Phillies second baseman Chase Utley strained his right oblique muscle taking cuts during batting practice prior to the team’s May 21 game against the Marlins. Initial estimates had the veteran missing between two weeks and a month. Today marks two and a half weeks. CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury reports that the 34-year-old is feeling good and is hoping to return some time in mid-June.
“I’m definitely feeling better,” Utley said Friday evening. “Hopefully I’ll take some swings in the next three or four days and at that point I’ll known where I’m at. I actually feel like I could have swung today, but I want to play it safe.”
Utley began taking ground balls a week ago and has responded well. Once he gets a reading on his condition after starting to swing again, he will have an idea of when he might be ready to go on a minor-league rehab assignment. He might only need a game or two in the minors once he’s healthy.
Utley had been his team’s most productive player prior to the injury, hitting .272 with an .814 OPS in 177 plate appearances. Domonic Brown hadn’t quite caught on fire at the time Utley went on the disabled list.
With a 6-1 win over the Twins in Sunday’s season finale, the Royals clinched the best record in the American League, which nets them home field advantage in the ALDS and ALCS. The Royals stand at 95-67 while the Blue Jays, who lost on Sunday, finish at 93-69.
95-67 is the Royals’ best record since finishing 97-65 in 1980, when they lost the World Series to the Phillies. Their division title is their first since 1985.
In the ALDS, which starts on Thursday, the Royals will host the winner of the AL Wild Card game between the Astros and Yankees. They are looking to avenge last year’s World Series loss, in seven games, to the Giants. The Blue Jays will host the Rangers in the other ALDS series.
Both the Astros’ and the Yankees’ fates were decided before their own games had completed on Sunday. The Rangers defeated the Angels, which clinched a Wild Card spot for the Astros. Then the Astros dropped Sunday’s season finale to the Diamondbacks, which clinched the first AL Wild Card slot for the Yankees. The Yankees are on their way to a loss against the Orioles as of this writing, but that will not affect anything now.
The Astros were in a 3-3 tie with the Diamondbacks in the seventh inning, but reliever Chad Qualls served up a two-run home run to Paul Goldschmidt. That would prove to be the deciding factor in a 5-3 loss.
The Yankees are losing 7-4 to the Orioles behind a subpar start by Michael Pineda and a shaky performance by the bullpen.
The MLB postseason opens up with the Yankees hosting the Astros on Tuesday in the AL Wild Card game. The winner moves on to face the Royals in Kansas City in the ALDS.