PHILADELPHIA -- Chase Utley could not have scripted Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park any better than this.The Dodgers' second baseman received a nearly 90-second standing ovation from Phillies fans in the first inning before he hit a solo home run in the fifth inning and a grand slam in
PHILADELPHIA -- Chase Utley could not have scripted Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park any better than this.
The Dodgers' second baseman received a nearly 90-second standing ovation from Phillies fans in the first inning before he hit a solo home run in the fifth inning and a grand slam in the seventh inning in Los Angeles' 15-5 victory. He made curtain calls after each homer, completing a special and unforgettable night -- his first game back in Philadelphia since the Phillies traded him to the Dodgers last August.
"We've had some great times here with great teams and played hard," Utley said. "Philly fans recognize the guys that play the game the right way. Like I said, they'll always have a special place in my heart for sure."
The victory, and the Giants' loss to the Pirates, pushed the Dodgers into first place in the National League West, but this night was about Utley's return to Philly.
"I held it together fairly well," he said. "It is a situation I've never been in before. It's something you can't describe in words. It is a special feeling to see the fans give you their support."
Howie Kendrick plated two with a shot two batters before Utley's solo jack, and Yasmani Grandal's two-run homer in the sixth was Velasquez's final straw. A walk to Joc Pederson ended Velasquez's night.
In a rematch of pitchers from last Tuesday's game at Dodger Stadium, Velasquez fared only slightly better. After giving up nine runs over 4 1/3 innings in Los Angeles, he allowed five over 5 2/3 on Tuesday. Kenta Maeda, however, turned in his best start in more than a month. He walked only one while striking out nine over six innings.
The Phillies' only runs off Maeda came on separate solo homers from Cameron Rupp and César Hernández. Ryan Howard added solo shot in the seventh to move into 76th place on the all-time homer list with his 375th career homer.
"I think it just goes to show you can change the uniform, but he's always going to be a Phillie at heart," Howard said. "He's always going to be a Phillie to everybody here. I thought it was great. I thought it was awesome. For the fans to give him a curtain call again, it shows what he was able to do here and the impact that he had here on the fans."
• Howard: Utley's return 'bigger than the game'
Utley's return: The most surprising thing about Utley's return to Philadelphia wasn't just his two home runs, nor even the standing ovation and curtain call that followed each dinger. Really, it was that it took him until his third at-bat of the night to hit the first. But he more than made up for the wait, coming to bat with the bases loaded in the eighth and unloading. The grand slam nicely caps Utley's career in Philadelphia. His first Major League hit was a grand slam, way back in Veterans Stadium in 2003. In all, Utley finished his first game at Citizens Bank Park in a visiting uniform 2-for-5 with five runs driven in.
Utley has hardly shied away from the big moments in his career. Just last week, in his first game against his old team, Utley homered in his first at-bat.
There's no doubt there's a little extra adrenaline," Utley said. "With playoff baseball, we had a little practice with that over the years. Adrenaline can be your friend at times. Definitely a lot of adrenaline flowing tonight. After that first at-bat, I was able to calm down a little." More >
Velasquez leaves early: Phillies manager Pete Mackanin wanted Velasquez to throw more changeups in his start last week against the Dodgers, when he allowed nine runs in 4 2/3 innings at Dodger Stadium. He threw a few Tuesday, but he didn't fare much better. He struck out 10 but allowed five runs on seven hits, including three home runs, in just 5 2/3 innings.
"I can't express how tough this team is," Velasquez said. "I'm glad it's the last time I'm facing them." More >
Maeda makes adjustments: Dodgers manager Dave Roberts has noticed Maeda's ability to bounce back from tough outings. Facing the Phillies for the second straight start, that's exactly what he did. Maeda walked two -- the most in five starts -- and lasted only five innings his first time facing the Phils. On Tuesday, he followed that up by holding the Phillies to three hits over six innings with nine strikeouts, their only two runs coming on solo home runs.
"Kenta threw the ball really well," Roberts said. "The fastball command was there -- he got a lot of strikes looking with the fastball, swing and miss with the fastball -- he kept those guys off balance. To see a team just recently and go out there, play the cat-and-mouse game, make adjustments -- Kenta did just that."
Elvis leaves the field: Phillies left-hander Elvis Araujo turned a three-run deficit into an 8-2 deficit. He walked Utley to start the seventh and eventually loaded the bases. He then hit Adrián González with a pitch to force home a run and walked Grandal to force home another run. Michael Mariot took his place, but he eventually allowed the grand slam to Utley. Araujo's ERA -- which sat at 5.00 entering the night -- is now 6.91.
"It is what it is," Mackanin said about the team's left-handed bullpen problems. "What you see is what we get. We just need to improve in that area."
"It's completely overwhelming. The standing ovation my first at-bat was something that I'll never forget, to be honest with you. It was truly special. It really shows how passionate and how great the Philadelphia fan base is. It was probably one of the most nervous at-bats I've ever had, honestly, at any level. I was glad to get that first at-bat over with." -- Utley, on his reception from the Philadelphia fans
"I definitely think it was something bigger than the game tonight," -- Howard, on Utley's return
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
It was the 52nd time in their careers that Utley and Howard have homered in the same game. Of course, this time they played for different teams.
Hernandez walked in the third inning to reach base in 22 consecutive games. He then got thrown out trying to steal second base.
UTLEY IS FAST
Utley circled the bases in just 18.59 seconds in the fifth inning, his fastest trot around the bases this season according to Statcast™. He needed 19.97 seconds to circle the bases in the seventh. He entered the game averaging 20.12 seconds on home run trots. Utley wasn't sure if it was the fastest he had run following homers this season.
"It happened pretty quickly," he said. "I know my [solo] home run I hit for my first hit, I was moving pretty quickly there around the bases. But maybe you can check Statcast™."
Dodgers:Scott Kazmir (9-6, 4.44 ERA) faces the Phillies for the second straight start when the series continues at 4:05 p.m. PT at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday. He was saddled with the loss, despite pitching six two-run innings, in the Phillies' lone win over the Dodgers in Los Angeles last week.
Phillies: When Phillies rookie Jake Thompson (1-1, 8.68 ERA) starts on Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. ET, he'll be looking to build on his start last weekend against the Rockies, when he allowed two hits, three runs, three walks and six strikeouts. Thompson is the No. 70 prospect in baseball, according to MLBPipeline.com.
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Evan Webeck is a reporter for MLB.com and covered the Dodgers on Tuesday.
Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Read his Phillies blog The Zo Zone, follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast.