It might not be up there with pointing to centerfield and calling your shot, but the legend of Chase Utley continues to grow in small, indelible increments.
I did not watch last night's game after the first inning but I have since watched replays of the seventh inning during which Utley beat the throw to first on a ground ball to second and Jimmy Rollins scored all the way from second base on the same play. Utley routinely busts it down the line on every ball he hits and, like last night, occasionally beats the throw. Do more than a few players in all of baseball hustle as much as Chase? For his part, Jimmy has scored in two consecutive games by hustling, but, alas, he is just as likely to take a right turn mid-way down the first base path on a routine grounder, too.
Following Sunday's collision at home plate in which Utley lowered his shoulder, bowled over the Dodger catcher and scored the eventual winning run of that game, we have come to expect this sort of all-out abandon from the young second baseman. Utley doesn't know any other way to approach the game; he is unable to take off a single play.
Then there is Pat Burrell. On Pat’s first plate appearance last night he appeared to be taking off the entire AB. With Rollins on third and two outs, Burrell took every pitch but the last one, on which he grounded out. A runner in scoring position and Burrell swings at one pitch. But wait; it gets worse. An avid commenter on this and other blogs sent us all an email this morning, the subject line of which was: Pat the Bat.
It's nice to watch your cleanup hitter. After being called out on strikes in a key situation, he was tossed for arguing. LA and others say it was a missed call, but they all miss the point. It takes three strikes to strike out.
Here's Burrell's game [last night]:
He came to bat 4 times.
Each time he came to bat, the Phillies had 2 men on base. That's 8 baserunners to be driven in in a close game against the league's best pitcher.
That pitcher threw a total of 16 pitches to Burrell during those 4 ABs.
Pat Burrell swung at 3 of them. He looked at 13 pitches. No swings and a miss, no foul balls.
He grounded out 3 times, including a GIDP.
He was called out on strikes the other time.
This is your cleanup hitter, not your leadoff man. He is being paid to HIT.
He has one of the league's HR leaders hitting behind him, so opposing pitchers are NOT pitching around him. They are throwing strikes. They are not going to walk him.
At times like this, CM should be starting Dellucci a few games until Burrell figures it out.
Then, there is Bobby Abreu. I have finally come to the conclusion the Phillies should trade him if the right deal comes along. I don’t care how many bases on balls he draws, what his OBP is this season or what his lifetime batting average is. I have had enough of Bobby.
On Sunday, Abreu was literally adjusting his jock strap when he took the first pitch of his game for a strike. Now, everyone knows Bobby rarely swings at the first pitch anyway, but this was ridiculous. He proceeded to strike out that AB and not for one moment did he look the least bit ready or interested. Late in Sunday's game, he pulled up short chasing a foul ball toward the right field line and stands with the Phils leading 6-4. He was nowhere near the seats when he gave up on the ball. [For an example of how to make that play, look no further than the Diamondback's Shawn Green, who made a terrific sliding catch of a foul ball in last night's game.]
Last night in the first inning with Rollins on third base and one out, Bobby drew a walk against Brandon Webb, one of the best pitchers in the National League this season. Rollins had already stolen two bases in the inning and the Phils looked poised to take an early lead against Webb, who began the night 8-0. Abreu did his best to stifle the threat by being picked off first base and Burrell finished it off by grounding out.
I’ve grown weary of Bobby’s act, and, frankly, with Utley providing us with a daily reminder of what hustle can do, maybe the Phillies’ front office will have reached a similar conclusion. It isn’t going to get any better with Bobby or Pat and I’d rather see Dave Dellucci or Shane Victorino, both of whom hustle, playing more regularly instead of the Phillies current corner outfielders.