Monday, April 21, 2008

All Hail Utley

There were plenty of heroes in last night's dramatic 5-4 win over the Mets but none stood out more than Chase Utley, whose two home runs produced the bulk of the Phillies' scoring. Pedro Feliz' pinch-hit homer provided the winning margin and Eric Bruntlett's great pickup and throw and Ryan Howard's scoop preserved the victory.

The home town team needed this one badly to prevent the Mets from taking their fifth straight win and more important to stop the New Yorkers from [legitimately] crowing to be in the Phils' collective heads a mere few weeks after having fended off the same claim when the Phillies won the season opener and their ninth straight victory over their hated rivals.

The largest three-game crowds ever to see a series at Citizens Bank Park and a national television audience for the second straight day were treated to a hitting clinic by the best second baseman in baseball. Utley's sweet, short stroke nailed two long home runs into the teeth of a fairly strong wind. Commentator Joe Morgan, a fairly good second baseman in his own right (but still an absolutely annoying color man), said Utley "had a chance to be the best hitting second baseman in the history of baseall." No further comment is needed.

The Phils remain a game under .500 with slightly more than a week left in April. They will attempt to climb over the hump during a tough three city road trip beginning in the toughest place of all, Denver. Given how long they've played without their heart and soul, Jimmy Rollins, it's amazing they are only a game under.

Speaking of Rollins, he will not make the trip with the team and thus avoid being bombarded with boos by the Rockies' faithful who believe their man, Matt Holliday, should have been the MVP last year. Jimmy was finally placed on the disabled list long past the point when he should have been. The club's feeble excuse, that they listened to him insist he was close to being ready, and manager Charlie Manuel's even more lame excuse that he used J-Roll 4 different times as a pinch hitter instead of resting him because he wanted to win, speak volumes about how inept and incompetent the organization is when it comes to handling injuries. Jimmy doesn't seem too pleased about the situation either, abruptly cutting off any further questions from the press. For the talkative, jovial Rollins this marks the second time he has turned off the press in the last few weeks, uncharacteristic to say the least. It's hard to say with whom he is angry but suffice it to say this first trip to the DL in his eight year career is not going down well for the reigning NL MVP. As usual, the sporting public has little inkling as to what is going on behind the scenes.

On another note, Ryan Howard has had a pretty lousy year at the plate and in the field, but last night he made three terrific plays, all of which could be said to have been game-saving. He made a great stop and throw to Adam Eaton covering in the fourth inning, a key catch of a wind-blown foul pop off of David Wright, and the game ending scoop of Bruntlett's throw in the ninth. For one night, at least, hands of stone were as soft as the smoothest kid gloves.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Morgan's right about Utley having the chance to be one of the best all-time 2B-men (though why does no one consider Nap Lajoie in these discussions?) - but the question might be, how long is Utley going to be a second baseman? The theory swirling around is that Utley will eventually switch to first when Howard goes off in search of his motherlode, and Adrian Cardenas is called in to play second. Let's just leave it at this: he and Rollins have a good chance to become Phillies' lifers, and Hall of Fame teammates who may well have their numbers retired at the same ceremony. Watching this duo in its prime is reason 1A to watch any given Phillies game. (Reason 1 is Harry Kalas.)

Speaking of Rollins - get well sooner than soon. The absolute best this team can hope for until the day he comes back is a break-even record.