World Series: Utley's streak continues

October 29, 2009 4:47:40 AM PDT
With his short, compact stroke, Chase Utley is a dangerous hitter with two strikes.

2009 WORLD SERIES

CC Sabathia found out the hard way.

Philadelphia's All-Star second baseman hit two solo homers off the Yankees ace, helping the defending champion Phillies beat New York 6-1 in Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday night.

Utley worked a full count before driving a 95 mph fastball about two rows into the seats in right field with two outs in the third, giving the Phillies a 1-0 lead.

He ripped another 95 mph heater, on an 0-2 pitch, deep into the right-field bleachers with one out in the sixth to make it 2-0.

"The majority of the time with two strikes, I'll choke up on the bat a little bit to try to stay as short as possible," Utley said. "It doesn't always work out like that, but that's the goal."

Utley, who finished the game 2 for 4, walked in the first inning to set a postseason record by reaching base in 26 straight games. Baltimore's Boog Powell held the record of 25 straight games from 1966-71.

"I didn't know that happened," Utley said. "You try to get on base for the next guy. The more guys on base we have, the better opportunity we have to score some runs."

Utley became the second left-handed batter to hit two homers off a left-handed pitcher in the World Series, joining Babe Ruth, who did it for the Yankees against St. Louis in 1928.

No surprise, the staid Utley wasn't too impressed with his accomplishment.

"I guess that's pretty good company," Utley said. "It doesn't really matter that much."

Sabathia had not allowed a homer in Yankee Stadium to a left-handed hitter this year before Utley connected.

Utley came in 0 for 7 with five strikeouts against the big lefty, including the postseason. The Phillies beat Sabathia in Game 2 of the NL division series last year when he pitched for Milwaukee.

PHILLIES FANS CENTRAL

Known mostly for his hitting, the hardworking Utley has developed into an above-average fielder since breaking in with the Phillies in 2003. But he made two throwing errors while trying to turn double plays that led to important runs in the first two games of the NL championship series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

When the Phillies returned to Philadelphia with the series tied at one game apiece, Utley's errant tosses were the talk of the town. Some compared him to Steve Sax and Chuck Knoblauch. When Utley made an accurate throw on his first chance at home, fans gave him a hand. It wasn't mock applause, more a sense of relief. Utley hasn't had any problems since leaving Dodger Stadium.

Now, his bat has put him back in the headlines.

Utley has averaged 30 homers and 100 RBIs while batting .303 over the last four seasons, and has started in the All-Star game each year.

"He has tremendous balance and rhythm, and his swing produces a lot of bat speed, too," manager Charlie Manuel said. "His weight shift definitely produces a lot of bat speed, and he's got real quick hands to the ball."

Utley is widely considered the best second baseman in the majors. Gritty and hard-nosed, he goes all-out on every play, busts it on routine grounders and easy pop-ups, and spends lots of time in the video room and batting cages.

He played through pain last season, underwent hip surgery last November, returned ahead of schedule and was in the lineup on opening day. Utley finished this season with a .282 average, 31 homers, 93 RBIs and 23 stolen bases. He's batting .324 (12 for 37) with three homers in the postseason.

"When he hits .282, if you want to know the truth, I think that's low for him," Manuel said. "I think he's a .300 hitter. I think he knows he's a .300 hitter. I think I said it today or yesterday, but he's probably going to have a good Series."

2009 NATIONAL LEAGUE SERIES

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