Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Phillies Fall In Utley’s Grand Return

GAME RECAP: Dodgers Destroy Phillies 15-5

Chase Utley could not have scripted Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park any better than this. The Dodgers' second baseman received a nearly 90-second standing ovation from Phillies fans in the first inning before he hit a solo home run in the fifth inning and a grand slam in the seventh inning in Los Angeles' 15-5 victory. He made curtain calls after each homer, completing a special and unforgettable night -- his first game back in Philadelphia since the Phillies traded him to the Dodgers last August. "We've had some great times here with great teams and played hard," Utley said. "Philly fans recognize the guys that play the game the right way. Like I said, they'll always have a special place in my heart for sure." The victory, and the Giants' loss to the Pirates, pushed the Dodgers into first place in the National League West, but this night was about Utley's return to Philly. "I held it together fairly well," he said. "It is a situation I've never been in before. It's something you can't describe in words. It is a special feeling to see the fans give you their support." Howie Kendrick plated two with a shot two batters before Utley's solo jack, and Yasmani Grandal's two-run homer in the sixth was Velasquez's final straw. A walk to Joc Pederson ended Velasquez's night. In a rematch of pitchers from last Tuesday's game at Dodger Stadium, Velasquez fared only slightly better. After giving up nine runs over 4 1/3 innings in Los Angeles, he allowed five over 5 2/3 on Tuesday. Kenta Maeda, however, turned in his best start in more than a month. He walked only one while striking out nine over six innings. The Phillies' only runs off Maeda came on separate solo homers from Cameron Rupp and Cesar Hernandez. Ryan Howard added solo shot in the seventh to move into 76th place on the all-time homer list with his 375th career homer. "I think it just goes to show you can change the uniform, but he's always going to be a Phillie at heart," Howard said. "He's always going to be a Phillie to everybody here. I thought it was great. I thought it was awesome. For the fans to give him a curtain call again, it shows what he was able to do here and the impact that he had here on the fans."

  • The most surprising thing about Utley's return to Philadelphia wasn't just his two home runs, nor even the standing ovation and curtain call that followed each dinger. Really, it was that it took him until his third at-bat of the night to hit the first. But he more than made up for the wait, coming to bat with the bases loaded in the eighth and unloading. The grand slam nicely caps Utley's career in Philadelphia. His first Major League hit was a grand slam, way back in Veterans Stadium in 2003. In all, Utley finished his first game at Citizens Bank Park in a visiting uniform 2-for-5 with five runs driven in. Utley has hardly shied away from the big moments in his career. Just last week, in his first game against his old team, Utley homered in his first at-bat. There's no doubt there's a little extra adrenaline," Utley said. "With playoff baseball, we had a little practice with that over the years. Adrenaline can be your friend at times. Definitely a lot of adrenaline flowing tonight. After that first at-bat, I was able to calm down a little."
  • Phillies manager Pete Mackanin wanted Velasquez to throw more changeups in his start last week against the Dodgers, when he allowed nine runs in 4 2/3 innings at Dodger Stadium. He threw a few Tuesday, but he didn't fare much better. He struck out 10 but allowed five runs on seven hits, including three home runs, in just 5 2/3 innings. "I can't express how tough this team is," Velasquez said. "I'm glad it's the last time I'm facing them." 
  • Phillies left-hander Elvis Araujo turned a three-run deficit into an 8-2 deficit. He walked Utley to start the seventh and eventually loaded the bases. He then hit Adrian Gonzalez with a pitch to force home a run and walked Grandal to force home another run. Michael Mariot took his place, but he eventually allowed the grand slam to Utley. Araujo's ERA -- which sat at 5.00 entering the night -- is now 6.91. "It is what it is," Mackanin said about the team's left-handed bullpen problems. "What you see is what we get. We just need to improve in that area."
  • Utley circled the bases in just 18.59 seconds in the fifth inning, his fastest trot around the bases this season according to Statcast™. He needed 19.97 seconds to circle the bases in the seventh. He entered the game averaging 20.12 seconds on home run trots. Utley wasn't sure if it was the fastest he had run following homers this season. "It happened pretty quickly," he said. "I know my [solo] home run I hit for my first hit, I was moving pretty quickly there around the bases. But maybe you can check Statcast™."
  • "It's completely overwhelming. The standing ovation my first at-bat was something that I'll never forget, to be honest with you. It was truly special. It really shows how passionate and how great the Philadelphia fan base is. It was probably one of the most nervous at-bats I've ever had, honestly, at any level. I was glad to get that first at-bat over with." -- Utley, on his reception from the Philadelphia fans.
  • "I definitely think it was something bigger than the game tonight," -- Howard, on Utley's return.
  • It was the 52nd time in their careers that Utley and Howard have homered in the same game. Of course, this time they played for different teams.
  • Hernandez walked in the third inning to reach base in 22 consecutive games. He then got thrown out trying to steal second base.
  • Cesar Hernandez extended his on-base streak to 22 games with a third-inning walk Tuesday. If he reaches safely Wednesday, he'll pass Peter Bourjos for the Phillies' longest streak of the season.
  • Chase Utley on Tuesday played his first game at Citizens Bank Park since the Phillies traded him in August last season. Utley led off, greeted by a standing ovation and his customary walk-up music, "Kashmir" by Led Zeppelin. Utley went 2-for-5 with a two homers -- including a grand slam -- and five RBIs in his return to Philly.
  • Both teams' rotations have been hit with injuries -- and it shows. Entering play Tuesday, the Dodgers' bullpen had thrown the second-most innings in August, while Phillies relievers were tied for the third-most.

