Utley named NL co-Player of Week
All-Star batted .444 over seven-game span after slow start
Cincinnati's Alex Gonzalez and Philadelphia's Chase Utley were so good at the plate this week that it was impossible to differentiate which performance was more impressive.
As a result, the two players were named the Bank of America Presents National League co-Players of the Week on Monday.
Utley batted .444 (12-for-27) with 21 total bases, seven runs and a .778 slugging percentage over a seven-game span and led the NL with 10 RBIs.
It was a breakout week for the 2006 All-Star, who got off to a slow start this season. Entering last week, Utley was hitting just .250 with three home runs and 10 RBIs. Fast forward to Monday, and the Phillies second baseman had improved to a .305 average with five home runs and 20 RBIs.
"He's warming up," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "He's getting there. He's using the whole field."
Philadelphia shortstop Jimmy Rollins has noticed a difference in Utley's approach at the plate recently.
"His confidence is back," Rollins said. "Chase was going through where he takes a good swing and he's up; and takes a bad swing and he's down. But he's found something that has clicked again, and when you do that, you're able to hold onto it."
Utley's game of the week came on Wednesday against the Nationals. He went 5-for-5 with two doubles and three RBIs.
"It was just a matter of time," Utley said after that game. "It's frustrating, but you need to stay positive."
Gonzalez, who slugged a National League-best 1.040, had his best game of the week on Tuesday night, going 4-for-5 with two home runs, five RBIs and a career-high four runs against St. Louis. All of this coming from a guy who entered the game hitting .241 with four RBIs.
"It's special," Gonzalez said after last Tuesday's game. "It's a great night for me and everybody."
Gonzalez is hitting .520 (13-for-25) with three homers, nine runs and six RBIs in the past six games. His week was even more impressive, considering the problems he's been experiencing off the field. Gonzalez's seven-month-old son, Johan, was hospitalized with an illness on April 12. Gonzalez took a four-day leave of absence to be with his family, but returned to the team when his son showed signs of improvement.
"Last week was a tough week for [Johan]" Gonzalez said last Tuesday. "Right now, he's doing very well, thank God. But it's very tough. You have to split your mind between family and the game."
Gonzalez, 30, is known more for his Gold Glove-caliber defense than his offensive prowess. The Reds signed him to a three-year contract in the offseason to shore up their middle infield. But that doesn't mean Reds manager Jerry Narron is surprised at what Gonzalez has done at the plate.
"Gonzalez is a much better offensive player than people give him credit for," Narron said following Sunday's 9-5 win over Pittsburgh. "We're hitting him [fifth] in the order, [and] I think that might be helping him a bit, too. He's got some guys behind him that are able to hit the ball a little bit."
Other nominees this past week were: Braves outfielder Jeff Francouer, who hit .444 with two home runs and seven RBIs, and Cardinals shortstop Edgar Renteria, who hit .429 with 12 hits and five RBIs.
Gregor Chisholm is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.