The Los Angeles Dodgers officially welcomed Carlos Ruiz on Friday, handing him A.J. Ellis’ old locker and sliding Ruiz into the lineup in the series opener against the Chicago Cubs. He went 1-for-3 with a walk and hit by pitch.
Ruiz reached safely in each of his first three plate appearances. However, it was Ruiz’s part behind the plate in the ninth inning that took the spotlight. The Dodgers handed the ball over to Kenley Jansen with a 4-3 lead.
Jason Heyward pulled Jansen’s first pitch of the ninth inning down the line for a double. Heyward’s presence at second base appeared to disrupt the Dodgers’ closer.
Jansen eventually struck out Jorge Soler, but Ruiz attempted to make a backhanded catch and the ball kicked away to his left. Heyward easily advanced to third base, while the out was recorded at first base.
Jansen’s next pitch was a 95 mph cutter that missed high, skipped of Ruiz’s glove and sailed to the backstop. Heyward came flying home to tie the game. Kris Bryant’s second home run on the night, a two-run shot, won it in the 10th.
“I have no excuses. I should have caught that ball,” Ruiz said after the loss. “I don’t know what happened. It was the first time I ever caught him. His ball was moving really good. And it surprised me right there.”
Like Ellis, Ruiz had spent his entire professional career with one team. As such, his only experience with Jansen on the mound came as an opposing batter. “His fastball is really good, it has late movement. It’s different when you’re facing him than catching,” Ruiz explained.
Jansen didn’t put blame on his new catcher but the blown save, his sixth of the season, was a painful part of the learning curve. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts noted there’s difficulty in catching Jansen, amid the knee-jerk reaction to fault Ruiz for failing to corral either pitch.
“The first one on the strikeout, that’s a tough block for anyone. The other one was just a misfire with the cutter. Obviously, there’s lack of familiarity,” Roberts said. “Kenley is tough for anyone to catch.
“His ball does a lot of different things. It’s a late-life cutter. If you look back at our season, there’s been many times where catchers have caught Kenley’s pitches clean. I think it’s more magnified tonight, but it’s not the first time it’s happened.”
Ruiz said he’d put the game behind him and continue to work toward growing more familiar with not only Jansen, but the entire Dodgers pitching staff.