Jake Thompson's progression from prospect to Major League starter continues Wednesday, as he makes his third big league start against the Dodgers at Citizens Bank Park. The 22-year-old righty got rocked in his debut, allowing seven runs (six earned) to the Padres over 4 1/3 innings. Thompson made strides in his second start, lasting five innings and allowing three runs to the Rockies in his home debut. He also struck out six, a mark he's topped only once this season, even in his dominant run at Triple-A. "A lot better than the first one, that's for sure," Thompson said after his second start. "I felt more comfortable out there. I was able to spin the ball for more strikes, which I wasn't able to do in my first outing." Thompson's next step is to improve his command. He walked three in his second start after issuing two in his first. "He was a little erratic at times," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin noted. His opponent, Scott Kazmir, should be a familiar foe for the Phillies, who faced the lefty Wednesday in Los Angeles. Kazmir was effective but picked up the loss in the Phils' lone win of the series.


Utley’s Grand Return – The fans had already seen what they came for. They had greeted Chase Utley upon his return to Philadelphia with a standing ovation of nearly 90 seconds. And Utley had returned the favor with a home run and subsequent curtain call in the fifth. But Utley has never settled for adequate. When he dug in with the bases loaded in the seventh inning, there was a reason jokes wafted through Citizens Bank Park that, Hey, wouldn't it be so stereotypically Utley to park a ball here? Then he did. The fans, for the fourth time on the evening, went wild. Utley finished rounding the bases and entered the dugout, only to exit seconds later for his second curtain call of the game. The clout was the punctuation on Los Angeles' 15-5 win, which pushed it past San Francisco, who lost to Pittsburgh, for first place in the National League West. "It happened pretty quickly," Utley said. "I know my [solo] home run I hit for my first hit, I was moving pretty quickly there around the bases. But maybe you can check Statcast™." Statcast™ calculated that Utley circled the bases on the first homer in 18.6 seconds, his fastest home-run trot of the season by almost a full second. Fans roared and rose to their feet before Utley's name had even been announced for his first at-bat. Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir" begun playing from the loudspeakers, and Utley stepped from the on-deck circle into the batter's box. From the scheduled first pitch time of 7:05 p.m. ET until it was actually thrown at 7:08, Citizens Bank Park was stuck in time. Some were taking in the spectacle of Utley's first appearance back in the town in which he spent the first 13 seasons of his career. Others were harkening back to those years, which have been so often referred to as "the good times." The fans clapped and screamed. Utley turned and waved. He pointed to the fans and to Ryan Howard, who pointed back. Finally, Utley closed his fist, pounded his chest one last time and raised it toward the sky before taking strike one from Vince Velasquez. After a minute and a half of applause, Utley experienced a new sensation: nerves. "The standing ovation my first at-bat is something I'll never forget," Utley said. "It was probably one of the most nervous at-bats I've ever had, honestly, at any level. I was glad to get that first at-bat over with, to be honest." By his third at-bat, though, those nerves had turned into full-blown adrenaline. "We had a lot of practice with that over the years," Utley said, referencing his playoff runs with the Phillies. "Adrenaline can be your friend at times. Definitely a lot of adrenaline flowing tonight." Utley should get a full serving of adrenaline this season. The Dodgers are in the midst of a pennant chase. Meanwhile, the Phillies are two years into a rebuilding process that has seen every player from the teams that won five consecutive division titles depart except for Howard and Carlos Ruiz. "We had a lot of great times here at this stadium," Utley said before the game. "But in that five-year run, it was pretty special. When you look back on it, I just feel fortunate to have been on the team at that time. Because we had a pretty good squad." When the Phillies traded Utley last season, Howard and Ruiz became the lone remaining members of the 2008 World Series team. Their reunion has been a long