October 03, 2011
It was a collision worthy of one of those old "Batman" action bubbles.
Bam! Pow! Sock!
In the top of the fourth inning of Sunday's NLDS Game 2, St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay(notes) rounded third on a single to left by Rafael Furcal(notes). Philadelphia left fielder Raul Ibanez(notes) came up throwing, Jay barreled home and Carlos Ruiz(notes), the city's cult favorite catcher, came out in front of the plate and prepared to stand his ground.
Oof! It's not every day that you want to reach for an ice bag and bottle of aspirin just while watching the result of one single baseball play. But the leading forearm that Jay landed to Chooch's mug did exactly that. My jaw feels swollen just typing this.
Even more amazing: Ruiz, known for his love of ice cream, didn't melt. He easily hung on to the ball for the last out of the inning, preserving what was a one-run Philadelphia lead at the time and earning the tough catcher plenty of plaudits from his fans and teammates.
"Chooch [Ruiz] is the best catcher I've ever played with as far as staying in there and blocking the plate," Ibanez said. "So it's not surprising he takes the hit and makes a great play."
Given the play's violent nature and Jay's decision to turn into running back, it seemed like the collision would be a big topic in the postgame clubhouses. Even Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said he expected to be talking about it as one of the game's main turning points as Ruiz's ability saved a run in a key moment.
But with the Cardinals eventually landing a surprising 5-4 victory, the controversy never quite bloomed. Judging from the postgame articles, there was more talk about umpire Jerry Meals' strike zone and Cliff Lee's struggles than whether Jay's play was dirty.
It probably helped matters that Ruiz wasn't hurt and quickly brushed off the encounter.
So what was Jay thinking when he tried to knock the ball loose when it looked like a proper slide to the outside corner of the plate probably would have tied the game?
"I thought [the collision] was my only option," Jay said. "Ibanez put the throw on the money, and I knew it was going to be close, so that was my only option right there, and I went for it."
That he did. But Ruiz was there. What resulted was a baseball game producing Sunday's best football highlight. Three cheers for Ruiz, right after you pass the Tylenol.