ALLENTOWN — The sound heard at Coca-Cola Park on Saturday night a few times was “Choooch” — the nickname for rehabbing Philadelphia Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz.
The chant could have been mistaken for some boos because Scranton/Wilkes-Barre pitcher David Huff ruined Ruiz’ first rehab game for Phillies fans in attendance. Huff combined with four other pitchers to hold Lehigh Valley to just six hits, while the RailRiders offense pounded out 16 in a 7-0 victory.
Huff, who was pitching on just three days of rest after starting the second game of a doubleheader on Tuesday, was dealing. He started the game throwing four perfect innings and needing just 44 pitches to do so.
Huff retired the first batter in the bottom of the fifth before the IronPigs’ Cody Overbeck laced a single to left for Lehigh Valley’s first baserunner of the game. Once Josh Fields followed with a single to put runners on first and second, Huff’s night was done before the sun went down.
Mark Montgomery, just activated off the disabled list, relieved Huff and got out of the frame without allowing the runs to score.
Huff lasted 4 1/3 innings only giving up the two hits and fanning two. He had good command throwing 56 pitches with 37 going for strikes. Huff said he didn’t feel good prior to the game during his bullpen session, but he sure didn’t look rusty.
“I don’t know how to describe it, but it felt like I didn’t have any feel for anything,” Huff said. “Yeah, I did just come off three days so I thought I’d be locked in, but it just honestly felt like a weird feeling. I wasn’t hurt. I felt good physically. I just didn’t have the feel for it today.”
Ruiz, on a rehab assignment from a right hamstring strain suffered on May 19, went 0-for-2 with a pop-out to third and a fly-out to center against Huff. The 34-year-old backstop is coming off a season in which he registered career highs in home runs (16), RBI (68) and hits (121) among other categories en route to his first selection to the All-Star Game.
He began the season late due to being suspended for 25 games for using a banned amphetamine, so he only played in 16 games, registering 51 at-bats for the Phillies before the injury. So he’s anxious to get back.
“I didn’t try too hard to press myself. I’m trying to get my timing down and hopefully when I come back I can get my swing going and go from there,” said Ruiz, who will play in today’s series finale for seven innings before heading to Reading to finish his assignment on Tuesday and Wednesday. “I feel great and that’s important to me.”
While Huff was shutting down the IronPigs, the RailRiders offense, which hasn’t fared too well against left-handed pitchers this season, was grooving against Lehigh Valley southpaw Raul Valdes.
The RailRiders began the game with a 5-10 record when going against a lefty starter this season and hitting just .226 (120-530) against them. Those numbers didn’t matter in the top of the first against Valdes as SWB registered a hit batsman then three hits in its next three at bats to take a 2-0 lead before an out was recorded.
Left-handed hitting Dan Johnson came through with the two-run single. Josh Bell followed with a sac fly for a 3-0 lead. They were at it again in the top of the second, stringing together three straight one-out hits, including a run-scoring single by J.R. Murphy – who notched his first three hits in Triple-A – to give the RailRiders a 4-0 advantage.
In the first two innings, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre hit .545 (6-for-11) off Valdes.
Another lefty, Greg Smith — who pitched briefly for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees in 2011 — relieved Valdes in the seventh. The RailRiders got two hits off him as well. On the night against left-handers, they finished with 10 hits in 29 at-bats, a .344 average.
Walter Ibarra had run-scoring doubles in the eighth and ninth innings for the RailRiders and Addison Maruszak knocked in a run with a sacrifice fly to cap the scoring.