First, Utley will put a 35-game run on the line when the Phillies begin a three-game series against the Mets on Friday.
If the All-Star second baseman continues his streak without sitting out a game and the Phillies (52-55) don’t have any rainouts, Utley would enter a three-game set against the Mets (64-43) on Aug. 25-27 on a 55-game hitting streak. That would give Utley to break one of baseball’s most celebrated records in the city where DiMaggio starred.
One night after a controversial infield hit in the eighth inning extended his streak, Utley left no doubts Thursday by singling in his first at-bat in an 8-1 victory at St. Louis. He’s three games shy of matching Jimmy Rollins’ franchise record 38-game run, which ended in the third game of this season.
“I didn’t have to wait too long tonight,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “I just sit and watch him hit, and pull like hell for him.”
Utley, who is batting .405 (62-for-153) during his run, had three hits in the Phillies’ third straight win and was 7-for-17 in the series. The victory also allowed the Phillies to move within 2 1/2 games of NL wild card co-leaders Arizona and Cincinnati.
Utley will be facing a pitcher he saw for the first time earlier this season in veteran Orlando Hernandez (7-8, 5.00 ERA). Utley went 1-for-2 against Hernandez in a 9-3 loss on June 14.
Hernandez is 3-0 with a 3.04 ERA over his last four outings. He allowed three runs and eight hits over eight innings in an 11-3 victory at Atlanta on Saturday.
The right-hander’s start against the Phillies on June 14 marked his lone career outing against them. He lasted only three innings and gave up two runs and four hits.
New York is facing Philadelphia for the first time since a three-game sweep at Citizens Bank Park from June 13-15. That sweep pushed the Mets’ lead over the Phillies to 9 1/2 games and they’ve held a comfortable lead since.
Led by Jose Reyes’ .349 average, five of New York’s top six hitters in the lineup are batting over .300 against Philadelphia this year. Joining Reyes—who signed a four-year, $23.25 million contract extension on Thursday—are Cliff Floyd (.318), David Wright (.316), Carlos Delgado (.313) and Carlos Beltran (.308).
The Mets are coming off a 4-1 loss at Florida on Thursday, capping a six-game road trip in which they went 4-2. Pedro Martinez allowed one run in six strong innings, but New York managed only an unearned run against Marlins starter Dontrelle Willis.
Beltran went 10-for-25 with five homers and 14 RBIs while Paul Lo Duca also had a had strong trip, going 12-for-26.
Randy Wolf (0-0, 6.23) will take the mound for Philadelphia after making his season debut on Sunday. Wolf gave up three runs over 4 1-3 innings in an 11-5 victory over Florida in his first outing in more than a year due to elbow surgery.
“I had butterflies, but I felt fine out there,” Wolf said. “I wanted to be aggressive, but I was probably nibbling too much. My command was not that great.”
The left-hander is 5-1 with a 2.18 ERA in 11 career starts at Shea Stadium.
The Mets are 18-9 this year against left-handed starters this season—the best mark in the NL.