Playoff veteran Utley rises to the occasion

Second baseman delivers for Dodgers to send NLDS to Game 5

Playoff veteran Utley rises to the occasion

LOS ANGELES -- For those wondering why the Dodgers would re-sign an aging Chase Utley last winter, the answer turned out to be, the fall.

Utley has won one Fall Classic (2008) with the Phillies, and he kept the Dodgers alive in their quest for another on Tuesday. He singled in the go-ahead run with two outs in the bottom of the eighth, made a diving glove flip to closer Kenley Jansen on the final play and shared hero status with Clayton Kershaw and many others in the 6-5 win that deadlocked the National League Division Series. Game 5 is set for Thursday in Washington (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on FS1).

"For the most part, you're in that situation a lot over the course of a season," Utley said of his at-bat. "You obviously try to keep it simple and try to put a good at-bat together. Sometimes it works out. Sometimes it doesn't. Today it did."

Game Date Matchup Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 7 LAD 4, WAS 3 video
Gm 2 Oct. 9 WSH 5, LAD 2 video
Gm 3 Oct. 10 WAS 8, LAD 3 video
Gm 4 Oct. 11 LAD 6, WAS 5 video
Gm 5 Oct. 13 LAD 4, WSH 3 video

Utley rebounded from hitting .212 last year to emerge as a leadoff-batting regular, team leader and postseason star. Those who play with him aren't surprised.

"I don't want to downplay it," said winning reliever Joe Blanton, "but that's standard Chase. He's the guy you want up there in those situations. Down in the count doesn't matter to him, he'll fight through an at-bat, put quality at-bats together, whether or not it comes out in his favor."

Blanton, Utley and catcher Carlos Ruiz have brought their Philadelphia postseason experience to the Dodgers, unaffected by the pressure and each rising to the occasion.

"Just keep that calmness about you regardless of the situation," said Blanton. "Slow the game down when it's amped up. We've been there and we won, we've been there and we lost. Kind of done it all."

Utley had help during the winning rally from a couple of other unlikely protagonists. Andrew Toles, out of baseball last year and in Class A at the start of this year, was hit on the foot by a Blake Treinen 1-0 slider with two outs. Andre Ethier, out almost the entire 2016 season with a broken right leg, singled Toles to second on a 1-0 sinker, perfect execution in his October role as pinch-hitter.

"That at-bat was just one where I'm not trying to be aggressive with emotions and the energy going, telling you and wanting to do it all yourself," said Ethier. "When you've got guys like Chase and [Corey] Seager, and [Justin Turner] following you, sometimes stacking runners on base is all you got to do to get the job done."

Utley fell behind in the count, 1-2, before singling a slider sharply to right field.

"Chase, he's risen to many occasions and rises to the moment," said manager Dave Roberts. "As bad as his at-bats might have been earlier in the game, you know what, he just doesn't scare off and he keeps competing.

"With Andre, for me the small sample in September meant nothing. It was more that at-bat quality, and that's what I told him and I knew he was going to play a pivotal role in each of these series."

Utley wasn't done. Jansen, rebounding from a horrendous four-run outing when asked to keep Game 3 close, struck out pinch-hitter Stephen Drew and Trea Turner in the ninth, only for Bryce Harper to hit a tapper to the right side. Jansen broke to cover first base, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez went to his right to make the play, but Utley cut in front to field the ball and flip it with his glove to Jansen, who beat Harper to first.

"He could have made the play," Utley said of Gonzalez, "I was calling it the whole time. Once I was calling it, I didn't want to give up on it just in case he was to give up on it. So it was one of those plays where, glad it worked out."

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers since 1989 and for since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.