As Howard indicated, Mets closer Jennry Mejia might have ended up with the same result had his manager allowed him to throw a 3-2 strike to Utley, who had worked the count full before the Mets gave him the intentional pass. The second baseman was 3-for-4 with a triple and a home run and had reached base in 14 of his 28 plate appearances on the homestand.
"I felt like earlier in the year, I was hitting better on the road than at home," said Utley, who is hitting .287/.355/.442 with 11 home runs and 62 RBI. "Now, it's kind of changed the last few homestands. There's no rhyme or reason for it."
For most of the afternoon, the Phillies appeared headed to their 66th loss as Kyle Kendrick's moribund season continued. The righthander walked three, surrendered two home runs, and allowed 13 baserunners in five innings. Six of those baserunners scored, and the Phillies trailed 6-1 when they turned things over to their bullpen.
They began to rally in the sixth inning as struggling leftfielder Domonic Brown hit a two-run double to close the gap to 6-3. In the seventh, Utley's two-run triple scored Jimmy Rollins and Ben Revere to cut the deficit to 6-5. Then, in the bottom of the ninth, Cody Asche's leadoff double set the pivotal events into motion.
Marlon Byrd had a pinch-hit single up the middle to tie the game. With two outs, Byrd stole second and the Mets walked Utley with the count full, a decision that Utley admitted surprised him "a little."
"That can go either way," manager Ryne Sandberg said of the decision. "It is what it is."
Mejia said he wanted to pitch to Utley.
"I want to finish but I'm not the manager," he said. "I have to do whatever the manager wants me to do. Nothing I can do. A little bit surprised, but I can't do anything. Terry Collins is the manager. I'm just the player. I have to do whatever he wants me to do."
Collins defended his decision.
"Number one, you've got to make a great pitch to [Utley]," he said. "I'm not going to let him beat me. Howard's been struggling. You've got to make him beat you. In my book, that's the way I look at it."
Howard has had a strong homestand, with four of his seven hits going for extra bases, three of them for home runs. He had two walkoff hits.
"Listen, Ryan's been driving in runs for a long time," Utley said. "He had a knack for driving in runs and big runs. I want him up any time there are runners on base."
Said Howard: "You're only as good as you're next at-bat. I forgot about everything else that happened previously in the game and just wanted to try to win that at-bat."
The Phillies are now 53-65. They play an afternoon game against the Mets today before heading on a quick West Coast trip, with two games in Anaheim and three in San Francisco.
On Twitter: @ByDavidMurphy