Utley's defense comes through

Posted: October 14, 2008

LOS ANGELES - That was just Chase being Chase.

Bases loaded, one out, his team staring at a two-run deficit in the bottom of the sixth. One more Dodgers hit and the game would be out of hand.

It looked more like instinct than anything, the kind of tough-as-nails play that Philly has come to expect from Chase Utley, its all-star second baseman. The Dodgers' Russell Martin lined the baseball a few steps to Utley's right. Utley caught it by his shoelaces, took two unbalanced steps toward second base, then launched himself, glove extended, toward the bag to complete a double play.

"I have to give Chase credit," said reliever Ryan Madson, who was on the mound. "He turned the momentum around and gave us something to feed off of." Inning over, threat extinguished, Phillies with air, at least, in their lungs.

Two innings later, Shane Victorino and Matt Stairs launched home runs, giving the Phillies a 7-5 lead, which would also be the final score.

In their half of the sixth inning, the Phillies had tied the game at 3-3. In the bottom of the sixth, the Dodgers' Casey Blake started the bases churning with his solo shot to left-center.

With the way the Dodgers were swinging, having the bases loaded with only one out seemed like a sure recipe to tack on at least two or three more runs. Enter Utley and a split-second dive that caught the Dodgers' Rafael Furcal leaning the wrong way.

When the ball came off Martin's bat, Furcal's weight was shifted toward third base. As Utley snagged the ball, Furcal dug into the dirt and dived, headfirst, back toward second.

"That could have been a rough inning for us," said Phillies rightfielder Jayson Werth. "That was a huge play, but Chase makes huge plays all year. Chase doesn't get enough credit for his defense."

In real time, Utley and Furcal appeared to reach the bag simultaneously. But as the play was repeated in slow motion, less than a deck of cards separated Furcal's hands from second base as Utley's leather touched white.

It was a space so slim, a moment so tight, that kept the Phillies alive.

Contact staff writer Kate Fagan at 856-779-3844 or kfagan@phillynews.com.

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