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May 09, 2017

Mariners overcome two four-run deficits to beat Phillies in Chooch's return

It was as if he had gone incognito, wearing an unfamiliar navy uniform and helmet and the uniform No. 52. (Apparently a pretty decent player in Seattle Mariners history wore No.51 and it was unavailable).

But, sure enough, that was Carlos Ruiz, the long-time beloved catcher of the Philadelphia Phillies, wielding a bat next to the on-deck circle outside the visiting dugout at Citizens Bank Park in the eighth inning of a tie game between the Phils and Mariners.

Any fans that had decided to stick around in the third hour of the see-saw game were brought to their seats when the famous drum riff of Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” blared over the 14-year-old ballpark’s speakers as Ruiz strolled to the plate to pinch hit.

Even if the welcoming would have been better earlier in the game (Seattle manager Scott Servais dropped the proverbial ball here), the 38-year-old Ruiz was feted with a hero’s welcome from the fans that remained from the announced crowd of 31,715.

Ruiz, who doffed his cap to the crowd from the dugout after being greeted with a tribute video on Phanavision in the middle of the third inning, received a hearty standing ovation in the eighth. He received another when he hustled back to the dugout after flying out to center field.


Ruiz’s role in Tuesday’s game was nothing more than a cameo, though. A game that saw the Phillies blow two separate four-run leads came to a merciful end nearly four hours after it began, when Seattle's Taylor Motter hit a two-out, run-scoring double off of Hector Neris in the top of the ninth to deliver the Mariners a 10-9 win.

"That’s a tough one to lose," manager Pete Mackanin said. "They just kept picking away at us and scoring here and there."

The loss was the 9th in the last 11 games for the Phillies.

The Good: Aaron Altherr has basically produced at least one highlight a night (on offense or defense, and often both) since Howie Kendrick was placed on the disabled list with an oblique strain three weeks ago. 

On Tuesday night it was a three-run home run in the fourth inning that helped the Phillies reclaim a lead after watching a 4-0 lead turn into a 5-4 deficit a half inning earlier. The three-run home run was Altherr’s second in as many games (he hit a pinch-hit, game-tying three-run shot on Sunday). 

Since Kendrick landed on the DL, Altherr is slashing .362/.448/.690 with four home runs and seven doubles in 18 games. That'll play.

 "If I had to make that decision now, based on, what, 60 at-bats, I'd say yes," Mackanin said when asked before the game if Altherr has done enough to win a permanent job in his regular lineup. "But as far as down the road, for me he needs to sustain what he's doing now. I see no reason why he won't with the shorter swing he's come up with. I don't see any reason why he won't continue to hit."

The Bad: Jerad Eickhoff, who turned a 4-0 lead into a 5-4 deficit, lasted just 3 2/3 innings. It was the shortest start of his career Eickhoff has an 8.40 ERA in his last three starts.

"I personally think I let these guys down," Eickhoff said. "I know we turned it around and we scored some runs, but it starts with me, and that can’t happen in that situation."

"I’ve never seen him where he didn’t really have a good idea with most of his pitches," Mackanin said. "Like I said, we haven’t seen him like that. He’s allowed to have a bad game every once in a while."

Eickhoff said he was "fighting himself" through the 83-pitch start and had trouble repeating his delivery.

"I had trouble hitting my spots like I wanted to," he said.

The Ugly: Hector Neris entered a tie game in the ninth and faced six batters. Three of them reached base (two hits, one walk) and one ended up scoring the go-ahead run. Neris has an 8.64 ERA in 8 1/3 innings of work in the ninth inning this year. He hasn’t allowed a run in the 9 1/3 other innings he’s pitched in this season.

The Ugly, Part II: Maikel Franco went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts and an error in Tuesday's loss. Franco is hitless in his last 12 at-bats and is hitting .171  with 12 strikeouts and one extra-base hit in 35 at-bats in nine games since April 29.

Overall, Franco is hitting .208 with a .281 OBP and .358 slugging percentage. His five errors are tied with Chicago's Kris Bryant for the most among NL third baseman.

Mackanin said he'd likely give Franco the day off on Wednesday to "regroup." 

"I think he’s a little down right now," Mackanin said. "He knows he’s not playing his best. He looks a little confused at this point in time. We’ve got to get him back on track."


Follow Ryan on Twitter: @ryanlawrence21

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