Darin Ruf is familiar with the ups and downs of the game. Hot streaks will go cold, slumps will be broken. The key is getting the most out of it when times are good.
And right now, he's getting quite a lot out of his good stretch.
The Double-A Reading infielder homered for the fourth straight game and plated six runs Thursday as the Phillies cruised past the New Britain Rock Cats, 10-3.
Over four games, Ruf is 8-for-14, with the four homers, two doubles and 13 RBIs.
"You just play as well as you can for as long as you can," said the 25-year-old. "You'll hit a stretch where things aren't going as well, you just fight through that. You'll have times where you are seeing the ball, squaring it up and things are going your way and you just try to extend the lengths of those times.
"I don't know if I've hit quite like this before, though. It's a good little run."
In May, Ruf has been on something of a hot streak. After going 0-for-4 on the first day of the month, he's hit safely in each of his last eight games. In nine games this month, he's hitting .484 (15-for-31) with four of his five homers this season and 16 of his 26 RBIs, most in the Eastern League.
The hot start to the month has him hitting .393 with a .444 on-base percentage and .624 slugging percentage in 32 total games this season, putting him first in the league in average and slugging percentage and second in OBP.
"I've recognized pitches early on in the pitcher's hand, and I'm not missing their mistake pitches," said the Creighton University product. "I'm putting balls in play, getting the barrel to the ball. Every once in a while, if you get a little elevation and you square it up, you can take it out."
Ruf credits part of his offensive production this year with the routine he's developed in part with Reading hitting coach Frank Cacciatore.
"[Cacciatore] put it into place this year where each hitter has to be in the cage at least five minutes, and that really helps you kind of develop a routine, where you're doing the same thing every day," said Ruf. "You know if there's a specific area you need to work on. That's when you can address it. I've just been working on throwing my hands at the ball and listening to what he's been saying, and so far it's worked out."
A 20th-round Draft pick in 2009 by Philadelphia, Ruf is getting his first exposure to the Eastern League after spending all of last season and part of 2010 with Class A Advanced Clearwater. He's handled it well, as evidenced by his ascent to the top of most of the offensive statistical categories in the league.
"It's just nice when you can help your team win," said Ruf. "There are nine guys in the lineup, and each guy wants to be that guy every night. Some nights you get to be the one with runners in scoring position, other nights you might be the guy on base scoring the run, and then some nights, you might be 0-for-4 and having nothing to do with it.
"The main thing is you get the win, and if you get to be the one driving in the run or scoring them, all the better."