LOS ANGELES -- Back before all the chaos, the late-inning dramatics and the game-changing plays, the Dodgers seemed to have an awfully good chance to win this thing. And they certainly needed it, entering Game 4 of the National League Championship Series with a chance to square the series up at two on Monday night.
Though they had taken their first lead in the fifth inning, perhaps the Dodgers first sensed their opportunity to beat the Phillies in the sixth, when Casey Blake led off the inning with a home run to give the Dodgers a 4-3 lead. The game was now in their control, and they seemed primed to do a fair bit more damage.
That thought only intensified when Juan Pierre, batting behind Blake, laced a double into the gap, and when the next batter, pinch-hitter Matt Kemp, walked. Then came Rafael Furcal, who grounded a potential sacrifice bunt several feet up the first-base line.
Ryan Howard charged in, fielded it and whirled to the bag, throwing well wide of second baseman Chase Utley. The ball then glanced off Utley's glove and behind him, allowing Pierre to score from second.
"When I went to throw it, I kind of lost the grip a little bit," Howard said, "It got away from me."
And from there, the inning threatened to get away from the Phillies. After a line drive produced the second out and an intentional walk loaded the bases, Russell Martin greeted new reliever Ryan Madson with another liner screaming toward the right side. There, Utley stabbed it with his glove and -- with one lunging effort -- tagged second base to complete an unassisted double play.
Had Utley not caught the ball, the Dodgers likely would have taken a four-run lead and perhaps put thoughts of a comeback out of reach. But he did catch it, the Phillies escaped heaps of trouble, and all that set the stage for their comeback later in the game.
"I guess I was just in the right place at the right time," Utley said. "Everything happened so fast. I just tried to get there before the runner did."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.