So who needs that MVP candidate at second base, anyway?
For one night, at least, Life Without Chase Utley didn't matter much and all was swell in Phillies Nation.
In their first game since Utley broke his hand and went on the disabled list, the Phillies' offense never skipped a beat in pounding the Pittsburgh Pirates, 8-1, tonight in a rain-shortened, seven-inning game in front of 37,136 at Citizens Bank Park.
The Phils built an 8-0 lead in the third inning and coasted to their sixth win in the last seven games. Michael Bourn, playing center field because all-star Aaron Rowand was injured while playing tag with neighborhood kids on Thursday, lashed a career-high four hits and the sizzling Pat Burrell launched a two-run homer to key an 11-hit attack.
"I'm excited about it. I'll enjoy it tonight and come out tomorrow . . . and try it again," Bourn said.
With Utley sidelined, "guys have to step up," manager Charlie Manuel said.
Then again, one night isn't a fair barometer, especially when the opposing pitcher is a punching bag named John Van Benschoten, a righthander who is 0-5 with a 9.76 ERA.
Van Benschoten, a first-round draft pick in 2001, allowed seven runs in 21/3 innings, and it took him 84 pitches to get seven outs. He has a 27.00 ERA over his last three starts, during which he has surrendered 21 runs and 19 hits in seven innings.
The Pirates, who have lost 11 of their last 13, should be more formidable with lefthander Shane Youman (2-2, 3.24) pitching tomorrow night and Ian Snell (7-7, 3.31) going Sunday. They will oppose Phillies rookies J.D. Durbin (2-2, 5.76) and Kyle Kendrick (4-1, 4.44), respectively.
With several scouts in attendance tonight - Bourn is drawing interest as Tuesday's trade deadline approaches - the speedy outfielder scored two runs, reached base in all five at-bats as the leadoff hitter, and stole his 17th base in 18 attempts while raising his average from .274 to .303.
As for the trade rumors, "I don't even think about it," Bourn said. "I can't control it; it's out of my hands."
After Ryan Howard, who stranded seven runners in his three official at-bats, and Burrell struck out with the bases loaded in the first inning, the Phillies looked as if they were going to squander a huge opportunity.
But Greg Dobbs delivered a two-run single to right and the rout was under way.
The Phils erupted for six runs in the third, an inning highlighted by Burrell's two-run blast and a run-scoring single by Jamie Moyer, who collected just his eighth RBI in a career that started in 1986.
Burrell is hitting .453 with five home runs and 18 RBIs in his last 18 games.
In a game that was called after a 61-minute rain/lightning delay, Moyer pitched seven pristine innings (zero earned runs) to improve to 9-8, helping the Phils move to within four games of the National League East-leading New York Mets. It was the 31st complete game of his career.
"It's a big loss," Moyer said about Utley's injury, "but we just have to pull together and deal with it."
"We have to patch it together and move on," Bourn added.
With the Phils in contention, the club will continue to try to add pitching help before Tuesday's trade deadline.
"We're still in this thing, and the teams in front of us are not playing consistently well," assistant general manager Mike Arbuckle said. "There's no reason to think we're going to be selling at this point."
There is a thought that, with the loss of Utley, the Phillies will score fewer runs (tonight's win notwithstanding), making it even more imperative to acquire a quality starter.
"Even without Chase, we still have a good offensive club," he said. "It won't make us say that we absolutely have to do something. Most of the pitchers out there that are available don't improve our ball club."