10/19/10 9:42 PM ET
Rough day doesn't discourage Utley
Phils slugger goes 0-for-2 with RISP, misplays grounder
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
When asked what answer he was looking for, Utley smirked and said, "It's a secret."
Down 2-1 in this best-of-seven series, it's no secret that the once-intimidating Phillies lineup needs to start supporting the club's heralded pitching rotation.
"I think we're all frustrated that we lost," Utley said. "Matt Cain pitched pretty well today. We had some opportunities to score some runs, but couldn't capitalize on that. We didn't get the big hit when we needed to."
Things certainly aren't going the way they did for Utley when he hit five homers in last year's World Series. Quite simply, the ball isn't bouncing his way, both figuratively and literally.
Along with going hitless in three at-bats against Matt Cain and grounding out in an eighth-inning at-bat against left-handed reliever Javier Lopez in Tuesday's loss, Utley also encountered frustration when he was unable to handle Freddy Sanchez's two-out bad-hop chopper that allowed the Giants to tally their final run of the afternoon.
Originally, it was ruled an error. The official scorer later ruled it to be one of those timely hits that Utley and his Phillies teammates have been seeking during this series.
"At first I thought I was going to be able to catch it, and when I realized I wasn't, I tried to keep it in front of me," Utley said. "It shot off in a hurry to the outfield."
This is the kind of fortune that has so far eluded the Phillies during this NLCS.
With a pair of homers off Tim Lincecum in a 4-3 Game 1 loss and a four-run seventh in a 6-1 Game 2 victory, the Phils have proven that their offense does still have some life. But while hitting just .221 through the first six games of this postseason, they haven't exactly shown the kind of offensive life that carried them to both of the past two World Series.
|10/4/1950||WS 1||NYY||1-0 L||2|
|10/19/2010||NLCS 3||S.F.||3-0 L||3|
|10/6/2007||NLDS 3||Col.||2-1 L||3|
|10/12/1983||WS 2||Bal.||4-1 L||3|
|10/11/1915||WS 3||Bos.||2-1 L||3|
|10/9/1915||WS 2||Bos.||2-1 L||3|
|10/16/2009||NLCS 2||L.A.||2-1 L||4|
|10/1/2008||NLDS 1||Mil.||3-1 W||4|
|10/3/2007||NLDS 1||Col.||4-2 L||4|
|10/5/1978||NLCS 2||L.A.||4-0 L||4|
|10/6/2010||NLDS 1||Cin.||4-0 W||5|
|10/19/2009||NLCS 4||L.A.||5-4 W||5|
|10/21/1993||WS 5||Tor.||2-0 W||5|
|10/16/1983||WS 5||Bal.||5-0 L||5|
|10/11/1983||WS 1||Bal.||2-1 W||5|
|10/4/1983||NLCS 1||L.A.||1-0 W||5|
|10/8/1915||WS 1||Bos.||3-1 W||5|
In the postseason, where sample sizes are small and brief struggles are magnified, statistics often tell just part of the story. With a couple of productive games, this Phillies bunch could easily surpass the .260 (2008) and .248 ('09) batting averages it posted in the past two postseasons.
"The pitching might have something to do with their swing," Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel said. "Our guys are trying. I mean, it's just like, really, it's like they might be trying too hard."
To get their offense in gear, the Phillies will seemingly need Utley to once again start performing like a catalyst. Through the three games of this NLCS, the veteran second baseman has hit just one hit in 10 at-bats. That lone hit preceded the two-run sixth-inning homer that Jayson Werth hit in Saturday's Game 1 loss to the Giants.
When Utley recorded three hits in 11 at-bats in the NL Division Series sweep of the Reds, his batting average read .273 and he wasn't forced to answer the questions that surrounded him now that he has recorded just two fewer hits in one fewer at-bats through the first three games of the NLCS.
But after proving unable to reach base for the first time in 13 career NLCS games, Utley did what so many other stars from postseasons past have been forced to do and optimistically talked about what lies ahead.
"You take it one game at a time," Utley said. "Today didn't work out the way we wanted, but tomorrow is a new day. Now we're going to prepare for tomorrow and see where it goes."
It wasn't necessarily a coincidence that the Phillies won 29 of the 43 games that Utley played after missing all of July and the first two weeks of August with a left thumb sprain. He hit .302 in the 68 wins the Phils compiled when he played and just .237 in the 47 games that he played that ended with a loss.
Manuel has utilized Utley in both the second and third spots of the lineup during this NLCS. Now he can only hope that his five-time All-Star can quickly figure out the secret to solving this talented Giants pitching staff.
"We're going to put this behind us and focus on tomorrow," Utley said.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.