he made the walk.

Ninety minutes after the scheduled start time, the rain stopped and Moyer delivered the first pitch to catcher Carlos Ruiz. Moyer joined the Phillies late in 2006 and forged a bond with the young catcher. In fact, in later years, Ruiz credited Moyer for helping him hone his game-calling skills.

On this night, in Game 3 of the World Series, Ruiz seemed to be in the center of it all. He belted a solo homer in the second inning to give the Phillies a 2-1 lead but made an error in the eighth inning that set up the tying run.

Ruiz got his shot to atone in the bottom of the ninth. Eric Bruntlett was hit by a pitch to lead off the frame and moved to third on a wild pitch and an error. Rays manager Joe Maddon ordered a couple of intentional walks to load the bases. Up came Ruiz. He played long ball earlier in the game. This time, with the game on the line and a cold, wet crowd of 45,900 on its feet, he played small ball. Facing hard-throwing Grant Balfour, Ruiz stroked a slow chopper toward third base. Bruntlett broke on contract and slid home safely with the winning run as Ruiz reached base on an infield hit that traveled about 65 feet. The 5-4 victory gave the Phillies a 2-1 lead in the series.

Amazingly, Ruiz’s hit was the Phillies’ only one in five chances with a runner in scoring position. That left them at a feeble 2 for 33 with runners in scoring position for the series, but they still managed to have the lead.

Moyer did not get the win in Game 3, but he kept his club afloat with 6⅓ innings of three-run ball. The whole night was a dream come true for the 45-year-old pitcher who had grown up in the Philadelphia suburbs and skipped school to attend the parade after the team won the World Series in 1980. Moyer had often told his younger teammates what it was like to be at that parade and what it would feel like to have their own. With his help, they were just two wins away from finding out.

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Previously in this series

Phillies' 2020 World Series odds are pretty surprising

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Phillies' 2020 World Series odds are pretty surprising

Most of the baseball world agrees that the Phillies are improved with the additions of No. 2 starter Zack Wheeler, shortstop Didi Gregorius, and the new contingent of manager Joe Girardi, pitching coach Bryan Price and hitting coach Joe Dillon.

The question is how much improved?

The Phils won 81 games last season, a year after winning 80. Both years, they totally collapsed in September. Both years, a good number of players were simply playing out the string, though the effort level was more questionable in 2018 than in 2019.

Even though the Phillies were quiet this offseason after their two big signings, and even though the NL East is still a beast, they should still exceed 81 wins. If they don't, there's a serious problem. If they don't, the GM probably won't be here to try to rectify things next offseason.

The over/under win totals are out and the Phillies' number is 85.5 at FanDuel and 84.5 at DraftKings.

I'd go over at 84.5. Think about how many injuries the Phillies suffered last season. Think about the talent gap between Wheeler and every Phillies starting pitcher behind Aaron Nola last season. The impact of Girardi, Price and Dillon won't be all that quantifiable, but it is realistic that this revamped coaching staff can conjure a few more wins out of the 2020 Phillies, whether it's in-game decision-making or better instructions given to young players who underperformed last season.

At DraftKings, the Mets' over/under is a game better than the Phillies' at 85.5. The Braves are at 90.5 and the Nationals 88.5. The Marlins are at 64.5, higher than only one team, the Tigers.

Much more surprising are the Phillies' World Series odds. They have the sixth-shortest odds to win it all. Seriously. They're +1800. Here is the Top 10:

Yankees: 3.5/1
Dodgers: 5/1
Astros: 6/1
Braves: 11/1
Nationals: 14/1
Phillies: 18/1
Mets: 20/1
Twins: 20/1
Red Sox: 22/1
Cubs: 22/1

Apparently, the expectation is that the NL Central will be bringing up the rear in 2020. Really, the only NL Central team that improved was the Reds. The Cardinals lost Marcell Ozuna, the Brewers lost Yasmani Grandal and the Cubs didn't spend money on a single major-league free agent.

Four of the top seven teams being NL East teams just shows you how much of a battle these next seven months will be for the Phils.

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More on the Phillies

Phillies prospects Spencer Howard and Alec Bohm make Baseball America's Top 100 list

Phillies prospects Spencer Howard and Alec Bohm make Baseball America's Top 100 list

Baseball America’s always interesting Top 100 Prospects list landed this week and the Phillies are represented with two players in the top half.

Starting pitcher Spencer Howard ranks 27th on the list and third baseman Alec Bohm 28th. Both players are projected to open the coming season at Triple A and get to the majors at some point in 2020. Both have been invited to major-league spring training camp, which begins in less than three weeks in Clearwater. See the complete list of Phillies’ in-house non-roster invites here.

Howard, a 23-year-old right-hander, was the Phillies’ second-round draft pick in 2017. We profiled him here.

In its story on the Top 100 prospects, Baseball America offered this take on Howard: Triple-digit fastball, swing-and-miss curveball and the ability to work the edges of the strike zone, Howard flashes front-end potential.

Bohm, 23, was the third overall pick in the 2018 draft. He hit .305 with 21 homers, 80 RBIs and a .896 OPS at three levels, including Double A in 2019. We profiled him here.

Baseball America offered this take on Bohm: Even with questions about whether he’ll have to move to first base, Bohm has the feel to hit and plus power to hit in the middle of the Phillies’ order, and soon.

Shortstop Wander Franco of the Tampa Bay Rays was ranked No. 1 on Baseball America’s list for the second year in a row. The Rays placed eight players on the list. Because of a loaded farm system, the Rays were unable to protect left-hander Cristopher Sanchez on their 40-man roster and the Phillies traded for him in November. Read about Sanchez here.

The Los Angeles Dodgers placed seven players on the list and the Minnesota Twins and San Diego Padres had six each.

The Miami Marlins led National League East teams with five players in the Top 100, including former Phillies pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez, who was traded for J.T. Realmuto a year ago. Sanchez ranks 16th on the list and is projected to arrive in the majors sometime in 2020.

The Atlanta Braves placed four players on the list and the Washington Nationals and New York Mets joined the Phillies with two players.

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More on the Phillies