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.
Dodgers second baseman Charlie Culberson delivered a walk-off solo home run in the bottom of the 10th inning, clinching the NL West for the Dodgers on Sunday afternoon. What a way to celebrate Vin Scully’s final home game behind the microphone.
The Dodgers were trailing 2-1 in the seventh inning, but shortstop Corey Seager tripled in a run to tie the game. Rockies outfielder David Dahl untied the game in the top of the ninth with a two-out solo home run off of Kenley Jansen. But Seager once again rose to the occasion, blasting a game-tying solo shot in the bottom half of the ninth against Adam Ottavino. That would set the stage for Culberson in the next frame.
Culberson, a former Rockie, came into the afternoon with a .591 OPS and zero home runs in 53 plate appearances. He finished the afternoon 3-for-5 with the homer.
It’s the fourth consecutive season in which the Dodgers have won the NL West. The Cubs have clinched the best record, which means they’ll play the winner of the Wild Card game. The Dodgers will play the Nationals in the NLDS. The Nationals have a 1.5-game lead over the Dodgers for home-field advantage, so both teams are still playing for something of importance in the regular season’s final week.
The Red Sox defeated the Rays 3-2 on Sunday afternoon thanks to some nifty base running by second baseman Dustin Pedroia. The win marks their 11th in a row, inching them closer to a division title.
With the game tied 2-2 in the top of the tenth, Pedroia led off with a single off of reliever Eddie Gamboa. After Xander Bogaerts lined out, David Ortiz ripped a double into the right-center field gap. Pedroia, running hard the whole way, rounded third and motored towards home plate, but the relay throw home — from center fielder Jaff Decker to second baseman Logan Forsythe to catcher Luke Maile — beat Pedroia by a good 10 feet. He was a dead duck.
Pedroia danced around Maile’s glove, avoiding the tag. Maile, on his side, continued to attempt to apply the tag on Pedroia. When he finally did, the ball was knocked loose and Pedroia scored the go-ahead run. The play was reviewed but the call was upheld.
Joe Kelly kept the Rays off the board in the bottom of the 10th, securing the 3-2 victory for the Red Sox.
The Blue Jays also won on Sunday, meaning the Red Sox still have a 5.5-game lead in the AL East. Any combination of two Red Sox wins and Blue Jays losses will seal up the division for the Red Sox. The two clubs round out the regular season with a three-game set against each other in Boston.