LOS ANGELES - Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Coors Field in Denver. Rockies starter Jason Hammel has just gotten a doubleplay to limit the damage and now can get out of the inning by retiring the Phillies' eighth-place hitter. Runners on first and second. Carlos Ruiz at the plate.
Ruiz singles to left, knocking Hammel out of the game.
Two innings later. Jose Contreras now pitching for Colorado. Runners on first and second. Ruiz up again.
Again he delivers an RBI single. Those two runs are large in a 6-5 Phillies win.
When the NLDS was over, Ruiz finished with a .308 average and three RBI in four games.
When the Rockies were scouting Phillies hitters they had to be careful of, they surely started with Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. And Raul Ibanez and Jayson Werth. They would have discussed the importance of keeping Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino off the bases.
They surely didn't expect Ruiz to go all Yogi Berra on them.
After all, his reputation is as a defensive catcher from whom any plate production is a bonus. He's a career .246 hitter. He bats as far down in the order as possible without being the pitcher for crying out loud.
The funny thing is that he's developing a pattern of turning into a much better hitter once the postseason arrives.
In the 2007 NLDS against Colorado, he batted .333. Last year he didn't do much against the Brewers in the first round, but hit .313 against the Dodgers in the NLCS and .375 against Tampa Bay in the World Series after hitting just .219 in the regular season and ending the schedule in a deep slump that had many suggesting that Chris Coste should catch every day.
"I don't know. It's funny. We talked about it recently," Phillies bullpen coach Mick Billmeyer said. "When there's TV games he's been playing well. Check out the ESPN and Fox games. I just think he likes the stage. He'll fool you a little bit. He has fun when it really counts. He enjoys that. That's what I like about him. I can't explain it but I know one thing. He's not afraid."
Ruiz shrugged when asked about his apparent ability to turn it on when the games count most.
"I'm just trying to relax," he said. "I try to do that in the regular season, too. But now it's like whatever happened in the regular season is over. I put it in my mind that maybe I can help my team with my offense.
"So I just try to relax and think about one pitch at a time. That's what I try to do and so far it's worked."
And now that he's done it, he has the confidence that he can continue doing it.
"Definitely, yes. When you're playing in the postseason, it's something special," he said. "And you tell yourself that you can do it, that you can get better every day." *