In some ways, the Phillies' horrendous play in the month before the All-Star Break protected Charlie Manuel from having to make some difficult decisions with regard to his deployment of Chase Utley. For an example, see the scenario that could confront him before Wednesday's series finale at Dodger Stadium. Heading into tonight's game, the Phillies have won three straight games. But tonight will also be Utley's second straight game in the lineup. Thus far, Manuel has kept him on a schedue of two games on, one game off. But what if the Phillies are carrying a four-game winning streak into a series finale against Clayton Kershaw?
Manuel remained non-comittal this afternoon.
"It's mine and Utley's call," he said. "But at the same time, we definitely still have to watch Utley. We definitely don't want to set him back. He's come a long ways, but there again, we definitely need him in there."
Utley is 4-for-17 with two doubles, a home run and three walks in his career against Kershaw. Ryan Howard, who is also on a two-on, one-off schedule, is 3-for-14 with three doubles and six walks. Keeping both out of the lineup would put more pressure on Hunter Pence, who is just 1-for-15 with four strikeouts in his career against Kershaw. It would also require that lefty Mike Fontenot (0/3, 3 strikeouts) start at second base.
Could Thursday's off day factor in?
"It could factor a whole lot," Manuel said. "We've got a long plane ride. If he was off tomorrow, he could be off two days. The travel gets you. The travel definitely is not good for his knees and stuff."