MIAMI – Chase Utley is one of the smartest guys in the Phillies’ clubhouse, but when it comes to postgame commentary, he likes to keep it bland.
That’s what made his remarks after Friday night’s 3-1 win over the Miami Marlins in 10 innings so interesting (see Instant Replay).
“It’s going to be a fun summer,” Utley said. “I like our squad. We’ve improved offensively and our pitching staff is good. I think we’ll continue to improve on all that.”
A bold prediction it wasn’t, but hearing one of the team’s foundation players say it’s going to be a fun summer had to be heartening to any Phillies fan. Because, after all, what’s more fun than a little winning? (That’s a rhetorical question.)
The Phillies have done some winning lately. They have rebounded from their 2-5 start with three straight wins to even their record at 5-5. Friday night’s victory over the Marlins featured excellent starting pitching, strong bullpen work, clutch defense late in the game and a big hit from Utley when it mattered most.
Utley lined an RBI triple into the right-field corner to score Ben Revere from first base and break a 1-1 tie with two outs in the top of the 10th.
Michael Young followed with a base hit to push home an insurance run. The Phillies had been just 2 for 12 with runners in scoring position before Young’s hit.
Utley’s game-breaking triple came on a full-count changeup from Jon Rauch, so Revere was moving on the pitch.
“Utley smoked it,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “I figured the longer the game went we’d knock in a big run.”
Utley missed significant time in the first half of the last two seasons. He played in his first opening day since 2010 earlier this month and has come out of the gate with a vengeance. In 10 games, he is hitting .316 with two doubles, two triples, two homers and 10 RBIs. He’s slugging .632 and his on-base percentage is .372. His go-ahead triple extended his on-base streak to 10 straight games -- all 10 the Phils have played.
“He’s playing good and running good,” Manuel said. “And, of course, we need him. We need him to have a big season.”
First-year Phillie John Lannan, who pitched six innings of one-run ball for his second quality start in as many outings, is used to seeing Utley take over a game, only as an opponent.
“That’s what I’ve seen for so many years on the other side,” said Lannan, who spent the previous seven seasons with Washington. “He’s healthy and back to being the guy who wreaked havoc on the games I pitched against the Phillies.”
Utley was not only an offensive difference-maker Friday night. In the eighth and ninth innings, he and shortstop Jimmy Rollins combined on a pair of huge, inning-ending double plays. The one that ended the eighth came with a runner on third base. Utley and Rollins were playing up looking to either cut the run or turn two. When Donovan Solano hit it hard enough at Utley, the Phils’ second baseman decided to go for two and made the feed to Rollins who fired to first to end the threat.
“That’s what we need to do to win games,” Utley said.
The Marlins have the worst record in baseball at 1-9 and they have scored just 17 runs in 10 games. Their offense was even weaker in this one as their best player and No. 3 hitter Giancarlo Stanton was scratched with a sore shoulder just before game time (see story). Lannan was already warming up when he saw the news on the video board above center field.
Score that as a break for the Phillies.
After Lannan, the Phils got scoreless work from four relievers –- Antonio Bastardo, Mike Adams, Phillippe Aumont and Jonathan Papelbon.
In two starts, Lannan has allowed four runs in 13 innings. He has struck out seven and walked just one. The Phils have won both his starts.
“He’s done a heck of a job,” Manuel said. “I look at Lannan as if he gives us six or seven innings, he’s done his job, especially tonight when we had a loaded bullpen.”
The Marlins had just four hits in the game. Two were by former Phillie Placido Polanco, including an RBI single, and one was by former Phillie Juan Pierre.