Sam Donnellon: Utley's poise makes a powerful statement

Chase Utley connects for the first of his two homers, a three-run shot in the first inning.
Chase Utley connects for the first of his two homers, a three-run shot in the first inning.
Posted: November 03, 2009

CHASE UTLEY WALKED to the plate to start the third inning last night and everyone expected more fireworks. That is what has made coming to Citizens Bank Park so compelling every summer of its 6-year existence, regardless of who is pitching, who is in your bullpen, who you're playing, really.

Bombs. Lots of bombs. It's how this team has scored the majority of its runs to win the majority of its regular-season games. The Phillies led the National League with 224 this season, scored 44.5 percent of their runs via the long ball. With 31 home runs, Chase Utley was an integral part of that equation, and his two home runs in the Phillies' 8-6, Game 5 victory last night is representative of that.

But if the Phillies really have a chance to make some serious club history over the next few days, it will have to be done the way Utley started the third inning last night, not the way he punctuated his record-tying night with his fifth home run of this World Series in the seventh.

Patience. Scratch. Claw.

Walks, singles, hit batsmen, stolen bases.

Pressure, pressure, pressure.

"I don't want to embarrass him or nothing like that,'' Phillies manager Charlie Manuel 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 hit two fastballs over the rightfield wall last night, tying Reggie Jackson for the most home runs in a World Series. The first one came after Jimmy Rollins slapped a two-strike single and Shane Victorino took a pitch on his hand trying to bunt. It reversed a 1-0 deficit, woke the nervous 46,178. The second added a seventh run to what surely should have been a rout.

"World Series,'' Utley said. "It was a do-or-die game. But I try to prepare the same way no matter when you're playing.''

You think about some of the events that have led to the Yankees' 3-2 lead in this series. Johnny Damon's nine-pitch at-bat in Game 4. A flair single by Andy Pettitte in Game 3 that ignited a three-run, homerless rally. Victorino's wild hacks at two balls after Pettitte had just walked in the Phillies' second run in that same Game 3, defusing what was shaping up as a huge, starting-pitcher-chasing inning.

Patience. Scratch. Claw.

It's how the Phillies won the World Series last year. Fouling off tough pitches. Taking close ones. A seeing-eye single by Pedro Feliz up the middle. A bloop by Victorino - kind of like those Damon flares of this World Series.

It was also a big part of the Phillies working past Los Angeles and Colorado this year. Sometimes it seems these guys are victims of their own prowess, so able to launch mistakes into the seats that they don't take what is given.

Imagine if Victorino took those first two pitches the other night.

Would Pettitte still have been around in the seventh?

Or the fourth?

Would this series be 3-2 the other way?

So Utley stayed in his shoes last night and waited. And waited. And waited. Five pitches later he walked. Six pitches after that, Ryan Howard laid off a 95-mile-an-hour, 3-2 fastball from New York starter A.J. Burnett and he walked, too.

Jayson Werth shortened his swing on a 1-2 pitch and banged it into short center, scoring Utley. Two pitches later Raul Ibanez ripped one down the rightfield line to score Howard.

Howard has struck out 20 times this postseason, 12 times in the first five games of the World Series, including twice last night. But he walked his first two times up. And Burnett, who had outdueled Pedro Martinez with seven stellar innings in Game 2, was gone after allowing six runs and failing to get an out four batters into in the third.

When the inning was over, the Phillies led 6-1. It should have been enough, would have been enough if Cliff Lee was the pitcher from Game 1. But these series have a way of building momentum on both sides, of building that batter-by-batter intensity that escalates with each game played.

The Yankees, who also lived by the long ball this season, have got that down since their impatient, 6-1 loss to Lee in Game 1. Damon reached base four times last night by fighting off good pitches, the last time with a two-out, seven-pitch, ninth-inning single that brought Mark Teixeira to the plate as the tying run, and gave anyone old enough to remember a real queasy, Mitch Williamsish feeling.

With Alex Rodriguez looming on deck, Ryan Madson struck out Teixeira. Rodriguez has only one home run in this series, but he added two doubles last night, was on base and trouble in all three games in Philadelphia. He's been hit by three pitches.

He has taken what has been given.

Howard did that last night. Utley did it first. It gets them another night of baseball, another night in New York, another night of drip, drip, drip intensity.

Patience. Scratch. Claw.

They do it two more times, this team will be remembered here forever.

Probably in New York too.

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