Cubs' late rally spoils big night for Utley
Second baseman pinch-hits key single after agreeing to extension
PHILADELPHIA -- Chase Utley could not escape the spotlight on Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park.
His name carried the evening.
A source told MLB.com early in a 5-2 loss to the Cubs that the Phillies and Utley had agreed on a two-year contract extension. There are reports the deal is in the $25-30 million range with vesting options for further seasons.
Utley later pinch-hit for Cole Hamels with a runner on third and one out in the seventh inning. He singled to center field to score the tying run.
Utley then tried to score the go-ahead run a couple batters later on a single to right. He barreled into Cubs catcher Dioner Navarro at the plate, but Navarro held onto the ball for the out despite the violent collision between catcher and baserunner.
"I wasn't really sure what had happened," Utley said. "The play happened so fast. I felt like I didn't have many options. Obviously, I wanted to try to knock the ball loose. I give him a lot of credit for hanging in there as long as he did, hanging onto the ball. That's probably a big reason why they won that game tonight."
"Utley is a hard player, and runs the bases good," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "You don't want anybody to get hurt. You're not doing it to hurt anybody, you're doing it to score a run. But it was one heck of a play by Navarro to hold on to the ball and block the plate at the same time. A lot of catchers don't have the guts to do that sometimes."
Navarro collapsed in pain after the play and had to be carted off the field with an injured right leg. But x-rays were negative and the Cubs are treating the injury only as a bruise.
Sacrificing his body in an effort to help the team win.
Utley lived up to his reputation Wednesday.
"I love Philadelphia," said Utley, who declined to address the extension in specifics. "I've always envisioned playing here. I've never envisioned playing anywhere else. I hope that remains a possibility."
Hamels should be comforted knowing his second baseman is coming back. Hamels has had a nightmarish season and would like to see a big turnaround in 2014. If Utley is healthy, he can help the cause.
"He's pretty much the face of the franchise," Hamels said. "He does things right. He's done things right since Day One. He's the typical Philly athlete and Philly ballplayer. He maxes out every day and you have to give him credit. That's what's fun to watch. Being a teammate, feeling confident knowing that I'm playing with one of the best second basemen in the game. I feel pretty comfortable and obviously pretty happy that he's still going to be here."
Hamels allowed six hits, two runs and struck out three in seven innings. But once again, Hamels, whose 3.26 run-support average entering the night ranked 85th out of 91 pitchers in baseball, got little help from the offense.
Perhaps Hamels can take solace in that he has pitched much better lately, and that might mean better things to come next season. He is 2-2 with a 2.16 ERA (12 earned runs in 50 innings) in his last seven starts, so he seems to be righting the ship, even if righting it will not help the Phillies make the postseason.
"It's just going out there and making it fun," Hamels said. "I think when you stress about parts of the game and aspects of the game you really can't control, those stresses can lead into the way you're pitching. It doesn't make it comfortable. I'm just trying to go out there and enjoy myself."
The Phillies took a 1-0 lead in the second inning when Domonic Brown homered to right-center field. It was his 25th homer, the most in a season by a Phillies player since Ryan Howard hit 33 in 2011.
The Cubs scored a run in the third on a homer from Donnie Murphy and a run in the fifth to take a 2-1 lead.
Utley's single tied the game in the seventh, but Phillies relievers Luis Garcia and Justin De Fratus combined to allow three runs in the ninth, with Garcia putting two runners on with walks before De Fratus allowed a three-run home run to Murphy, who has homered three times in two games after entering the series with just three plate appearances this season.
"All of a sudden Murphy has become Babe Ruth," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.
The Phillies lost, but they get to keep Utley. That should ease their pain at least one night.