Utley is expected to be in the starting lineup on Monday night for the first time in more than a month as the Phillies meet the NL East-leading New York Mets to start a four-game series that could have a big impact on the standings.
Philadelphia (67-62) was in third place in the division and five games behind the Mets (73-56) on July 26 when Utley suffered a broken right hand after being hit by a pitch from Washington rookie John Lannan. Without Utley, the Phillies went 15-13 to move into second in the East, but start play six games off the division lead.
Utley was hitting .336 with 41 doubles, 17 homers and 82 RBIs before being injured.
“(The doctors) are going to check him out, but I’d say he’s a definite for (Monday),” Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel told the Phillies’ official Web site following Sunday’s 14-2 rout of wild card-leading San Diego to snap a four-game skid. “Having Chase in the lineup helps us. He’s a tremendous player.”
The Phillies, who are 5-6 against the Mets this year, haven’t been to the playoffs since losing to Toronto in the 1993 World Series.
“I don’t like to say make-or-break series, but this one coming up against the Mets is somewhat on the verge of that,” said Philadelphia’s Ryan Howard, who homered and drove in four runs in Sunday’s win.
The Mets also will welcome back a key player as they’re expected to activate catcher Paul Lo Duca from the disabled list after he missed 13 games with a strained hamstring suffered Aug. 11 in a loss to Florida. The Mets went 9-4 in Lo Duca’s absence using Ramon Castro, Sandy Alomar Jr. and Mike DiFelice behind the plate.
This contest begins a three-city, 10-game road trip for the Mets that includes three in Atlanta and three in Cincinnati. New York has the best road record in the major leagues at 38-26.
“Next week’s not going to make or break our season by any means,” New York’s David Wright told the Mets’ official Web site. “But we need to go in there and prove that we can compete and beat the best teams in the National League East.”
The Mets, though, failed to cap a three-game sweep of the Dodgers after falling 6-2 on Sunday night. Wright’s second double of the game drove in both of New York’s runs in the third to give the Mets a one-run lead. An error in the sixth, though, by recently acquired veteran Jeff Conine—playing at first base in place of Carlos Delgado—led to three Los Angeles runs.
New York’s Brian Lawrence (1-1, 5.57 ERA) will start the opener and face the Phillies for the first time since 2005 when he was with San Diego. The right-hander is 0-3 with 5.09 ERA in his last three starts against the Phillies, with two of those defeats coming at Citizens Bank Park.
Utley is 0-for-6 with three strikeouts in his career against Lawrence.
Facing the Padres on Wednesday, Lawrence took the loss after giving up four runs, seven hits and four walks in five innings of a 7-5 defeat.
He will be opposed by J.D. Durbin (5-3, 5.44), who will make just his second career start against the Mets for Philadelphia. On June 29, the right-hander allowed six runs and eight hits over 4 2-3 innings of the Phillies’ 6-5 loss.
Durbin is looking to get on track after his first loss following the All-Star break in which he allowed five runs - four earned - and seven hits in six innings of a 15-3 loss to the Dodgers on Wednesday. He had been 5-0 with one save and a 3.12 ERA in eight appearances, including four starts, following the break.
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