I had hoped to write a little ditty about Chase Utley last night, but a couple of things happened. One, we were informed by the Phillies that the All-Star second baseman would be available on the podium at 11 a.m. on Thursday.
Yeah, Chase Utley on the podium. Imagine that.
Normally, Chase Utley is about as interesting as shoving a Bic pen into your middle ear when it comes to talking about baseball. The guy is just not into it, which I don’t understand but accept. Some people don’t like talking about their jobs—what are you going to do?
However, upon waiting to see if Utley would come into the clubhouse after the victory in Game 1 on Wednesday evening, I was told that he would not be discussing his work with the big media throng. Or even the smallish one that waited around, for that matter.
“He didn’t really do anything,” I was told.
For a second I thought it was me. Maybe I shouldn’t believe my lying eyes? Maybe something occurred in the game that I completely missed… you know, whiffed on. But then I took a nanosecond to scout the outline of the ballgame in my mind, and blurted out.
“He got a key hit, swiped a base that was huge and played defense,” came the blurt. “Plus, the last time he faced the Rockies in a Game 1 of a playoff series he struck out four times on 13 pitches. He’s an All-Star with a .154 average in the NLDS and a .213 playoff average.
“He was integral!”
By that point I was standing by myself in the middle of the clubhouse bantering out loud like a crazy person on the street. It could have been worse, though. Instead of talking about baseball I could have been imitating trumpet noises as if I were the acapella version of Chet Baker because who doesn’t like to do that when they are alone and talking to themselves?
The point remains, though—Chase Utley was a big part of the Game 1 victory for the Phillies. Yes, he rode a 3-for-37 from the regular season into the playoffs and struck out in his first two plate appearances to stretch his hitless streak to 18 at-bats.
“Zero-for-a week,” I said to no one in particular when Utley struck out a second time.
But his leadoff single and stolen base in the sixth inning broke the game open like a piñata. To that point the Rockies’ hard-throwing righty Ubaldo Jimenez had been dealing. He needed 46 pitches to buzz through the first four innings and looked as if he was going to settle in nicely. However, in the fifth inning an eight-pitch leadoff walk to Jayson Werth resulted in a pair of runs to set the table for Utley’s table-setting. With the second baseman in scoring position after the stolen base, Jimenez was like Randall “Tex” Cobb in that fight against Larry Holmes. Sure, he was standing, but please, for the love of God, someone throw in the towel or stop it or make the guy go down.
A long double by Ryan Howard and a crazy triple from Werth delivered the knockout punch.
And it all started with Utley…
Who didn’t really do anything.
Statage: Utley is 2-for-12 in opening games of the NLDS and 6-for-20 with two homers in opening games of playoff series.