Surfacing as the clear-cut favorite for National League Most Valuable Player (sorry Chipper, Lance), Chase Utley did everything possible to lead the Phillies to a 5-4 win over the Reds. The win, coupled with a Marlins loss to the Braves, gives the Phils a 1.5-game lead in the NL East.
Utley started the scoring with his Major League-leading 21st home run of the season, a pure liner into the first row of the right field seats. It was the fifth-straight game with a homer for Utley. It didn’t stop there: Utley had two more hits and almost scored from first on a Ryan Howard double. He rammed into catcher David Ross, but Ross hung onto the ball to rule Utley out. He also attempted a leadoff bunt to ignite a rally, but the bunt trickled foul. And to top it off Utley made a couple amazing diving catches, including the play to end the game.
The play gave Brad Lidge his 14th save in as many chances. Lidge is carrying an 0.75 ERA and the Phils are now 28-0 when leading after eight innings. By now it’s pretty evident Lidge is the best closer in baseball; what a move Pat Gillick made to get him.
Kyle Kendrick wasn’t spectacular, and benefited from great defense to get his fifth win of the season. He only went 5.1 innings, giving way to Chad Durbin, who let two score on an Adam Dunn double. Though the Phils only had a one-run lead, they held it thanks to Durbin, Lidge and Tom Gordon. Yet again the bullpen did its job.
Pedro Feliz and Chris Coste hit back-to-back homers to round out the offense. Is there any question that Chris Coste is one of the best offensive catchers in the game?
Still, one has to go back to Utley, who does everything to win, regardless of the cost. After Utley made his final diving stab to win the game, Larry Andersen remarked that Utley didn’t show any emotion. It’s all business to Utley â€” no player, maybe in all of sports, takes his job more seriously than Utley. Thank heavens we have him and can enjoy him for so many years. He’ll see us to the promised land yet.
Associated Press photo