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11/05/09 3:20 AM EST

Utley flirts with rare feat for runner-up

Phils star gives MVP-caliber performance in losing effort

NEW YORK -- The last second baseman to win a World Series MVP was also the last to win it while playing for the losing team: Bobby Richardson, who knocked in 12 runs in the 1960 Fall Classic for the Yankees.

The main reason Richardson was on the losing side that year was because of the player manning second for his opponent, Pittsburgh's Bill Mazeroski, who hit the first title-winning walk-off home run in World Series history in Game 7.

Forty-nine years later, second baseman Chase Utley came close to matching Richardson's feat, making a strong case to be the Series' Most Valuable Player even as the Phillies fell short in their bid to repeat.

After the game, Utley characteristically said all the right things, deflecting attention off his personal performance and taking the team approach instead.

"I'm more disappointed that we weren't able to be world champions," Utley said. "But it always makes you feel good when you're able to contribute."

Utley's choice of verb belies the scope of his own contribution. In six games, the Philadelphia second baseman hit five home runs. No one has ever hit more in a World Series, and the last person to hit that many did so 32 years ago and is nicknamed Mr. October for it.

"He did an unbelievable job," Shane Victorino said. "Going into the Series, everyone questioned what was wrong with him and his struggles. And he showed the world how good a player he is, and what he loves to do, and why he is, to me, the best second baseman in baseball."

Utley did, in fact, enter the series as a bit of a question mark. He was hitting .218 with three home runs in the 40 games since the start of September, and rumors of a nagging injury surrounded the second baseman.

Once the World Series started, however, Utley put those concerns to rest almost immediately. His two solo home runs to right field in Game 1 off CC Sabathia backed Cliff Lee's dominant pitching performance and handed the Phillies the early series lead. In doing so, Utley became the first left-handed hitter to hit two home runs off a southpaw in the Fall Classic since Babe Ruth.

Super sluggers
Most home runs in one postseason
Rank Player Team Year HR
1. Carlos Beltran HOU 2004 8
Barry Bonds SF 2002 8
3. Jayson Werth PHI 2009 7
B.J. Upton TB 2008 7
Troy Glaus ANA 2002 7
6. Chase Utley PHI 2009 6
Alex Rodriguez NYY 2009 6
Evan Longoria TB 2008 6
Albert Pujols STL 2004 6
Larry Walker STL 2004 6
Rich Aurilia SF 2002 6
Jim Thome CLE 1998 6
Bernie Williams NYY 1996 6
Ken Griffey SEA 1995 6
Lenny Dykstra PHI 1993 6
Bob Robertson PIT 1971 6

Utley got to Sabathia again in Game 4, cutting a two-run deficit in half with another solo shot to right in the seventh inning.

He set the tone in a must-win Game 5 with a first-inning, first-pitch three-run homer to right off A.J. Burnett. And he tacked on another solo shot in the seventh off Phil Coke -- an insurance run that proved vital in the late innings of the game.

Utley's quintet of long balls in the Series tied Reggie Jackson's outburst in the 1977 Fall Classic, and his seven career World Series homers are the most by a second baseman.

"Obviously, it's great company," Utley said after Game 5. "At some point, not right now, maybe I'll look back on it and see what kind of special moment it is."

Utley's not the kind of player that soaks up attention; in that way, he's something of a foil to his double-play partner, Jimmy Rollins. But don't let that persuade you into thinking Utley isn't passionate about what he does.

"He's one of the most prepared, one of the most dedicated, he has the most desire and passion to play the game that I've ever been around," manager Charlie Manuel said following the Game 5 win. "I used to say Kirby Puckett was my favorite player, and all those things I just said, I used to say those about Kirby Puckett.

"He's a pleasure to be around and a pleasure to manage. I mean that, and I could not say enough about him because that's what I think about him."

In the end, like Richardson, Utley wasn't able to do enough himself to lift his team to a title. But he can still take solace in this: Richardson's Yankees were back in the World Series the next two seasons, and each time they came home with the trophy.

"We didn't accomplish our goal that we set out for the season, but we got to a spot where a lot of teams never get a chance to be. For that, we should hold our heads high," Utley said. "We'll try to focus on next year, try to get ready this offseason, try to become the best players we can be."

Tim Britton is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.