PHILADELPHIA (AP)—Chase Utley is in a rut. He’s simply run out of ways to avoid talking about his 27-game hitting streak.
Utley chats about the weather, the starting pitching—anything!—as long he can dance around the streak.
But the Phillies would gladly take some stock tips or political views from him if it means Utley’s chase keeps going.
Utley extended the longest hitting streak in the major leagues this season, Cory Lidle looked appealing to a contender with four-hit ball over eight innings, and Philadelphia beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 5-2 on Thursday.
Mike Lieberthal homered for the first time since last September for the Phillies, who won the last two games of the three-game series.
“We got a series. How ‘bout that!” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.
Utley had plenty to do with it. He hit a soft liner to center leading off the fifth inning against Diamondbacks starter Claudio Vargas to equal the third-longest streak in team history.
Shortstop Jimmy Rollins has the longest streak at 38 games—the final 36 of last season and the first two this year.
After Utley singled, he stole second and scored on Ryan Howard’s double for a 3-2 lead. Lidle (8-7) made the lead stand up and won his fourth straight start.
Utley was about the last player to show up in the locker room after the game and again deftly deflected all questions about his torrid hitting streak.
Is it tough to go through the streak?
“Well, I mean it was a hot day today.”
Do you take anything from Rollins’ streak?
“Well, Lieby came up with a big home run and Aaron (Rowand) had a big hit with two outs.”
And on it went. Finally, he was asked if it was difficult to come up with answers to these questions.
“Sometimes,” Utley said, smiling.
If Utley does pass Rollins, Lidle might not be around to see it.
Lidle and Phillies ace Jon Lieber have been two of the names heavily rumored in trade talk with Philadelphia looking to deal at next week’s deadline after falling out of contention.
Tom Gordon tossed a perfect ninth for his 25th save.
Much like Lieber a night earlier after beating Arizona, Lidle downplayed the trade speculation.
“I don’t think about that at all,” Lidle said. “I’ve been too wrapped up trying to get hitters out.”
Vargas (8-7) couldn’t hold the lead when his defense failed him in the fourth. Rowand reached on third baseman Chad Tracy’s error, and one out later Lieberthal’s power drought ended.
His two-run shot was his first homer since Sept. 10, 2005—a span of 160 at-bats. Lieberthal hit 12 homers last season and reached a career high of 31 in 1999.
Rowand made it 5-2 in the seventh with a two-run single.
Vargas allowed four runs—two earned—and struck out a season-high eight in six-plus innings.
After allowing a leadoff double in the fourth, Lidle cruised and didn’t allow another baserunner until a one-out single in the eighth. He struck out a pair of batters in the fourth, fifth and eighth innings and pitched eight innings for the second straight start.
“That’s his forte, he keeps hitters off balance,” Gonzalez said. “We would have liked to have won another series, but Lidle settled in after the two home runs.”
Utley was hit in the back in his first at-bat and fouled out in the third inning. He singled again to center in the seventh off reliever Randy Choate.
Utley extended his streak the previous two games with home runs.
“He had a couple of tough pitches and was able to flick them out there and get a couple of hits,” Howard said. “To be able to do that, you’ve got to be locked in.”
Ed Delahanty had a 31-game hitting streak in 1899, and Billy Hamilton also had a 27-gamer in 1894. Chuck Klein twice hit in 26 straight games in 1930.
Gonzalez’s double in the fourth was the 529th of his career, tying him with Al Oliver for 28th on the career list. … Rollins, who has a strained right hamstring, was given the day off. Manuel said Rollins would probably sit out Friday’s game.