Philadelphia prospect Darin Ruf is putting up the kind of numbers in Reading that place him in elite company. But for now, he's just trying to soak everything in and enjoy his historic season.
Ruf homered for the 18th time this month and Trevor May allowed a run on two hits while striking out nine batters over eight innings as the Double-A Phillies beat the Binghamton Mets, 4-1, on Monday.
"It's beyond anything I could have dreamed of," Ruf said. "I'm trying to enjoy every minute of it. I'm enjoying it with my family and friends, and everyone back in Omaha is rooting for me.
"It's been a lot of fun. It's always fun when you come to the ballpark and the games mean something. It's such a great feeling. It's beyond words."
Ruf, Philadelphia's No. 12 prospect, now has a Minors-leading 36 homers on the year, and he is in contention to win the Eastern League Triple Crown.
He is one home run shy of tying Ryan Howard's franchise record. The slugging first baseman went deep 37 times for the R-Phils in 102 games back in 2004.
The 26-year-old also broke Greg Luzinski's 42-year-old record for total bases. Ruf has 288 total bases to The Bull's 287, set in 141 games in 1970.
"I just think, later on in the year, you've seen pitchers a few times and you can almost get inside their mechanics and their rhythm," Ruf said. "It's always nice when you're seeing the ball out of their hand and reacting to the pitch instead of trying to guess or anticipate.
"In my wildest dreams, I would never imagine being in this position. [Howard] has obviously gone on to much greater things at the Major League level, so just being in the same conversation with him is special. It's something I'll be able to tell my kids."
After flying out in the first inning and singling in the third, Ruf homered to left-center field to lead off the fifth.
Only one person -- Albuquerque's Scott Seabol -- had hit 15 homers in a single calendar month since 2005. He hit 15 in May 2006. Mike Hessman's 14 homers in 26 June games was the highest single-month total this year, but Ruf has shattered that mark.
"It was just a fastball middle-in," Ruf said of his 36th longball. "He made a good pitch with the fastball the pitch before, but I put a good swing on the next one. The wind was blowing out, so maybe that helped. When you're feeling good at the plate, you don't miss those pitches, and right now, my timing is there.
"Every day when they announce I'm hitting, I can really tell the applause from the fans and I really appreciate that. They pay to watch us play and we want to put on a show for them. Reading is known as 'Baseball Town' and they respect players who play the game hard and the right way."
Selected by the Phillies in the 20th round of the 2009 Draft out of Creighton University, Ruf's .317 batting average ranks third in the Eastern League behind Akron's Chun-Hsiu Chen (.318) and Altoona's Brock Holt (.322).
His 36 homers are 12 more than Trenton's Luke Murton, who ranks second on the circuit. He also moved one RBI ahead of New Britain's Chris Colabello for the league lead.
"I would be lying if I said I expected to come out and put up 30-something home runs, but any time you're on a quality team like this one here, it's a lot easier to play," said the first baseman, who started his 23rd game in left field to try and avoid the logjam with Howard in Philadelphia.
"Pitchers on other teams have to respect our lineup one through nine, because we can all hit. It's nice to have that stability."
Behind Ruf's offense, Reading starter May (10-12) knew he would have a great chance to earn his first win in four starts by throwing up zeros.
Philly's top prospect allowed a solo homer to Wilmer Flores with two outs in the first, but he settled down and retired 16 of the next 17 batters he faced.
Flores, the Mets' No. 6 prospect, then singled back up the middle to lead off the seventh, but May induced a ground-ball double play off following batter Eric Campbell as he set down the final five B-Mets.
"The starters know that if you can throw a solid outing, Ruf will get four RBIs and you'll win," May said.
"I would definitely say this is a step in the right direction for me. I was using the curveball a lot and the changeup really set up the fastball. This was probably the best one of the year. I had a one-hitter in April and a no-hitter through 6 2/3, but because of my command tonight, this was the best.
As a pitcher, May -- ranked as MLB.com's No. 43 prospect -- is just happy to be in the same clubhouse as Ruf.
"It's absolutely amazing. For anyone to hit 18 innings in a month is unbelievable. I don't know how many Barry Bonds hit in a month in his 73 [home run] season, but that could put it into context," May said. "It's a running joke in the dugout that we don't call his home runs, we call his non-home runs because they are more rare.
"He's chasing Ryan Howard's Reading record and he took the Minors' lead. The fact that he's still on this torrid pace and he's not letting it get to him is great. Cody Asche is hitting .400 this month, but nobody notices because of Ruf. Everyone is feeding off each other. I've seen Ruf get 500 at-bats, and I still don't know how I would approach him."
For the record, Bonds never went deep more than 17 times in any one month in his record-breaking MVP year of 2001. That puts Ruf is in elite company indeed.