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.
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:
Everybody is leaving. Everybody
— Jim Salisbury (@JSalisburyCSN) June 28, 2012
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.