Chase Utley goes deep in first at-bat of the 2012 season, finishes 3-for-5 in debut

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Chase Utley’s 2012 debut is off to a rocking start.

The veteran second baseman — who missed nearly three months due to a knee injury — blasted a solo home run to deep right field in the bottom of the first inning Wednesday night against the Pirates. It was his first plate appearance since last October 7.

Carlos Ruiz followed with a solo shot of his own, lifting the Phils to an early 2-0 lead over the Bucs.

Utley hit just .189/.279/.351 on his 10-game rehab assignment, but that rust has clearly not followed him back to the bigs. And he should continue to provide a spark for a team that has badly needed one.

The Phillies entered play Wednesday with a poor 36-40 record, ranking fourth in the five-team NL East.

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UPDATE, 8:03 PM: Utley nearly went deep again in his second at-bat, driving a ball to the warning track in center field. Andrew McCutchen was able to haul it in. The Pirates are up 3-2 in the third inning.

UPDATE, 9:07 PM: Utley legged out an infield single in the sixth, running well down the line. It’s 8-4, Bucs.

UPDATE, 9:41 PM: Utley singled to right in his fourth at-bat. The Phillies are rallying and trail by just one.

UPDATE, 10:09 PM: That rally has been stunted, as noted by CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury:

The Pirates have scored three runs in the top of the eighth and are now leading the Phillies 11-7.

UPDATE, 10:39 PM: That 11-7 lead holds as the Pirates win. Utley went 3-for-5 in his season debut.

Yasmani Grandal played himself out of NLCS Game 4

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Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal has not had a good postseason. Entering Monday night’s NLCS Game 3, he was batting .111/.238/.278 in 21 trips to the plate across the NLDS and the first two games of the NLCS.

Defense has also been an issue for Grandal. In Game 1 of the NLCS, Grandal was on the hook for two passed balls. In the sixth inning of Game 3 Monday night, he couldn’t corral a curve in the dirt, which allowed Travis Shaw to score the Brewers’ second run of the night. Starter Walker Buehler was charged with a wild pitch. In the eighth, with Ryan Braun on first base and Shaw at the plate, Grandal again couldn’t corral a pitch in the dirt, allowing Braun to move to second base. Fortunately for the Dodgers, Alex Wood was able to escape the inning with no damage.

Manager Dave Roberts said that Austin Barnes, not Grandal, will start behind the plate for Game 4 on Tuesday night, Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times reports. That comes as no surprise at all. When Grandal struck out with the bases loaded in the ninth inning, Dodger fans regaled him with boos.

Barnes will be an upgrade defensively, but he’s lacking with the bat. He had an 0-for-3 performance in Game 2, though with an RBI, bringing his career slash line in the playoffs to .200/.281/.300 across 57 plate appearances. During the regular season, his career 100 adjusted OPS is a fair bit behind Grandal’s 115. Roberts is trading offense for defense in Game 4. Rich Hill will get the start opposite the Brewers’ Gio González.