time coming. The day Utley was dealt -- nearly a year ago to the day -- the Phillies held him out of the lineup as they finalized his move to Los Angeles. There were moving pieces, and the trade didn't get announced until about an hour after the last out of Utley's last game in Philadelphia. He tipped his cap to the fans afterward, but he was robbed of a proper farewell. "I didn't really have an opportunity to say goodbye," Utley said. "Everything kind of happened pretty quickly last year. If I were to write up a script it would have gone a bit differently." So in the moments leading up to Utley taking that first-pitch strike, it offered fans a chance to pay their respects to a catalyst in five division titles, two pennants and a World Series championship. The good times. They stacked five deep down the left-field line as Utley was the first Dodger on the field for pregame stretches. They piled over each other when Utley walked over and signed autographs up and down the line for 15 minutes. The first standing "O" came as his name was announced in the starting lineups (contrasted with an immediate round of boos for No. 2 hitter Corey Seager). It was the farewell that Utley never received. The treatment that Jimmy Rollins got after being traded to Los Angeles earlier last year. The same as Pat Burrell, Shane Victorino and the other 19 since-departed Phillies who hoisted the World Series trophy in the air that October 2008 night. Utley is one of the few still playing. Jayson Werth is in Washington; Cole Hamels is awaiting his return in Texas. Joe Blanton, like Rollins last season, was reunited with Utley in the Dodgers' clubhouse. But Utley, now 37, has no plans on making this his final return trip to Philly. Although he's looking to sell his Philadelphia condo, he wants to continue playing after this season. Utley, however, finds himself in the middle of another pennant chase. He hasn't had much time to think about the future. It's not because of his on-base percentage or speed that manager Dave Roberts keeps Utley in the leadoff spot. The reason, like what so often separated Utley from the pack, is what doesn't show up on the stat sheet. "The biggest thing for me why I keep him in the leadoff spot is because of his at-bat quality," Roberts said. "If there's any player that you have to dig deeper than the numbers to find his value, it's Chase."

Turning Back The Clock – Ryan Howard smiled as he recalled Chase Utley's standing ovation in the top of the first inning Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park. Phillies fans stood and cheered as Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir" played and Utley strode to home plate for the first time since the Phillies traded him to the Dodgers last August. They kept standing and they kept cheering for nearly 1 minute, 25 seconds. Utley stepped out of the batter's box at one point, turned and raised his blue Dodgers helmet to the crowd before he looked to Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp and home-plate umpire Ron Kulpa. "Hey, let's go," Rupp said he told them. But the roar continued. Utley stepped out of the batter's box again and acknowledged the fans one more time. Howard smiled because he knows Utley is not one for sentimental moments. But Utley had no choice this time. This was something special. "I think it was something bigger tonight," Howard said after the 15-5 loss. "I definitely think it was something bigger than the game tonight." Utley then homered in the fifth inning and hit a grand slam in the seventh inning. He got curtain calls each time. "I think it just goes to show you can change the uniform, but he's always going to be a Phillie at heart," Howard said. "He's always going to be a Phillie to everybody here. Again, I thought it was great. I thought it was awesome. For the fans to give him a curtain call again, it shows what he was able to do here and the impact that he had here on the fans." Howard hit a solo homer to center field in the eighth. It was the 375th homer of his career, which moved him into 76th place on the all-time list. It also was the 52nd time in their careers Howard and Utley homered in the same game. Of course, this was the first time they homered for different teams. "It's crazy, man," Howard said. "I'm out there, we're trying to beat him, but it's also tough because I played so many years alongside him and I always want to see him do well. I don't think you could have scripted it any better for him tonight."

