ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) - Chase Utley walked up to the plate
looking to bunt and ended up driving one out.
Utley's two-run homer in the first inning got Philadelphia
started in its first appearance in the World Series since 1993, and
Cole Hamels pitched the Phillies to a 3-2 victory over the Tampa
Bay Rays in Game 1 Wednesday night.
Utley finished 2-for-4 with two RBIs, two stolen bases and an
intentional walk. Good thing for the NL champions their three-time
All-Star second baseman came here swinging because Ryan Howard and
the rest of the big hitters had their share of problems.
The Phillies were 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position,
though Carlos Ruiz had an RBI groundout in the fourth.
Utley, who hit a career-best 33 homers in the regular season,
became the 34th player to go deep in his first Series at-bat.
Dustin Pedroia and Bobby Kielty did it last year for Boston against
With the Rays employing an extreme shift against the left-handed
hitting Utley, he simply tried to reach base against hard-throwing
lefty Scott Kazmir. Utley bunted the first pitch, fouling it down
the third-base line. He checked on a close 1-2 pitch, before
ripping Kazmir's next offering into the right-field seats to put
the Phillies ahead 2-0.
"Fastball, middle of the plate," Utley said. "I was just
trying to put the ball into play."
How'd Utley celebrate his second postseason homer? He put his
head down and jogged quickly around the bases, just like he does
every time he goes deep. No fist-pumping, hand-gesturing or
anything else from this old-school baseball rat.
"Every game we go out to win," Utley said.
Utley hit .277 with 13 homers against lefties in the regular
season. But Kazmir allowed only one homer to a left-handed hitter
in 131 at-bats. Boston slugger David Ortiz connected off him on
Philadelphia's offense, inconsistent throughout the season,
couldn't do much else the rest of the game.
Howard was 0-for-4, striking out three times, including twice
with a runner on third and one out. Jimmy Rollins was 0-for-5 with
two strikeouts and flied into a double play with the bases loaded
in the second. Pat Burrell went 0-for-3 and left a runner at third.
Utley beat the shift with a single to left-center off lefty
reliever J.P. Howell in the seventh. He stole second and advanced
to third on a wild pitch, but was stranded when Howard struck out
and Shane Victorino fanned after Burrell walked.
Overall, Utley hit .292 and had 104 RBIs this season, doing most
of his damage before the All-Star break. A nagging hip injury may
be the reason Utley's production dropped in the second half - he
had 12 homers in the last 103 games - but he never made excuses or
asked out of the lineup.
His sweet swing looks just fine now.
Utley got hot in the NLCS against Los Angeles. He hit .353
(6-for-17) with a homer and three RBIs against his hometown Dodgers
in the five-game series. He's now reached safely in 12 straight
Before that series, Utley had been 4-for-26 (.154) with nine
strikeouts, one extra-base hit and two RBIs in his postseason
career. He was just 2-for-15 with four strikeouts in the division
series against Milwaukee.
Seeking their second World Series title in 126 years - the first
was in 1980 - and Philadelphia's first championship since the 76ers
won the NBA title 25 years ago, the Phillies didn't play like a
team with the weight of a championship-starved city on its
With manager Charlie Manuel cracking jokes and providing rubber
ducks in every player's locker as a prop to remind them to stay
loose, the Phillies looked like the October regulars. They walked
around before the game with an aura that they belonged on this
This was no hostile environment on the road, either.
Plenty of red-clad fans came from nearby Clearwater, where the
team has held its spring training since 1947, and from Philadelphia
to support the Fightin' Phils. They gathered behind the Phillies
dugout three hours before game time and whooped it up Philly-style.
One fan held up a sign that read: "It's not Christmas yet, but
get ready for some Cole in your stocking."
Another sign said: "You have the cowbell. We have the Liberty
Perhaps no one was cheering harder for the Phillies more than
Mitch Williams, who surrendered Joe Carter's series-clinching homer
when Philadelphia lost to Toronto in 1993.
Seated in the front row of the auxiliary press box in left
field, "The Wild Thing" put his arm in the air, pumped his fist
and cheered when Utley's shot cleared the wall. Williams now works
as an analyst on local television in Philadelphia and also hosts a
pre-game radio show called "The Wild Pitch."
Three more wins, and he's off the hook.