Why oh why did Chase Utley not advance to second base on the wild pitch to start Ryan Howard’s at bat? That’s the question that will haunt the Delaware Valley tonight.
The Phillies looked disinterested through 8 innings of tonights series finale against the Nationals. Down 8-2 with 1 out in the 9th the Phils’ began to awaken. A furious 9th inning rally which included a grand slam by struggling slugger Matt Stairs ended in heartbreak. The Figthins rallied for 5 runs but Ryan Howard stranded the tying run at third base in the form of Shane Victorino by grounding into a game ending double play.
3 pitches prior to the cue shot to second, Nats lefty specialist Ron Villone fired a pitch through the 5 hole of his catcher Will Nieves. The ball bounced quickly off the backstop right back to Nieves who scrambled to ensure Victorino wouldn’t score. At the same time Chase Utley stationed at first, had taken a big secondary lead but froze instead of advancing to second and eliminating the double play possibility.
Widely recognized as being one of the league’s most savvy players it’s very rare for Chase to make a mental mistake that hurts his team. However, the play is symptomatic of the way the Phils’ have sleepwalked through the last couple of weeks. Hopefully the failed rally can light a fire under them for the series against the pathetic Mets this weekend. We shall see, but for tonight we are just left shaking our heads wondering why.