On the seventh day, the Phillies won

Posted: October 23, 2008

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Baseball is an every-day sport. Teams aren't supposed to have six days off between games.

Things are different, however, in the postseason, when teams that clinch a series quickly can find themselves sitting around for several days.

The National League champion Phillies were idle for six days leading up to Game 1 of the World Series last night.

Would the layoff cause some of the momentum they had built by winning 20 of their previous 25 games to vanish?

Nope. Chase Utley made sure of that by providing an instant spark with a two-run homer in the first inning. The Phils went on to defeat the Tampa Bay Rays, 3-2.

Utley's homer, his second of the postseason, came off Rays ace Scott Kazmir and it threw an early hush into the sellout crowd at Tropicana Field.

The Rays had the best home record in the majors this season at 57-24. When fans fill the Trop, they have a way of giving the Rays a boost.

Not last night.

"I thought we did a good job of that," Utley said of keeping the fans' impact to a minimum.

Utley's home run may have been a good omen for the Phils. He also homered in Game 1 of the NL Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the Phils won that series in five games.

"I try to treat every day the same, whether it's the first day of spring training or today," Utley said. "I feel it's easier on yourself that way. No game is bigger than another game. Obviously, we came out on top today, but now we have to focus on [Game 2]. But obviously, coming up with a few homers feels good."

The home run may also have been a good sign for Utley personally.

He struggled to drive the ball in the second half of the season, probably because of a sore hip that he insisted was not an issue. He hit just two home runs in his last 33 regular-season games.

Utley's ability to get his legs into his swing and drive the ball seems to be returning in the postseason.

Kazmir opened the game by retiring Jimmy Rollins. Jayson Werth then worked the lefthander for full-count walk. Kazmir got ahead of Utley with two quick strikes, one of which was a foul-ball bunt as Utley tried to beat the Rays' shift. Ultimately, Utley was glad he didn't get the bunt down. With the count at 2-2, he unloaded on a fastball and sent it over the right-field wall.

It was a tremendous tone-setter for the Phils, who needed to come out quickly to show themselves and the rest of the baseball world that the six-day layoff did not hurt them.

Contact staff writer Jim Salisbury at 215-854-4983 or jsalisbury@phillynews.com.

comments powered by Disqus