Utley singles in first, hit streak at 33

Utley singles in first, hit streak at 33

ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals couldn't stop Chase Utley.

The Phillies' All-Star second baseman delivered a first-inning single off Jeff Suppan on Tuesday night at Busch Stadium, extending his hitting streak to 33 games. He hit a ground ball up the middle, eluding the diving Ronnie Belliard.

"First hit for anyone gets you kind of relaxed and gets that monkey off your back," Ryan Howard said.

Utley also singled to right field in the top of the ninth, finishing 2-for-5 with a run scored in the Phils' 5-3 win over the Redbirds at Busch Stadium.

Utley ranks second on the Phillies' all-time list, behind Jimmy Rollins' 38-game streak in 2005-06. The Redbirds stopped Rollins' streak in the season's first series.

The All-Star second baseman didn't talk about the streak before or after the game. Howard, though, provided plenty of praise.

"It's great. To be able to hit behind him and watch him, it's been fun," Howard said. "It's been a fun guy to watch. Not only fans in Philadelphia, but baseball fans everywhere appreciate what is going right now and it has everyone on the edge of their seats wondering what he is going to do."

Even the opposing manager credited Utley.

"His at-bats today helped beat us, so I didn't enjoy that at all," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "But I know what he is doing and I know how tough it is. We'll try to be as tough as we can on him."

Utley's streak is the seventh-longest since Joe DiMaggio hit in 56 straight in 1941. Pete Rose hit in 44 straight in 1978, Paul Molitor 39 in 1987, Rollins 38 in 2005-06, Luis Castillo 35 in 2002, Benito Santiago 34 in 1987 and Dom DiMaggio 34 in 1949.

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel believes Utley could approach DiMaggio's hallowed record.

"He has a very consistent stroke and doesn't strike out," Manuel said.

Assistant general manager Mike Arbuckle said he knew Utley had the talent to succeed in the Majors.

"I always knew he was going to be a good player," assistant general manager Mike Arbuckle said. "He has reached the upper echelon faster than I thought. From Day 1, he has been intensely competitive at every level. He has worked on it and focused on his defense and all parts of his game."

Utley is now hitting .404 (57-for-141) during the streak and .328 on the season. He is among the league leaders in multiple offensive categories, including leading the league in hits (139). Arbuckle believes the streak and the season could be a precursor to a great career.

"He has a great work ethic and is never satisfied," Arbuckle said. "I think he has a chance to be a Hall of Famer. He can be an exceptional player for a long time."

Conor Nicholl is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.