Utley lifts Phillies in 14th with a walkoff homer

Posted: June 27, 2014

IF YOU STAYED at Citizens Bank Park late enough last night, you got some early Independence Day fireworks. You got to hear a second rendition of “Take Me Out to The Ball Game.”

And you got to see one of the franchise’s most popular players end the game in dramatic fashion for the first time in 7 years.

After the Phillies and Miami Marlins took part in an old-fashioned staring contest for six innings, with neither team blinking, Chase Utley swatted a ball deep into the early summer night, providing a memorable souvenir for a lucky fan.

Utley followed a leadoff single by Jimmy Rollins with a two-run, walkoff home run off Chris Hatcher in the 14th inning as the Phillies overcame an early deficit to beat Miami, 5-3.

“I just tried to square one up, go home,” Utley said after the conclusion of the 4-hour, 41-minute game.

It was Utley’s first walkoff hit since Aug. 30, 2007, when he singled off New York Mets closer Billy Wagner to complete a three-game sweep over the team the Phils would topple for the National League East title in the next month.

Last night’s home run was Utley’s sixth of the season, but only his second in his last 31 games.

Although Utley almost certainly will start his sixth All-Star Game next month in Minneapolis, the last month has been a struggle for the team’s most consistent hitter. Utley entered the day hitting .226 with a .577 OPS and only three extra-base hits in 23 games in June.

“Obviously, results are important,” said Utley, who has seen his batting average drop from .347 to .296 since May 17. “I’m trying to build some comfort at the plate. You go through some funks and you try to battle through them.”

“It was good to see him regroup, get a pitch he can really handle,” manager Ryne Sandberg said. “He’s a grinder. Three RBIs on the game, scrapped out a hit and a big shot at the end. Right man at the right spot.”

Utley finished 3-for-7 with three RBI. It was his first three-hit game since June 6 and his first three-RBI game since April 4.

The walkoff home run was the third of Utley’s career and his first since 2006.

The home run also tied Utley with one of the other more popular hitters in franchise history. The game-winning blast tied Utley with Greg “The Bull” Luzinski for sixth on the Phillies’ all-time list.

The Phillies (36-42) are in the same place they were when they returned home from their successful trip through Atlanta and St. Louis: six games under .500 and five games behind first-place Washington in the National League East.

For only the fifth time this season, the Phils won a game started by Cole Hamels.

Hamels had a 2.76 ERA in 12 starts entering the night, but the Phillies did little to take advantage of his consistent work. The team scored three runs or fewer in seven of Hamels’ starts.

For most of the night, it appeared that trend would continue - but Hamels was not helping himself, either.

Hamels served up a home run to Jarrod Saltalamacchia to begin the third inning. Giancarlo Stanton greeted him with a home run to lead off the fourth.

After the Phillies’ bats came to Hamels defense to erase the 2-0 deficit - Utley scored the first run, knocked in the second - the hard-luck pitcher again put himself behind. For the third time in seven innings, he gave up a long ball to the first batter he faced: Marcell Ozuna completed the hat trick of home runs off Hamels when he launched a shot deep into the seats beyond the fence in left-center.

It was the first time Hamels had allowed three home runs in a game since his first start of the 2013 season.

“It’s a situation where when you get behind in the count, especially to all three of those hitters, they’re very good and definitely have power,” Hamels said. “When you make mistakes, they’re going to hit it a long way. When you don’t get ahead of hitters in general, you’re putting yourself in a bad situation.”

But the offense saved Hamels from defeat. A half-inning after Ozuna’s go-ahead home run, pinch-hitter Domonic Brown led off with a single and came around to score the game-tying run on Marlins’ first baseman Jeff Baker’s error.

And the bullpen helped the Phillies get a win. After Hamels’ work was over in seven innings, Jake Diekman, Jonathan Papelbon, Antonio Bastardo, Ken Giles, Mario Hollands (all one inning) and Justin De Fratus (two innings) matched Hamels’ workload with seven innings.

Except, unlike Hamels, they didn’t allow a run.

“Lights out,” Hamels said. “They’ve definitely been doing that for the last month and a half. It’s a good thing to see and really shows the hard work they’ve put in. It’s a very positive position that we have in knowing that when you give the ball over to the bullpen, they’re going to shut it down and either solidify a win or keep you in the game so you can win.”

The Phillies relief corps hasn’t allowed an earned run in 24 of their last 25 innings (0.72 ERA in last nine games) and has an MLB-best 1.10 ERA since June 3.

“Some of the new guys have been getting their feet wet, starting to build some confidence, which is huge,” Utley said. “For them to keep us within striking distance is important, so they’ve been doing a good job.”

Utley made their work look even better with his no doubt-about-it blast into the rightfield seats to send everyone home before the clock struck midnight.

On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21

Blog: ph.ly/HighCheese

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