Chase Utley collides with catcher Dioner Navarro on a play at the plate during the seventh inning of the Phillies' 5-2 loss to the Cubs. (AP)
There are a lot of reasons why the Phillies are about to announce a contract extension for Chase Utley (see story).
One of them is the all-out, all-the-time style of play that Philadelphia fans have loved since the days of Concrete Charlie, Bobby Clarke and Brian Dawkins, and Utley displayed it vividly in the seventh inning of Wednesday’s night game against the Chicago Cubs.
The Phillies lost the game, 5-2, after the Cubs’ Donnie Murphy smacked his second homer of the game, a three-run shot with two outs in the top of the ninth (see Instant Replay).
The Phils are 3-14 since the all-star break and dead in the standings, so the outcome really doesn’t matter.
What you look for these days are glimmers of hope for the future -- the bullpen offered none Wednesday night -- and some entertainment value.
Utley offered the entertainment in this game -- and possibly a glimmer of hope for the future if his gutsy style of play rubs off on the young players that will form this team’s future.
Not in the starting lineup because the Cubs had a lefty, Travis Wood, on the mound, Utley came off the bench in the bottom of the seventh inning and laced a pinch single up the middle to tie the game at 2-2.
Moments later, Utley made a bid to score the go-ahead run from second base on a single to right field by Kevin Frandsen. Cubs rightfielder Cole Gillespie uncorked a perfect throw to catcher Dioner Navarro, who blocked the plate and withstood a hard collision to get Utley at the plate.
It would have been easy for Utley to let up on the gas -- the guy does have a degenerative knee condition -- and take his chances sliding into the plate, but he did not do that. He crashed into Navarro, trying to dislodge the ball. Navarro hung on for the out, but was carted from the field with a right ankle injury. X-rays were negative and the Cubs absolved Utley of any wrongdoing. It was old-fashioned hardball.
“Obviously, I wanted to be safe,” Utley said afterward. “I tried to knock the ball loose. I give him a lot of credit for hanging in there as long as he did and hanging on to the ball. That’s probably a big reason why they won the game. I definitely tip my hat to him.”
Replays showed that Utley might have been able to sneak his foot in had he slid, but “unfortunately, when you’re out there playing as fast as you can you don’t have replay,” Utley said. “The play happened so fast. I didn’t feel I had many options.”
The Phils ended up leaving the bases loaded in the inning and they lost it in the ninth when rookie reliever Luis Garcia walked three batters (catcher Erik Kratz picked off one of them) and Justin De Fratus allowed a three-run homer to Murphy. Just up from the minors, Murphy homered twice in the game. He also homered Tuesday night.
“The game was there for us and we couldn’t do enough to get it,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “And all of a sudden Murphy becomes Babe Ruth.”
Manuel often uses closer Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth inning of a tie game at home, but he did not do so because of Papelbon’s heavy recent workload. Papelbon threw 30 pitches Tuesday night and pitched Sunday and Saturday.
“We were staying away from Pap,” Manuel said. “If we got the lead we would have put him in.”
Cole Hamels pitched well. He allowed just two runs over seven walk-free innings before leaving for a pinch-hitter.
Hamels did not get a decision. He is 4-13 with a 3.81 ERA. Over his last 12 starts, he has an ERA of 2.85. You can win a lot of ballgames with an ERA like that, but the Phils are just 6-18 in Hamels’ 24 starts.
Though he is not happy with this lost season, Hamels seems at peace just taking the mound.
“I’m trying to make it fun instead of stressing over things I can’t control,” he said. “I’m just going out and trying to enjoy myself on the mound.”
The Phillies and Cubs play the rubber game of the series Thursday afternoon. The Phils are trying to avoid losing their sixth straight series.