Howard: Utley's return 'bigger than the game'

Former teammates homer in same game for 52nd time

Howard: Utley's return 'bigger than the game'

PHILADELPHIA -- Ryan Howard smiled as he recalled Chase Utley's standing ovation in the top of the first inning Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park.

Phillies fans stood and cheered as Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir" played and Utley strode to home plate for the first time since the Phillies traded him to the Dodgers last August. They kept standing and they kept cheering for nearly 1 minute, 25 seconds. Utley stepped out of the batter's box at one point, turned and raised his blue Dodgers helmet to the crowd before he looked to Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp and home-plate umpire Ron Kulpa.

"Hey, let's go," Rupp said he told them.

But the roar continued. Utley stepped out of the batter's box again and acknowledged the fans one more time.

Howard smiled because he knows Utley is not one for sentimental moments. But Utley had no choice this time.

Utley's return to Philadelphia

This was something special.

"I think it was something bigger tonight," Howard said after the 15-5 loss. "I definitely think it was something bigger than the game tonight."

Utley then homered in the fifth inning and hit a grand slam in the seventh inning.

He got curtain calls each time.

"I think it just goes to show you can change the uniform, but he's always going to be a Phillie at heart," Howard said. "He's always going to be a Phillie to everybody here. Again, I thought it was great. I thought it was awesome. For the fans to give him a curtain call again, it shows what he was able to do here and the impact that he had here on the fans."

Howard's amazing grab in the 6th

Howard hit a solo homer to center field in the eighth. It was the 375th homer of his career, which moved him into 76th place on the all-time list. It also was the 52nd time in their careers Howard and Utley homered in the same game. Of course, this was the first time they homered for different teams.

"It's crazy, man," Howard said. "I'm out there, we're trying to beat him, but it's also tough because I played so many years alongside him and I always want to see him do well. I don't think you could have scripted it any better for him tonight."

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Read his Phillies blog The Zo Zone, follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.