(Reading, Pa.)---While the Reading Phillies (74-64) put down the Binghamton Mets (66-72), 7-2, in its regular season home finale, most of the talk of the 7,917 fans in Baseballtown centered on Darin Ruf and Justin Friend after the duo had a history-making night.
The slugger surpassed Ryan Howard's single-season record of 37 home runs to become the new Reading baseball home run king. Ruf's historical 38th shot came in the second inning off Binghamton starter Darin Gorski. The home run was the 20th in 30 August games for Ruf, tying Sammy Sosa's professional baseball record of 20 HR in a single month. With four games remaining, Ruf has the chance to reach the Eastern League record of 41 home runs in a single season set by Ken Strong in 1930 and reached by Rick Lancellotti in 1979.
The three-run home run came on a 3-2 count with two outs in the second inning off of Binghamton starter and Kutztown alum Darin Gorski. Reading tallied six runs in the inning thanks to a pair of run-scoring doubles from Tyson Gillies and pitcher Austin Hyatt. Ruf capped off the inning with his record-breaking blast.
By going 2-for-4 with a single, Ruf increased his batting average to .321, one point behind Eastern League leader Brock Holt of the Altoona Curve. If Ruf finishes atop the Eastern League batting leaders, he will be the first Reading Phillies player to win the Triple Crown and just the sixth in the Eastern League's 90-year history to do so.
Closer Justin Friend tied the single-season saves mark of 24 in Reading baseball history with a save, albeit an unconventional one. After reliever Jordan Whatcott loaded the bases in the ninth inning with one out, manager Dusty Wathan called for Friend in the game. Friend quickly got Sean Kazmar to ground into a 1-2-3 double play to end the game. Because the tying run was in the on deck circle, Friend received his 24th save in 24 save opportunities, matching the mark set by Toby Borland in 1991 and Wayne Gomes in 1996. He is 2-0 with a 0.24 ERA in 37 games this season.
Austin Hyatt had another quality outing as the right-handed pitcher struck out four batters and held Mets hitters to two earned runs over 6.2 innings pitched. Hyatt even helped out his own cause by knocking a two-run, two-out double in the second inning. In his past 10 starts with Reading, Hyatt is 7-3 with a 3.79 ERA.
Reading improved its magic number to two after the win on Thursday night. The R-Phils can clinch a playoff berth in the Eastern League Eastern Division as early as Friday night with a win against the Sea Dogs and a loss by the Rock Cats.
RHP Brody Colvin (1-3/9.51 ERA) leads the R-Phils on Friday as the team looks to make the Eastern League playoffs for the second straight year. Tune into 1340 WRAW-AM on the radio dial or online at 1340WRAW.com starting at 6:05 p.m. for the game broadcast with the voice of the Reading Phillies, Brian Seltzer.
Tickets for the 2012 Eastern League Playoffs can be purchased online at www.RPhils.com, by phone at 610-370-BALL, and in person at the R-Phils Ticket Office at FirstEnergy Stadium. The 2012 season featuring the Baseballtown All-Star Classic at America's Classic Ballpark is presented by Pepsi.