Utley swats five, eliminated from Derby
Phils second baseman impressed by Hamilton's performance
NEW YORK -- Chase Utley's left-handed swing appeared to be a perfect fit for the State Farm Home Run Derby at Yankee Stadium. Unfortunately for the Phillies' MVP candidate, his line-drive stroke betrayed him.
Utley jacked five home runs, including an upper deck shot and another that clanged off the facade of the second deck in right field at "The Stadium," but he left too many balls just short, on or near the right-field warning track. Unlike mashers such as Lance Berkman, his homers and his outs tended to be low liners rather than majestic moonshots.
Unfortunately for Utley, his home runs were about third on the list of topics that reporters wanted to talk to him about after the event. In addition to fielding inquiries about Josh Hamilton's remarkable showing, Utley also had to answer for something he said. Television microphones caught Utley uttering an obscenity, and the swear went live to viewers.
"I do want to apologize," Utley said. "It was definitely a poor choice of words. I didn't mean anything by it. I was kind just joking around with a buddy over there. ... I do want to make it clear that I'm sorry for saying it."
Phils bullpen catcher Mick Billmeyer, who threw to Jim Thome in 2004, served up the pitches to Utley.
"I think Mick did a great job of throwing BP," Utley said. "I didn't get goose-egged, which was nice. But you've got to really appreciate what Josh Hamilton did. I thought it was pretty amazing. I've never seen a show like that, ever."
After falling in a deep hole early, Utley rallied late in his round, launching three homers in his final few swings to come close to advancing. However, his total of five dingers left him short of where he needed to be, and he was unable to become the third Phillie to win the Derby in five years. Bobby Abreu won in Detroit in 2005 and Ryan Howard was the champ in Pittsburgh in 2006.
Utley swung fourth out of the eight contestants in the first round, knowing that a total of at least six home runs would likely be needed for him to advance to the semifinals. Dan Uggla and Grady Sizemore, the first two hitters to take their cuts, each posted six long balls, and Evan Longoria scored three.
Lance Berkman notched eight homers, knocking Utley down to third place and putting his chances in jeopardy with three sluggers still to swing. When Justin Morneau blasted eight big flies, Utley was eliminated. Then Hamilton dropped his 28, electrifying Yankee Stadium -- and mesmerizing all of the players, including Utley.
"At that point I knew I was out of it," he said. "It was something we might not ever see again. A guy that is that strong and has that consistent of a swing is pretty rare. What did he hit, 28 home runs? That's pretty impressive."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.