October 19, 2010
But maybe even more frustrating was Utley's inability to complete two defensive plays, albeit difficult ones, that could have changed the momentum of NLCS Game 3.
The first play: With two outs and runners at the corners in the fourth inning, Aubrey Huff(notes) pulled one hard on the ground between first and second. Utley ranged to his left, timed his dive well, but saw the ball bounce off his glove and roll into right field.
It's a play he's made countless times before, and had he made it here would have kept the score at 1-0.
The second play: One inning later, Aaron Rowand(notes) was on second with two outs, Giants second baseman Freddy Sanchez(notes) hit one of those soft live drive one hoppers to his counterpart. Utley was caught in between on the hop, which came up with some backspin and ricocheted off his right arm into short center field. This not only allowed Sanchez to reach safely, but also allowed Rowand to score from second.
Charlie Manuel's take on the play (via Asap Sports):
"Could he have made it? From what happened, where he was at the ball, he couldn't. I don't know if he could have — he couldn't have definitely probably couldn't have come in more because he would have felt that way. But it was a tough play for him."
Uh, yeah. What Cholly said.
The second play was originally ruled an error by the official scorer, but a half inning later it was changed to a hit and an RBI for Sanchez.
We could split hairs about hit vs. error all day if we wanted to, but at the very least we should agree Utley has to knock the ball down to prevent that critical third run from scoring.
That said, we aren't entering "Brooks Utley" territory here with his defense. These aren't easy plays that you'll see made routinely. It's just Chase Utley had two opportunities to make a difference making plays in a series that seems destined to be decided by one play, and he couldn't get the job done either time.