Phillies Nuggets with Tim Kelly

With Utley back one last time, Phillies and Dodgers turn in memorable series



The Phillie Phanatic stands at home plate during the National Anthem prior to the second game of a three-game series with the Dodgers. (Matt Veasey/PhilliesNation)

Above all else, the Philadelphia Phillies-Los Angeles Dodgers series that took place between July 23 and July 25 of 2018 will be remembered for one thing: Chase Utley. Short of the two teams meeting in the postseason (which is entirely possible), the series was the final time that the Phillies franchise icon, set to retire at the conclusion season, played at Citizens Bank Park.

Prior to game one of the series, Utley got a standing ovation when his name was announced by Dan Baker in the starting lineup. He received a thunderous ovation when he came to the plate in the top of the second inning in the first game of the series. Utley didn’t start in the second game of the series, but was heavily cheered when he brought out the lineup card prior to the start of the game. In what turned out to be a 16-inning game (more on that in a minute), the Dodgers used quite a few pinch-hitters, with each one that wasn’t Utley getting booed when they stepped into the on-deck circle. When Utley finally pinch-hit in the 12th inning, he singled into left field, drawing cheers from a majority of the crowd, despite the fact that he represented the potential winning run. And then, after starting in the series finale, Utley hugged Phillies managing partner John Middleton and tipped his cap to the crowd at Citizens Bank Park.

But the Phillies three-game set with the Dodgers turned into a series that will be memorable for so many other reasons than it just being Utley’s final trip to Philadelphia.

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In the first game of the series, the Phillies and Dodgers combined for eight home runs. The Dodgers hit three solo home runs in the first two innings of the game, only for home runs from Maikel Franco, Rhys Hoskins and Odubel Herrera to give the Phillies a 5-4 lead heading into the seventh inning. Unfortunately for the Phillies, Tommy Hunter allowed a triple to Manny Machado in the top of the seventh inning, with a Max Muncy sacrifice fly ultimately plating him. A three-run ninth inning, led by an RBI single from Matt Kemp, ultimately broken the 5-5 tie. Franco did launch a second home run off of Kenley Jansen in the bottom of the ninth, but the Dodgers ultimately held on for a 7-6 win in the series’ opening game.

With their loss in the first game of the series, and a win by the Atlanta Braves, the Phillies slid back into a tie for first place in the National League East.

Prior to the second game of the Phillies three-game set with the Dodgers, the Miami Marlins defeated the Braves 9-3, giving the Phillies a half game edge in the National League East again. Gabe Kapler’s squad would eventually extend that lead back to a game, but it didn’t happen in short order.

The game opened in a rain delay that lasted less than 20 minutes, saw home plate umpire Tom Hallion have to exit the game after a ball was fouled off his mask and ultimately involved 42 total players between the two teams. After four-and-a-half innings, the Dodgers had a 3-0 lead. After 16 innings, the Phillies had a win, which was secured when Trevor Plouffe launched a walk-off home run off of Dodgers super-utility star – and Chase Utley’s large adult son – Kike Hernandez.

Jake Arrieta – three years after he lost to Cole Hamels in Hamels’ no-hitter – got the ball for the Phillies in the third and final game of the series. Less than 12 hours after the second game of the series concluded, Arrieta turned in a solid, but not spectacular performance, allowing five hits and two earned runs across six frames. Though he again dealt with less-than-ideal fielding behind him, the Phillies bats picked up the 32-year-old righty in the series finale.

In the bottom of the first inning, Rhys Hoskins launched a solo home run. For anyone concerned about the potential effect that competing in the Home Run Derby would have on the swing of Hoskins, the 25-year-old now has four home runs and nine RBIs since the All-Star Break. In the fifth inning, the Phillies broke things open, starting with an opposite-field home run off the bat of Scott Kingery, his first home run since June 29. Andrew Knapp added an RBI double, before Carlos Santana lined a triple into right-center field, clearing the bases and giving the Phillies a five-run lead.

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Though Seranthony Dominguez ran into a bit of trouble in the top of the eighth, Nick Williams tacked on an insurance run in the bottom of that inning, helping the Phillies to secure the series win.

The Phillies took two of three from the San Diego Padres to open the second-half of the season, though a 10-2 loss in the middle game of that series left a bad taste in the mouths of many. After losing in the opening game of the series to the Dodgers, a seemingly endless game against the Dodgers Tuesday night into Wednesday morning presented a chance to lose a series to the reigning National League champions. Instead, the Phillies outlasted the Dodgers in a 16-inning contest and ultimately won the series Wednesday afternoon. This isn’t a team without holes – the bench depth, for example, is dangerously thin – but it’s also not a team without a ton of fight. The Phillies are on track to enter August in position to make the playoffs for the first time since 2011.

There was one other refreshing part about the series: the return of Phillies-heavy crowds during all three games of the series.  In late June, Citizens Bank Park had a playoff atmosphere again for three days, but it was only because New York Yankees fans packed the stadium. Sure, many in the crowd over the past three days were there specifically to watch Utley. But the stadium was still filled with people who largely identify as Phillies fans, ones who wanted to see Utley play one more time, but also see the Phillies win the series. And they got their wish, all while reminding Philadelphia how electric Citizens Bank Park can get when the Phillies are in contention.

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