10/23/08 12:43 AM EST
Phillies Short Hops: Game 1
Utley's first-inning, two-run homer gives Hamels early cushion
By Kevin Horan / MLB.com
Chase Utley's two-run homer in the first gave Philly an early lead, and that was the difference behind solid pitching by starter Cole Hamels.
Carl Crawford, Tampa Bay's dangerous No. 5 hitter, was the last hurdle for Phils closer Brad Lidge to overcome in the bottom of the ninth. The Rays' left fielder battled through an eight-pitch at-bat before finally popping a foul ball down the third-base line. Phils third baseman Pedro Feliz showed the defense that he has been known for all season when he chased down Crawford's popup for the final out.
11 -- The Phillies left 11 runners on base Wednesday night. Their leadoff runner reached base in four innings -- the second, third, fourth and sixth. Philadelphia, however, was able to manage only one run in those frames. The Phillies' lack of clutch hitting was offset by a solid performance by relievers Ryan Madson and Lidge in a one-run game. Game balls Cole Hamels
Just as he did in the National League Division Series and the NL Championship Series, Hamels delivered a solid start in Game 1. On Wednesday night, the Phillies' 24-year-old ace kept his team in the game with seven solid innings.
Nothing takes a crowd out of a game quite like an early home run, and Utley did just that to the Tropicana Field faithful with his two-run shot to right in the first. The home run also allowed Hamels to take the mound in the bottom of the first with the extra confidence that comes with having an early lead. Utley also singled and stole two bases.
The Phils' third baseman had two hits Wednesday night, but his biggest contribution may have been with his glove. The Rays had the bases loaded in the third and the ever-dangerous B.J. Upton at the plate with one out. Upton smacked a sharp ground ball to third base, but Feliz fielded it cleanly and fired to Utley at second base to begin a rally-killing, inning-ending double play. Feliz also recorded the final out of the game on a tricky foul popup by Crawford.
Sense of October
Normally, opposing defenses are known to shift heavily to the right side of the infield when first baseman Ryan Howard comes to the plate. The Rays also employed the shift on Utley when the second baseman batted in the first inning Wednesday night. Utley tried to take advantage of the shift by dropping a bunt down the third-base line, but it went foul. Five pitches later, Utley blasted a two-run homer to right field to give the Phils an early lead.
4 AB, 2 H, 1 R, 2 RBI
Comment: Utley started the Phillies' offense off on the right foot with a first-inning home run.
7 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 K
Comment: Hamels has been as reliable as the Phillies could have hoped so far in this postseason. The team's ace once again put his team in position to win on Wednesday with seven solid innings.
"I have to thank Chase for starting it off right. Anytime you have a guy that can lead off the game with a home run, it definitely sets the tone and makes it easier on me."-- Phillies pitcher Hamels, as told to Comcast SportsNet's Leslie Gudel, on Utley's first-inning home run.
The Phillies will send Brett Myers to the mound for Game 2 on Thursday. The right-hander will be making his first start away from Citizens Bank Park this postseason. Myers has struggled on the road this season, and that was never more apparent than in his most recent road start, on Sept. 19 against the Marlins -- he was tagged for 10 runs in four innings.
Kevin Horan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.