Game 6 Drama: Benches Clear in Third Inning

Umpires try to separate the benches after Chase Utley was hit by pitch in the third inning of Game 6 of the NLCS. (David M Warren / Staff Photographer)

We are off to a rollicking start here at Citizens Bank Park, where Game 6 has already had an evening's worth of action packed into a few innings. Things reached a boiling point in the third inning, when Chase Utley picked up a ball that had just hit him in the back and tossed it back in the direction of Giants starter Jonathan Sanchez as Utley trotted to first base. Sanchez took exception to the toss, Utley took exception to Sanchez taking exception, and both benches took exception to all of it, emptying out onto the field of play. It took awhile for umpires to restore order, but it did not appear as if any punches were thrown.

Utley's toss back to the mound did not appear to be malicious. He had just been struck on the back, and as he ran to first base the ball bounced in front of him. He plucked it from the air and tossed it onto the grass behind the pitcher's mound.

The two players have squared off before. Last July, on the night before Cliff Lee made his Phillies debut against the Giants in San Francisco, Utley appeared to take exception to a Sanchez fastball that screamed toward his head. He took a step toward the mound with a glare before returning to the batter's box. Later in the at-bat, he stepped out of the box just before Sanchez delivered a pitch. The at-bat ended with Utley hitting a home run on a 2-2 pitch.

Here's a link to the blog post I did after the incident:

Last night, Sanchez was removed from the game after the uprising was quelled, although it appeared as if Giants manager Bruce Bochy was going to make the move anyway. The erratic lefty struggled to find the strike zone throughout the evening, throwing just 24 of his 50 pitches for strikes. In the first, he walked Placido Polanco, allowed an RBI double to Utley, and then a towering sacrifice fly by Jayson Werth that gave the Phillies a 2-0 lead.

He started the third by walking Polanco before htiting Utley with a pitch.

Despite Sanchez's struggles, the Phillies entered the fourth tied with the Giants at 2-2.

They were unable to convert the two-on, no-out situation Sanchez vacated into any runs as lefty Jeremy Affeldt struck out Ryan Howard, got Jayson Werth to pop out, and then got Shane Victorino to ground out.

In the top of the third, they had a couple of close defensive plays go against them, and the Giants converted them into a pair of runs that tied the game at 2-2. First, Shane Victorino was unable to hang on to what would have been an impressive sprinting catch of a long drive by Andres Torres. Then, Placido Polanco charged a dribbler off the bat of Buster Posey and threw to first for what would have been the third out of the inning. Ryan Howard had a play on the ball, but the throw was wide and it got past him, allowing Aubrey Huff to score and tie the game at 2-2 (Torres earlier scored the first run of the inning on a single up the middle by Huff). The play was ruled an error on Polanco.