Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Reunion With Chase Not so Grand for Phillies

It is very seldom that an actual Major League Baseball game takes a backseat to some event unfolding within the context of that game, but such was the case on Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park.
A mid-week crowd of more than 28,000 were in attendance, and the odds are that the majority were there for the same reason, to personally welcome back a former favored son, Chase Utley.
Utley, the Phillies record-setting and World Series-winning 2nd baseman for more than a decade was back with his new club, the Los Angeles Dodgers. It was Utley's first appearance in South Philly since being dealt away to LA last August.
The fans and Utley responded well, with the fans giving the player affectionately known in these parts as "The Man" a roaring standing ovation
as he stepped to the plate to lead off the top of the 1st inning.
Utley walked up accompanied by his signature walkup music, "Kashmir" by Led Zeppelin, and to a celebratory player introduction by longtime Phillies PA announcer Dan Baker as the fans roared for nearly two minutes.
Chase responded with a tip of his cap to all corners of the park. He then proceeded to coax catcher Cameron Rupp back into position so that the game could begin, and proceeded to provide an anticlimactic moment by striking out.
Rupp would give the home side an early lead, bombing a solo home run with two outs in the bottom of the 2nd inning off Dodgers' starting pitcher Kenta Maeda. It would be the only lead of the night for the Phils.
The Phillies held that lead in front of starting pitcher Vincent Velasquez into the top of the 5th, with Utley popping up easily into left field in his 2nd plate appearance along the way.
But in that top of the 5th, Howie Kendrick lined a one-out, two-run homer to center field, putting the Dodgers on top by a 2-1 score. One batter later, Utley stepped in once again, and provided the moment that he and the fans were hoping to see.
On a 2-2 pitch from Velasquez, Utley crushed a ball deep out over the center field wall for his 9th home run of the season. He circled the bases to a rousing standing ovation from the fans, who then also called him out for a tip of the cap, believed to be a first for a visiting player.
Phillies
Aug 16, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Utley (26) signs autographs before game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 16, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Utley (26) signs autographs before game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
The blast gave the Dodgers a 3-1 lead, and would prove to be only the beginning in what would become a blowout. With two outs in the 6th, Adrian Gonzalez singled, and then Yasmani Grandal blasted a two-run homer to open the game up at 5-1.
In the bottom of the 6th, Cesar Hernandez ripped his 3rd homer of the season, a solo shot that pulled the Phillies back within 5-2. It would be the closest they would get the rest of the night.
Velasquez (8-5) would last just 5.2 innings, and left having been charged with five earned runs on seven hits. He did have a sensational 10/1 K:BB ratio, but the Dodgers long balls proved his undoing.
Then came the top of the 7th, the end of the competitive portion of the game, and another incredible moment for Utley.
The Dodgers put together a four run rally on three hits, three walks, and a hit batter to push their lead out to a 9-2 margin. Then, with the bases loaded and two out, Utley stepped in again.
On a 1-1 pitch from reliever Michael Mariot, Utley crushed his 10th home run of the year, a grand slam that again electrified the crowd, who brought him out for yet another curtain call.

The blast upped the LA lead to an insurmountable 13-2, and the Dodgers would ultimately cruise to a 15-5 victory.
However, the game wouldn't end without one interesting Phillies moment. With all the understandable emotion involving Utley, one of his key compadres from those great 2000's teams decided to get in on the action.
In the bottom of the 7th, Ryan Howard blasted his 18th home run of the year deep to center field, giving the fans a flashback to the great old days when homers from Utley and Howard were leading Phillies teams to big victories and division crowns on a regular basis.
It was a bit surreal at the beautiful ballpark last night. The Phillies were crushed, and yet few fans left feeling slighted. 
Chase saw to that with his heroics, making more memories down at Citizens Bank Park. Unfortunately, these memories were bittersweet, rather than just plain old sweet.
"We've had some great times here with great teams and played hard," Utley said per MLB.com contributors"Philly fans recognize the guys that play the game the right way. Like I said, they'll always have a special place in my heart for sure."
Chase Utley, you ARE 'The Man'.

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