Sunday, July 03, 2011


Chase Utley is back and with his return the Phillies' often-moribund offense takes on an altogether different look to opponents. Utley, of course, missed all of Spring Training and nearly the first two months of the season, forcing him to get into game-shape on the job. Frankly, he looked over-matched those first few weeks, facing pitchers who were already deep into their second month of the regular season.

Slowly, he flashed signs of his devastating short, compact swing and yesterday, facing a left-hander, he delivered the game-winning hit, a two run homer, allowing Roy Halladay to win his Toronto homecoming. It was a sort of home-coming for Utley as well.

With Utley hitting again, the Phils lineup is far more potent with Shane Victorino, Utley and Ryan Howard surrounded by an always erratic Jimmy Rollins and steady, dependable Placido Polanco. There aren't any easy outs in that bunch though Rollins and Howard are too prone to get themselves out.

Halladay has had an unusual season. He pitched his sixth complete game of the year yesterday and improved his record to a league high 11-3 with an era of 2.44. Yet he has looked vulnerable at times, leaving more balls over the plate than he did last year, having to work more from the stretch, wiggling in-and-out of jams. But the bulldog in him, and make no mistake this is one fierce competitor, nearly always finds a way to reach back and make the pitch he needs.

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