It has been nearly 10 years since Chase Utley first sprayed champagne in the Phillies clubhouse, triggering arguably the greatest era in the history of the franchise. And he could taste it again this week, except this celebration would be in the visiting clubhouse if Utley’s Los Angeles Dodgers are able to wrap up the National League West.
“It would be different,” Utley said before Monday’s game. “We’ve clinched a few over in that clubhouse, so to do it over here would be a bit awkward at first, but it is what it is.”
The Dodgers entered the four-game series at Citizens Bank Park with their magic number at four. They can clinch the division with any combination of four wins or Arizona losses. There’s a good chance they could be toasting champagne before leaving town on Thursday. Utley celebrated six times in the home clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park. Just three visitors — San Francisco in 2010, St. Louis in 2011, and the Mets in 2016 — have clinched something at Citizens Bank Park.
Utley batted seventh and played second base on Monday. His return last August was special as he homered twice in his first game as an opponent in Philly. Utley was greeted with a standing ovation and each homer was met with a curtain call.
“It’s a little bit different from last year, but it’s still a little awkward,” Utley said. “For the amount of years that I played here, to suit up in this locker room is just different.”
Most of the Phillies who popped champagne with Utley in September 2007 are out of baseball. Jayson Werth and Ryan Madson are with Washington. Cole Hamels is in Texas. Carlos Ruiz is in Seattle. J.A. Happ is with Toronto. Utley’s career may be winding down.
He entered Monday batting .234 with a .324 on-base percentage but has started four of the team’s last five games. Utley, three months shy of turning 39, has a role on the best team in baseball. A second World Series title would seem to be the perfect way to end his story. If so, this week would be Utley’s final time playing in the ballpark that he helped invigorate for so many seasons.
“Trying to take it one day at a time, but I’m still enjoying it, I’m still having fun,” Utley said. “I still feel like I can contribute out there, so I’m not looking too far ahead.”
The Phillies will honor second baseman Scott Kingery and righthander Tom Eshelman on Tuesday as the Paul Owens Award winners for minor-league standouts. … Aaron Nola will face Yu Darvish on Tuesday…The Phillies presented their minor-league community service awards to Michael Mariot (Lehigh Valley), Cole Irvin (Reading), Luke Leftwich (Clearwater), Will Hibbs (Lakewood), and Kyle Young (Williamsport). Phillies minor-leaguers combined for 1,006 service hours during the 2017 season. The awards were presented to the players with the most hours on each team.