Nate Schierholtz hit an RBI single in the bottom of the ninth inning to lift the Phillies to a 3-2 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Friday night.
The five-time defending NL East champion Phillies are within four games of .500 for the first time since they were 36-40 on June 26, the night before Utley came back. They're 22-14 since trading outfielders Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino at the trade deadline.
"That's kind of the way it goes," manager Charlie Manuel said. "I guess we have to keep at them."
Utley missed the first 76 games because of a chronic condition in both knees. Howard sat out the first 84 games recovering from surgery on his Achilles.
"If I had my way, we never would've been under .500," Manuel said.
Jimmy Rollins walked off Will Harris (1-1) to start the bottom of the ninth. Rollins advanced to second on Juan Pierre's sacrifice. After Utley was intentionally walked, both runners advanced on a wild pitch. Schierholtz then hit a sharp grounder to right field past a drawn-in infield.
"I knew I had to put it in play," Schierholtz said. "It's exciting. It's nice to get a big hit and help the team win."
Pinch-hitter Laynce Nix hit a tying, two-run double in the seventh, and the Phillies won for the 10th time in 14 games.
Jonathan Papelbon (4-6) tossed a scoreless ninth to earn the win.
Cliff Lee didn't get much run support again and failed to win his third straight start. He allowed two runs and eight hits in 6 1-3 innings, striking out seven.
The Phillies have scored three runs or fewer in 15 of Lee's 25 starts.
"Hopefully we can continue and finish this year out strong," Lee said.
Rockies starter Jeff Francis struck out seven in 5 2-3 scoreless innings. He gave up six hits to lower his ERA to 5.38.
"Regardless of their season, that's a pretty good team over there," Francis said.
Down 2-0, the Phillies rallied in the seventh off a trio of relievers. Pinch-hitter Pete Orr led off with an infield single against Carlos Torres. Two outs later, Pierre hit a single. Matt Reynolds entered and walked Utley to load the bases. Josh Roenicke came in and allowed the double to Nix to tie it at 2.
Coming off consecutive 1-0 losses at Atlanta, the Rockies jumped ahead 2-0 in the first. They got help from a fielding mistake by second baseman Utley.
Josh Rutledge hit a foul pop down the right-field line, but Utley overran it and the ball fell behind him. Rutledge then ripped a single just over shortstop Jimmy Rollins. Carlos Gonzalez followed with a double to left-center to score Rutledge. Wilin Rosario's RBI single made it 2-0.
Francis pitched out of a jam in the first after the Phillies had runners on second and third with one out. He struck out Ty Wigginton, and fanned Domonic Brown to end the inning after an intentional walk to John Mayberry Jr.
Francis again struck out Wigginton with a runner on third and one out in the third. He then retired Mayberry on a foul pop.
"Jeff Francis did an unbelievable job for us tonight," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said.
Francis looked like the ace who won 17 games in 2007 and baffled the Phillies in Game 1 of the NLDS. The soft-tossing lefty beat Cole Hamels in that game, spoiling Philadelphia's return to the postseason after a 14-year absence. Francis allowed two runs and four hits in six innings, striking out eight in a 4-2 win at Citizens Bank Park. The Rockies swept the Phillies en route to reaching the World Series.
Since that time, Francis underwent shoulder surgery that sidelined him for all of 2009, spent last season with Kansas City and started this season in the minors for Cincinnati.
Notes: The Phillies activated All-Star C Carlos Ruiz from the disabled list. Ruiz has been sidelined since Aug. 3 because of plantar fasciitis in his left foot. ... Philadelphia placed 3B Placido Polanco on the DL with lower back inflammation. His season is likely over. ... Pierre had two steals in the third inning for 34 this season. Despite starting only 88 games, he's only four behind NL leader Michael Bourn. ... Phillies 3B Kevin Frandsen was a late scratch. ... Francis has more wins (five) than Lee (four), even though he didn't make his first start until June 9. Francis made his 200th career appearance, all but one as a starter. ... Rutledge will play 2B when two-time All-Star SS Troy Tulowitzki returns from the DL. ... All-Star lefty Cole Hamels (14-6) tries for his career high-tying 15th win on Saturday against Colorado's Tyler Chatwood (4-4).