The Struggles Continue – A little more than four months have passed since Vince Velasquez struck out 16 in a shutout against the Padres at Citizens Bank Park. Velasquez would like to finish the season more like that pitcher than the one who faced the Dodgers in his last two starts. Velasquez struck out 10 in Wednesday night's 15-5 loss in Philadelphia, but he also allowed seven hits -- including three homers -- and five runs in 5 2/3 innings in a game that featured a solo home run, a grand slam and two curtain calls from Dodgers second baseman and Phillies icon Chase Utley. "I don't really know the guy myself, but to have an ovation like that is incredible," Velasquez said. "He's a legend here." It was a fun night for Phillies fans celebrating the greatest second baseman in franchise history, but it has not been a fun week for Velasquez. He has allowed 18 hits, 14 earned runs and six home runs in 10 1/3 innings in his two starts against the Dodgers. "I can't express how tough this team is," Velasquez said. "Their approach is difficult." Velasquez will have opportunities to turn things around in the season's final few weeks, but how many more opportunities he'll get remains to be seen. The Phillies have been monitoring his workload, and he has thrown 113 innings to this point. "As of right now, I don't know what they have planned," said Velasquez, who has a 7.24 ERA in his last five starts. "I know I don't want to stop right now. The stage that I'm at and what I'm doing right now, I kind of want to finish on a better note. This is a tough time. I'm glad it's the last time I'm facing them. "I'm not perfect. I'm not [Clayton] Kershaw. It takes years to deal with a lineup like that and to be proficient. Tomorrow I'll go back to the drawing board and watch film and just be consistent."

Starters On Schedule – Phillies right-hander Jeremy Hellickson remains on schedule to start Saturday against the Cardinals. Hellickson's scheduled start got pushed back three days because of soreness in his back, which he first experienced last week in a start against the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Hellickson is scheduled to throw a bullpen session Wednesday. "We will find out for sure tomorrow," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said Tuesday. "He's on track to pitch on the 20th. We'll see how he feels during his bullpen, after his bullpen." Left-hander Adam Morgan left Sunday's game because of a bruised left forearm. He is scheduled to start Friday. "Everything is negative," Mackanin said about Morgan's X-rays. "So it looks like he's going to be on track also. Unless I hear otherwise, he's still here."

Today In Phils History – In 1894 Sam Thompson recorded 6 hits including a cycle (the team recorded 36 hits) as the Phillies beat Louisville by a score of 29-4. Richie Ashburn hit the same spectator in the stand in 1957 as his first foul ball broke Alice Roth’s nose while the second struck her while she was being removed from the stand on a stretcher. Steve Carlton set a franchise record when he recorded his 15th consecutive victory in a win over the Reds in 1972. The Phillies tied a team record in 1985 when they hit 6 homeruns including going back to back to back to back (Darren Daulton, Juan Samuel, Glenn Wilson, and Mike Schmidt) for only the second time in franchise history. Lastly, happy 36th birthday to Brett Myers who should probably still be pitching… the Phillies do need a starter right now!

The Phillies are currently 56-64 this season putting them on pace to beat most preseason predictions. All time, the Phillies are 49-64-0 on this day. I expect the Phillies to finish in the bottom half of the division but not last in the NL East by finishing the season with a 77-85 record.

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