10/02/11 12:03 AM ET
Amaro: Utley's woes stem from balky knee
By Todd Zolecki / MLB.com
Utley batted second in an 11-6 win on Saturday -- behind leadoff man Jimmy Rollins and ahead of Hunter Pence.
General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. thinks the Phils have an idea why.
"I think part of it is [Utley's] inability to keep his leg strong during the course of this time," Amaro said. "He wasn't able to do as many things with his legs, which is probably the most important part of hitting, strength-wise. I think that has something to do with it. But he's still a very dangerous hitter. I think he's a great hitter. He wasn't producing with the power he has. I think it has something to do with the strength of his lower half."
Utley, who went 3-for-5 with three runs against the Cardinals, opened the season on the disabled list because of tendinitis in his right knee. There was a chance he could have missed the season. He returned to the lineup, but he hit just .259 with 11 home runs and 44 RBIs in 454 regular-season at-bats.
Utley's .769 on-base plus slugging percentage was his lowest since his rookie season in 2003, when he had a .696 OPS while playing in 43 games. Utley's OPS from 2005-09 never dipped below .905. It was .832 last season.
Amaro said he thinks Utley can improve his strength going forward. He said it's not a matter of Utley being too beaten up or suffering too much pain to be an effective offensive player.
"He hasn't complained about any pain or discomfort," Amaro said.
Fears of rain in Philly prove unfounded
PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies manager Charlie Manuel watched what happened to the Yankees and Tigers on Friday at Yankee Stadium, and he prayed it wouldn't happen to him. As it turns out, his prayers were answered.
New York and Detroit started Game 1 of the American League Division Series on Friday only to have rain suspend action in the second inning, which forced the Yankees to burn CC Sabathia and the Tigers to burn Justin Verlander. The game was completed Saturday, with the Yankees' Ivan Nova nearly going the rest of the distance in a 9-3 win.
There was a threat of rain prior to the Phillies' 11-6 win on Saturday in Philadelphia, so Manuel was asked if he would ever consider using Vance Worley, Kyle Kendrick or Joe Blanton instead of staff ace Roy Halladay during the first couple innings of Game 1 to avoid a similar problem.
"We're going to win the series," he said. "And how are we going to do it? Let's have our best pitchers out there on the mound. And the weather is not going to be a problem. That's how I look at it."
The only hiccup in Halladay's day was a three-run homer that he allowed in the first inning, but he finished eight innings and retired the final 21 batters he faced as the Phillies rolled.
Blanton edges Herndon for final bullpen spot
PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies chose Joe Blanton over David Herndon for their final bullpen spot. Manager Charlie Manuel called it a difficult decision.
General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said of Blanton: "He's pitched well. He's got more experience. I think he's a better fit."
Blanton missed most of the season because of an injured right elbow, but he threw well in five September appearances, allowing seven hits, two runs and striking out 11 in seven innings. Herndon went 1-4 with a 3.22 ERA in 45 appearances, but he had a 1.94 ERA in 34 appearances from May 22 through the end of the season.
Herndon, however, allowed eight of 17 inherited runners to score, for a rate of 47.1 percent, which ranked 157th out of 165 pitchers in the big leagues who inherited 15 or more baserunners this season.
The Phillies are searching for former assistant general manager Chuck LaMar's replacement, but it seems unlikely that they will hire somebody before the end of the postseason. LaMar resigned last month.
"We're in the process of vetting candidates," assistant general manager Benny Looper said.
Philadelphia (102-60) is the first National League team to win 100 or more games since the 2005 St. Louis Cardinals. The Phils are the first NL East team to win 100 or more games since the 2003 Atlanta Braves.
The Phillies finished the night 15-7 (.682) in the opening games of postseason series.
Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Shane Victorino and Carlos Ruiz have played 39 consecutive postseason games together. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it is the longest streak by five players for one team in baseball history. The streak began Oct. 6, 2007, in Game 3 of the NL Division Series at Coors Field.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.