Gritty Utley sets the tone for Phillies
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.