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.

ALCS Game 4 postponed

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As expected, a weather system that is supposed to pour rain on New York this evening has caused the league to postpone Game 4 of the ALCS.

The game will now be played tomorrow, with Game 5 moving to Friday, which was supposed to be a travel day. There will be no travel day now, with Games 6 and 7, if necessary, taking place in Houston on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

The postponement helps the Yankees some in the short term in that it gives their bullpen some rest and could allow them to go from a scheduled bullpen game, which is what they were going to use tonight, to giving Masahiro Tanaka the Game 4 start tomorrow. In the longer run, though, it works to the Astros’ advantage in that it allows them to skip their fourth starter (whoever that would be) or toss one of their big three on short rest and go with Zach Greinke and Justin Verlander over the next two games. Moreover, if the Yankees do manage to push this series to six or seven games — which they’ll have to now in order to win it — there will be four straight days worth of games, meaning no rest for that pen over the final four games.

Oh, and since the Nats swept the Cardinals, that means there’s no baseball tonight. Enjoy catching up on whatever it is you have on your DVR.