Everyone wins when Darin Ruf gets on a roll like this.
The Phillies prospect homered for the fifth straight game Wednesday, blasting his Eastern League-leading 29th of the year in the sixth inning of Double-A Reading's 6-5 loss to visiting Trenton.
"The front office is loving it, too, more ticket sales," Ruf said with a laugh of his streak. "Whatever keeps the fans coming. And it's a cool streak. Whatever comes out of it, it's been all positive so far."
Ruf, an Eastern League All-Star batting .313, sparked a four-run rally in the sixth with a two-run shot off Thunder starter Shaeffer Hall. It was his sixth longball during the streak and 11th in his last 13 games. The R-Phils had won three straight entering Wednesday.
"I've felt pretty comfortable at the plate for about a week and a half, trying to get started and get my foot down on time, just being ready to hit any pitch that's thrown," said Ruf, who's batting over 100 points higher in August than he did in July. "I'm recognizing the ball out of the pitcher's hand a little better than I have over the course of the year."
Ruf, the Phillies' top-ranked first base prospect, moved into fifth place on Reading's single-season home run list with 29. Ryan Howard hit a club-record 37 in 2004.
Ruf came up with one out in the sixth after Tyson Gillies was hit by a pitch. Hall, a left-hander, had given up 12 homers in his first 23 starts, so the stage was set.
"Tyson led off the inning with a hit-by-pitch, so I'm just kinda looking to drive him in, drive the ball somewhere," Ruf sald. "Facing Hall, he left a changeup up a bit and I got my hands extended a little bit. It happened to carry over the fence and then Tommy Joseph kept the rally going a little bit and Jiwan James came up with the hit and Miggy [Miguel Abreu] got a nice double to cap of the inning."
Ruf, who hit 17 homers for Class A Advanced Clearwater last season, said the streak and any pressure to keep it alive vanish once the game begins. While some players might be superstitious about a hot streak, Ruf said he just keeps it out of his mind.
"Not when I get in the box," he said. "Once the game starts, you kinda go out there and help the team win any way I can. And it's fun before and after the game, but after the first pitch is thrown, you kind of play that game and hope everything goes well."
The 2009 20th-round Draft pick out of Creighton University has enjoyed a breakout season after earning Florida State League postseason All-Star honors last summer. And after hitting .261 in July, he's batting .362 with 11 homers and 16 RBIs in 15 games this month.
"It's baseball. I'm just trying to ride it out as long as I can," Ruf said. "You're gonna get streaks where you're not doing as well and the baseball seems like a golf ball."
These days, it's looking like the moon. The 26-year-old left fielder was hitless in his first two games in August, then blasted a pair of solo shots on Aug. 3 to start his current run. He's hit safely in 11 of his last 13 games, leads all Minor Leaguers in homers this month and has four more than San Diego's Chase Headley, who leads the Majors with seven in August.
Ruf said he hasn't made any dramatic changes to his swing this season, but he appreciates the results.
"Not anything mechanically, I've just worked on the same thing all year with our hitting coach, Frank Cacciatore, just trying to drop my hands on the ball, use as much of my hands as I can," he said. "And I'm starting to feel comfortable a little more now. I'm starting to translate things from working in the cage to on the field and it's nice to see when you've been working on something for three or four months, doing those reps over and over.
"It's feeling a little more natural and comfortable, and it's big when it can translate like this."
Reading has jumped on the homer parade, too, taking to Twitter with graphics depicting everything from Ruf's head superimposed on Babe Ruth's body to Chuck Norris wearing Darin Ruf pajamas.
Ruf's teammates aren't letting the success slip by unnoticed, either.
"Yeah, they're loving it," he said. "They're doing all they can do to make sure I know about it, over Twitter. The Reading Phillies are having some fun with it, so it's fun and it's nice when they're all having some fun with it."
Over the last week, Ruf went deep in back-to-back games against New Britain, hit two homers against Trenton on Monday and followed that with two-run shots on Tuesday and Wednesday.
It's not Ruf's first hot streak -- he homered in four straight games from May 6-10 (Trenton and New Britain also were victimized in that outburst). And he had a three-game streak last July 23-26 with Clearwater.
Overall, Ruf ranks third in the Minors in homers, trailing Wil Myers of Triple-A Omaha (34) and Mike Hessman of Triple-A Oklahoma City (30).
"I'm very pleased with how I've played so far," Ruf said. "I think a lot of the success comes with being in a good lineup all year. I have guys all over the place that can get on base and drive me in if I get on base. And it's always nice when you have that comfort level with your teammates."
At 66-57, Reading is five games back in the Eastern League's Eastern Division with less than a month go to.
"I hope to finish the season strong," Ruf said. "We have about 20 games left and every game means something coming down the stretch with the playoff race. You want to keep the season going and it's nice when you have some meaningful games to play. It keeps you locked in."