Chase Utley sat at the podium last night before a roomful of reporters who wanted him to be a smiling hero. Instead, he looked like a kid who'd been sent to the corner.
The Phillies second baseman is congenitally uncomfortable in the postgame spotlight. Even his manager is reluctant to praise him to the media because, as he admitted last night, Utley has asked him not to.
"It's not my favorite part," Utley said of the attention.
But during the game, when the spotlight glistens on that shiny red helmet and the goop in his slicked-back hair, he's quite at ease, thank you.
The Phillies' No. 3 hitter banged two home runs last night for the second time in five games, and drove in four runs to power Philadelphia to an 8-6, season-saving Game 5 victory over the Yankees.
That means Utley has hit five homers in five games, tying Reggie Jackson (1977) as the only other player in history with that many in a single World Series. And Mr. November will have at least one more opportunity, in Game 6 tomorrow in New York, to replace Mr. October in the record books.
"He's got such a short swing," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. "He's so short to the ball." Kind of like his answers to questions.
"My favorite part," Utley said, when asked if the attention was painful for him, "is playing the game."
And he is playing it as well as practically anyone in World Series history. "First home run was a fastball," Utley said. "The second home run was a fastball as well."
You remember all the concerned chatter about Utley before this Series began, don't you? He had the Steve Sax yips on his throws. He was injured again. He was worn down, the long season having taken its toll on his unsubstantial body. He needed to lift weights and drop in the lineup.
Five games later, as he mounts an astounding assault on the Series' power records, those concerns, like a lot of well-intended pitches from the Yankees staff, have vanished.
"Chase is a little bit different," said Manuel, after comparing him to his favorite player, Kirby Puckett. "He's quiet and he goes about his business in a real good way. . . . He's a pleasure to be around. And he's a pleasure to manage. . . . I don't want to embarrass him or nothing like that," he said, "but sometimes I tell our players, 'Just play with Chase.' Because if you play with Chase, you've got a chance to be a pretty good player."
Utley also became just the second player to hit two homers twice in the same Series. Willie Mays Aikens of Kansas City did that in 1980, when the Royals lost to the Phillies.
He still doesn't have a single in this World Series. In addition to the home runs, he had a double Sunday night against CC Sabathia. Sabathia also yielded Utley's first three homers and four of his eight RBIs.
The Yanks had taken a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Utley, who came up with Shane Victorino and Jimmy Rollins on base, went after the first pitch and launched it into the now delirious fans in the right-field seats.
They clamored for him to take a bow, a prospect that must have made the hyper-private second baseman recoil in horror, but he stayed put.
"Obviously, [dealing with the attention] comes with the territory," he said. "You kind of learn how to deal with it as you grow. I'm getting a little bit more used to it. But I'd rather just play the game."
A.J. Burnett, walked Utley to start a three-run third. Utley then stole second, from where he scored on a single by Jayson Werth.
In the fourth, he grounded out to Derek Jeter. In the seventh, leading off against yet another lefthander, reliever Phil Coke, Utley clubbed one into the right-center-field stands. "When he gets hot," Manuel said of his reluctant star, "he can stay hot for a month or two. Hopefully, he's sitting in there right now."