Thursday, December 25, 2014

Gritty Utley sets the tone for Phillies

Gritty Utley sets the tone for Phillies

Chase Utley hit home runs in the third and sixth innings off Yankees starter CC Sabathia. (David Swanson/Staff Photographer)
Chase Utley hit home runs in the third and sixth innings off Yankees starter CC Sabathia. (David Swanson/Staff Photographer)

NEW YORK - The grind to his game is most emphatically demonstrated when it is not there.

No one knows the toll the rest of this World Series will take on Chase Utley and his undisclosed hurts. Only that rest has been a great friend to him this time of the year.

A nine-pitch at-bat in the third. A home run. An 0-2 count in the sixth. Another home run, this one traveling about 20 rows into the rightfield bleachers. C.C. Sabathia had not allowed a home run to a lefthanded batter all season at Yankee Stadium until last night. No lefthanded batter but Babe Ruth had ever hit two home runs against a lefthander in the Yankees home park.

But Chase Utley has not rested between games for this long since, well, the last Game 1 of the World Series. Seven days had expired between games this time. Six days went by the year before. Remember? Utley slammed a two-run home run over the rightfield wall in his first at-bat of the 2008 World Series. Cole Hamels pitched almost as well as Cliff Lee did tonight, and the Phillies had stolen home-field advantage with a 3-2 victory.

They won, 6-1. Cliff Lee's mastery of the Yankees was the story of this Game 1. But Utley's two knocks against Sabathia, who was 3-0 with a 1.19 earned run average this postseason, was equally foreboding.

Because the Yankees are full of lefthanded pitchers. Because Sabathia is going to start three games if this World Series goes the distance. The Phillies had three extra-base hits before Sabathia exited after the seventh. Ryan Howard's double was the other one.

And because Utley's power, if the grind doesn't absorb it, is a weapon they really didn't have in the first two rounds.

Sam Donnellon Daily News Sports Columnist
About this blog
Donnellon's career began in Biddeford, Me., in 1981, and has included stops in Wilkes-Barre, Norfolk, and New York, where he worked as a national writer for the short-lived but highly acclaimed National Sports Daily. He has received state and national awards at each stop and since joining the Daily News in 1992 has been honored by the Associated Press Sports Editors, the National Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association, the National Association of Black Journalists, the Associated Press Managing Editors of Pennsylvania and the Keystone Awards. He and his wife of 26 years have raised three fine children, none of whom are even the least bit impressed with the above. E-mail Sam at donnels@phillynews.com
Reach Sam at donnels@phillynews.com.

Sam Donnellon Daily News Sports Columnist
Latest Videos:
Also on Philly.com:
Stay Connected