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.

Orioles finally reach 20 wins, snap nine-game losing streak

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The Orioles won their 19th game of the season 11 days ago. The club snapped a nine-game losing streak on Sunday afternoon, taking down the Marlins 10-4 to finally cross the 20-win threshold. Aside from the Orioles, who have baseball’s worst record (20-50), the White Sox were the slowest team to reach 20 wins, securing No. 20 on June 6 — 11 days ago, for those of you keeping score.

Mark Trumbo had three hits including a solo home run, three runs scored, and two RBI. Jace Peterson knocked in four runs, including two with a two-run homer. Starter Dylan Bundy wasn’t particularly sharp, giving up four runs over six innings, but it was good enough for the W.

Coincidentally, the Orioles’ last two wins at Camden Yards came on Father’s Day (June 17) and Mother’s Day (May 13). They were on an 11-game home losing streak.

There hasn’t been any one singular cause for the Orioles’ woes. The club has dealt with a handful of injuries. First baseman Chris Davis is having a tremendously terrible season, so much so that a Baltimore-area bar is offering free shots whenever he gets a hit. Second baseman Jonathan Schoop hasn’t hit anywhere close to the way he hit last year. Free agent pick-up Alex Cobb has a 7.14 ERA over 12 starts. Andrew Cashner has a 4.98 ERA and is on the 10-day disabled list. Zach Britton has been absent most of the season due to an injury, only recently coming back.

No one expected the Orioles to hang with the Yankees and Red Sox this season, but I don’t think anyone was expecting them to reach 20 wins in the middle of June, either.