The presence of Gio Gonzalez, a difficult Nationals left-hander, prompted Ryne Sandberg to adopt a different approach Tuesday night. The Phillies manager ditched Monday's lineup, which he used in 14 of the season's first 131 games, and inserted four new names.
Freddy Galvis played second base for his first major-league start since May 8; he crushed a Gonzalez chest-high fastball for a two-run homer in the fifth inning. Darin Ruf started for the third time in 10 games; he smashed a Gonzalez fastball for a solo home run in the sixth.
The Phillies won, 4-3, their sixth victory in eight games, when Carlos Ruiz hit an eighth-inning sacrifice fly. In the top half of the inning, Washington had cracked Cole Hamels, who needed just 59 pitches for six shutout innings, to tie the game. But Galvis and Ruf provided enough support to permit Hamels a no-decision.
Those players entered a crowded lineup rotation. The picture will grow more complicated in September. Maikel Franco, one of the team's top prospects, celebrated his 22d birthday Tuesday with a grand slam at triple-A Lehigh Valley. He has four homers in his last five games during a torrid streak that has raised his batting average to .255 and OPS to .725.
The Phillies are hesitant to promote Franco without the guarantee of significant playing time. Ryan Howard and Cody Asche are entrenched at the corner positions, which would make a shuffle awkward. The front office must confront these scenarios, the future's collision with the present, over the next week.
Ruf elevated his status from nondescript 20th-round pick to fans' cause to celebrate. He has 20 homers in his first 336 major-league at-bats, which have spanned three seasons. Houston rookie George Springer is the only player with as many homers in fewer at-bats (295) than Ruf since 2012. That power is difficult to ignore.
While Ruf's future could be as a platoon player, the Phillies could gain some more intelligence on the 28-year-old's ability with increased at-bats. Last September, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said, "I can't sit here and tell you that he's an everyday player for us."
The topic was broached again Monday.
"Can he be an everyday player?" Amaro said. "We haven't made a final decision on that yet."
Galvis started the season 2-for-42, which caused a demotion to triple A. The 24-year-old infielder broke his collarbone there but showed an improved power stroke in subsequent games. Sandberg is comfortable with Galvis at shortstop, second base, and third base. His future as an everyday player, like Ruf's, is the subject of debate.
Hamels, at least, is a cornerstone. He started the eighth inning at 81 pitches after allowing two runs in the seventh, and surrendered an Asdrubal Cabrera homer on his 84th pitch. Sandberg emerged with the hook. Ken Giles replaced Hamels, struck out the side on 13 pitches, and hopped from the mound in celebration.
This was a good night for some of the young Phillies.
(c)2014 The Philadelphia Inquirer
Visit The Philadelphia Inquirer at www.philly.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services