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Top 10 of 2016

Top 10 Moments of 2016: Chase Utley’s grand return

14054338_10100624396975621_6402141442933444134_oThis week we’re counting down the top 10 moments of the 2016 Phillies season. 

Here is No. 10.

10. Chase Utley’s Grand Return

I want to say that I circled August 16 on my calendar because it was the evening Chase Utley returned to Philadelphia, the evening we would fete our former second base god with a standing ovation and excessive applause.

But I can’t. August 16 is my wedding anniversary. New priorities.

That seemed to be the theme of the 2016 Phillies. For those of us who grew up with the exceptional team of 2007-11, 2016 symbolized just how much things have changed. Ryan Howard finished his evolution from fan favorite to public enemy back to fan favorite. Carlos Ruiz left us. Fresh-faced kids younger than us were now taking over Citizens Bank Park.

And for most of us life has changed, too. Marriages and children are the new normal, a far cry from the rowdy beer drinking we did at Frankford and Cottman back in 2008.

But August 16. Whatever our obligations, that day was still one to circle. Chase was returning home with his Dodgers, who were finally pushing ahead of the Giants in NL West. He’d get his hero’s welcome, maybe slash a hit, but that’d be that. We’d move on and hope the kids in red pinstripes could take a game or two from Los Angeles.

Here’s why Chase Utley is an all-time great. On May 28, Chase returned to Citi Field for the first time since injuring Ruben Tejada with a take-out slide in the 2015 National League Division Series. He was booed profusely. The target was squarely on Chase’s back.

So, as he would, Chase hit two home runs in that first game back, including a grand slam that closed everyone’s mouth.

Chase has a knack for this stuff.

Back to Citizens Bank Park, August 16. With fans dressed in their finest 26 t-shirts and jerseys, Chase received a huge ovation, took a moment to bow, let it all in, and struck out against Vince Velasquez in his first plate appearance. That was that; time to move on, right?

We should’ve expected it, but maybe we were too lost in the past. Chase strode to the plate in the fifth inning against a laboring Velasquez, who had recently surrendered a home run to Howie Kendrick. On a 2-2 count, Chase swung and launched a ball to right-center field, a blast by Chase standards. The fans cheered, even stood up to applaud. It’s entertainment! Chase did something special, and that was pretty cool.

But when Chase is in the spotlight, something seems to take hold, and the guy just can’t let go easily. Two innings later the Dodgers had put the game away, taking a 9-2 lead against the Phils with Chase heading back to the plate against Michael Mariot. This time the bases were loaded.

We remember what happened next.

Chase’s grand slam put the Dodgers up 13-2. Howard would homer in the bottom of the seventh, because why not? The Dodgers would win 15-5, Chase would finish 2-for-4 with two home runs and five RBI.

In all Chase hit 14 home runs in 2016; four of those came in those two games, when the spotlight was on him, when he probably wanted nothing more than to put on a show. Then barely talk about it ever again.


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