Chase Utley, pinch hitting with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the eighth, gets a meatball right in his sweet spot and blasts a game-winning grand slam to lead the Phils over the Giants 10-6 in a wildly-entertaining game.
This is going to be a big morning around the water cooler for the “Free Chase Utley” gang. In one swing, Utley put the Giants away for good in a tit-for-tat- contest that featured just about every nuance of baseball.
Since there are never any pro-platoon people chatting it up around cooler, this morning I’m cracking a keg in honor of keg-shaped manager Charlie Manuel, who saved his best clutch hitter for the best possible spot.
There’s nobody you want hitting with the game on the line more than Utley, who sat out against LHP Kirk Reuter. Brought in with two outs to face total dog right-hander LaTroy Hawkins, everyone at Citizen’s Bank Park (and those of us watching at home in high-definition) knew Utley would deliver the game-winner. It’s the second time this season Hawkins has blown a game against the Phils, and it was the first pinch-hit grand slam since Kevin Jordan did it against the Braves in 2001. Hawkins must have forgotten Utley’s scouting report back in San Fran, which contains one sentence in bold type: Do not throw anything down and in.
Pull up a chair and have a beer, Chase. This one’s on the house.
Left-handed pitchers don’t need a scouting report because Utley never faces them. Instead, the manager has faithfully gone with Placido Polanco at second against lefties, which is the smarter choice. Any decision to start Utley against lefties needs to involve David Bell sitting on the bench so Polanco can slide over. Not only does Polanco read lefties better than Utley, but with Jason Michaels also platooning, inserts the best No. 2 hitter into the lineup. It also doesn't hurt to showcase one of their most tradable commodities.
Pull up a chair next to Chase, Poly, and grab yourself a cup.
Polanco had a fine but easily overshadowed game, going 2-5 with an RBI and a run scored hitting out of the two-hole. He also turned a super-swift double play to get Ryan Madson out of a jam in the eighth inning that I don’t believe Utley would have turned.
Has anyone seen big Jim? Tell him to cool down with a cold one.
The big man was ejected for arguing a called third strike and took his frustration out on the dugout water cooler. It marked the first time in his career Thome was ejected from a game for arguing balls and strikes. For finally showing some emotion and firing up his teammates, he definitely deserves a beer.
His replacement, Tomas Perez, does too. Pull up a chair.
Perez got some boos from the “passionate” crowd when he and not Utley replaced Thome in the third inning. In his second at bat with the bases loaded, Perez slapped a single up the middle that scored two.
Seriously, what’s with all the slap-hit RBIs lately?
Looking at the box score, every last Phillie deserves a cold one. Manuel used the bullpen in a very logical way – Robinson Tejeda, then Rheal Cormier, then Ryan Madson, who earned the win as pitcher of record, then Bill Wagner in a non-save situation. Cory Lidle didn’t have his best stuff, but pitched well enough to keep the game close.
But the big question overheard around the water cooler this morning is when Charlie Manuel will finally start using Utley full-time.
That’s OK, Charlie. You don’t have to answer that now. Come on over and have a beer.