Chase Utley

Chase Utley is a five-alarm fire right now


Since 2010, Phillies second baseman Chase Utley has been anything but dependable. From 2005-09, Utley was by far the best at his position in baseball, but tore a ligament in his thumb in 2010, requiring surgery. He then developed patellar tendinitis in his right knee in 2011, and patellar chondromalacia in his left knee in 2012. Last season, he strained his oblique and had to go on the disabled list for a fourth consecutive season.

No one doubted Chase’s talent, but they did doubt his ability to stay healthy, his ability to avoid the effects of Father Time, and his ability to avoid the toll his previous injuries had taken on him. Through the Phillies’ first 12 games, Utley has put any skepticism to rest. In Sunday afternoon’s game against the Marlins, Utley went 3-for-4, breaking a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the eighth with a no-doubt home run off of lefty reliever Mike Dunn, his third home run of the season. Utley now has a 15-game hitting streak dating back to last season, and has multiple hits in each of his last four games (and in seven out of his 10 games total). His slash line sits at a cool .500/.565/.875 in 46 plate appearances.

The Sabermetrics paint an even better picture. Through this afternoon’s games, Utley leads the league in weighted on-base average at .609, ahead of Freddie Freeman’s .558. Last year’s average for a second baseman in the National League was .311. Utley has drawn walks in 11 percent of his plate appearances and struck out in only four percent of them. His .375 isolated power (which is just slugging percentage minus batting average) shows Chris Davisian power — Davis finished at .348 encapsulating all of last season.

Obviously, Utley is going to come back down to earth at some point but the Phillies, who signed him to a two-year extension with three vesting options through 2018 last August, will take any surplus production they can get from him. Utley, by the way, is also padding his Hall of Fame case.

There’s no one to blame in Yankees’ loss

Joe Girardi

You’re going to boo All-Star Brett Gardner for striking out against a Cy Young contender?

You’re going to bash Alex Rodriguez for going hitless in another postseason game, three years after his last one?

Maybe you’d prefer to put it all on Masahiro Tanaka for giving up two solo homers to a lineup full of 20-homer guys?

The truth is that the Yankees were supposed to lose tonight. They were facing an outstanding left-hander with their forever-lefty-heavy lineup, and they simply didn’t have anyone pitching like an ace to set themselves up nicely for a one-game, winner-take-all showdown. The 3-0 result… well, that’s how this was supposed to go down.

It didn’t necessarily mean it would; what fun would it be if the better team always won? And the Astros might not even be a better team than the Yankees. However, the Astros with Dallas Keuchel on the mound were certainly a better team than the Yankees with whoever they picked to throw.

I just don’t see where it’s worth putting any blame tonight. Joe Girardi? He could have started John Ryan Murphy over Brian McCann against the tough lefty, but he wasn’t willing to risk Tanaka losing his comfort zone by using a backup catcher.

The front office could have added more talent, perhaps outbidding the Blue Jays for David Price or the Royals for Johnny Cueto, and set themselves up better for the postseason. However, that would have cost them Luis Severino and/or Greg Bird, both of whom went on to play key roles as the Yankees secured the wild card. Would it really have been worth it? I don’t think so.

Tanaka gave the Yankees what they should have expected. Had Keuchel’s stuff been a little off on short rest, Tanaka’s performance would have kept the Yankees in the game.

Keuchel, though, was on his game from the first pitch. The Astros bullpen might have been a bit more vulnerable, and late at-bats from Gardner, Carlos Beltran, Rodriguez and McCann definitely left something to be desired. Still, on the whole, the lack of offense was quite a team effort.

The Yankees got beat by a better team tonight.  I’m not sure the Astros would have been better in Games 2-7 in a longer series, but they had everything in their favor in this one.

Keuchel, Astros cruise past Yankees in AL Wild Card Game

AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Dallas Keuchel faced the Yankees two times during the regular season and was fantastic in each outing, striking out 12 in a complete-game shutout on June 25 and whiffing nine batters over seven scoreless frames on August 25.

The 2015 Cy  Young Award candidate continued that trend in Tuesday night’s American League Wild Card Game, limiting the Yankees to three hits and one walk over six innings of scoreless ball as the Astros earned a 3-0 win and advanced to a best-of-five ALDS with the top-seeded Royals.

Keuchel was working on three days of rest but didn’t show very many signs of fatigue, whiffing seven and needing only 87 pitches to get through six. He sure looked like he could have gone an inning longer, but Astros manager A.J. Hinch decided to turn the game over to his bullpen and they added three more big zeroes to the scoreboard at a very loud then very boo-heavy Yankee Stadium. Tony Sipp worked around some early jitters to throw a scoreless seventh, Will Harris kept the Yankees off the bases entirely in a scoreless eighth, and closer Luke Gregerson went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the ninth.

Impending free agent outfielder Colby Rasmus provided the first burst of offense for the Astros in the top of the second inning with a leadoff homer against Masahiro Tanaka. And then deadline acquisition Carlos Gomez, who missed a bunch of time down the stretch with an intercostal strain, got to Tanaka for another solo shot in the top of the fourth. Houston scored its third run on a Jose Altuve RBI single in the top of the seventh.

This is a young, talented Astros team with an ace at the head of its rotation.

Kansas City could have a problem.