Chase Utley continues to have an MVP-type season, and Ken Griffey Jr. is chasing a milestone reserved for players who have won that award. It may only be a matter of time, meanwhile, before Jay Bruce receives his share of accolades.
Utley went 3-for-4 and homered for the fifth straight game as Philadelphia (34-25) beat Cincinnati (28-30) 5-4 on Monday night. His consecutive homer streak ties the club record he already shared with Dick Allen, Mike Schmidt and Bobby Abreu.
“He’s swinging the bat as good as I’ve ever seen him and he’s doing it every night,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said of Utley, who also homered in five straight games from April 17-21.
Utley appears to be the early favorite to win the National League’s MVP award, and potentially the third straight Phillies player to win after Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins did so in 2006 and 2007, respectively. Utley is batting .320 with a major league-leading 21 home runs and 52 RBIs.
The record for home runs hit by a second baseman is 42, set by Rogers Hornsby in 1922 and tied by Davey Johnson in 1973.
Griffey hit 49 home runs en route to winning the American League MVP with Seattle in 1997, and that helped put him on track to reach one of the most coveted milestones in baseball. Griffey, one homer shy of reaching 600 for his career, didn’t start for the Reds on Monday but he should be back in the lineup for the series’ second game.
Bruce hit in Griffey’s usual No. 3 spot in the lineup, and continued what has been a torrid start to his major league career. The 21-year-old center fielder is hitting .577 (15-for-26) with three homers and seven RBIs in seven games since being called up from Triple-A last week.
“Hopefully he keeps it up and other guys get hot,” Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker said after Bruce went 2-for-4 with a home run on Monday.
Bruce, whose three homers have come in each of his last three games, should be back in the No. 2 spot in the lineup as he and Griffey face Philadelphia’s Adam Eaton (1-3, 4.99 ERA). Eaton allowed one run and four hits while striking out six in six innings as the Phillies beat Colorado 6-1 on Wednesday night for his first win of the season.
Eaton also pitched well in his previous start, but was the losing pitcher at Houston on May 23. He has given the Phillies a chance to stay in games this season after going 10-10 with a 6.29 ERA in 2007.
The veteran right-hander is 2-0 with a 4.19 ERA in six starts against the Reds.
Cincinnati will counter with Aaron Harang (2-7, 3.81 ERA). He pitched on three days’ rest in his last start and struggled, giving up a season-high six runs and 10 hits in four innings as Cincinnati lost 7-2 to Pittsburgh on Thursday.
Harang pitched well against the Phillies on April 5, allowing two runs and six hits while striking out six in seven innings as the Reds won 4-3. But he is 1-1 with a 6.62 ERA in six career starts versus the Phillies.
The right-hander is 0-4 with a 5.47 ERA in four road starts.