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Utley sets mark, then joins Babe in history

Utley sets mark, joins Babe in history

NEW YORK -- Chase Utley got off to a historic start in this World Series on Wednesday night, setting a Major League Baseball record by reaching base safely in his 26th consecutive postseason game and then joining Babe Ruth in the record books by hitting a pair of solo homers to lead the Phillies to a 6-1 victory over the Yankees.

Utley drew a walk off Yankees ace CC Sabathia in the first inning to break a record he had shared with Boog Powell, who had reached base safely in 25 consecutive postseason games for Baltimore from 1966-71. Then Utley homered off Sabathia in the third to start the World Series scoring, and then doubled the lead with another solo shot in the sixth.

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"I didn't know that happened," Utley said, typically humble as media relayed a barrage of statistical records to him. "You know, every day, you try to put a game plan together, and you try to get on base for the next guy. Having Ryan [Howard] and Jayson [Werth] and Raul [Ibanez] hitting behind me, those guys can drive in a lot of runs. The more guys on base we have, the better opportunity we have to score some runs."

Both homers marked the first time a left-handed hitter had gone deep off Sabathia in new Yankee Stadium. Perhaps even more remarkably, Utley's two home runs marked the first time a lefty has hit two homers off a lefty since Babe Ruth homered off Bill Sherdel of the Cardinals in Game 4 of the 1928 World Series. Ruth hit three in that game -- the last one off legendary right-hander Grover Cleveland Alexander.

"I guess that's pretty good company, but no," Utley said when asked if he felt that was important. "You try to take it game-to-game and keep working."

Power of one
Chase Utley, who homered in Game 1 of the 2008 World Series against Tampa Bay, homered twice in the Game 1 of the 2009 Classic to tie a little-known record for most career homers in World Series openers with three.
No. Player Years (Team)
3 Chase Utley 2008-09 (PHI)
Elston Howard 1955, 1960-61 (NYY)
Joe Collins 1953, 1955 (NYY)
2 Troy Glaus 2002 (ANA)
Greg Vaughn 1998 (SD)
Andruw Jones 1996 (ATL)
Fred McGriff 1995-96 (ATL)
Willie Aikens 1980 (KC)
Reggie Jackson 1974 (A's), 1978 (NYY)
Davey Lopes 1978 (LAD)
Joe Morgan 1976 (Reds), 1983 (PHI)
Gene Tenace 1972 (OAK)
Frank Robinson 1966, 1971 (BAL)
Don Buford 1969, 1971 (BAL)
Tom Tresh 1963-64 (NYY)
Moose Skowron 1958, 1961 (NYY)
Ted Kluszewski 1959 (CWS)
Gil Hodges 1953, 1956 (BRK)
Jackie Robinson 1952, 1956 (BRK)
Duke Snider 1952, 1955 (BRK)
Joe Gordon 1941, 1943 (NYY)
Al Simmons 1930-31 (PHA)

This also is the second World Series opener in a row that Utley had started the scoring with a homer for the Phillies and given them a lead they would not relinquish. He hit a first-inning homer off lefty Scott Kazmir of the Rays in a 3-2, Game 1 victory last October at Tropicana Field.

With the Game 1 homers, Utley tied a record for most career long balls in World Series openers with three. Among the 22 players who have hit two or more career Game 1 homers, Utley becomes the ninth with a two-homer Game 1, the first since the Angels' Troy Glaus in 2002.

"He must like Game 1 home runs," teammate Jimmy Rollins said, smiling.

This time, Utley did it twice, and it marked the third multihomer game by a Phillies player in a World Series. Howard did it last Oct. 26 in Game 4 against the Rays, and Lenny Dykstra, Oct. 20, 1993, in Game 4 against the Blue Jays.

Howard emphasized the importance of starting fast when he was asked about it after the game. But during his news conference, Utley continued to shake off anything that felt like a plaudit. It was as if he honestly did not want to be told he had just done something special.

"That's not your goal going into the game," Utley said of the consecutive Game 1 outbursts. "Your goal is to try to put good at-bats together and see what happens. Obviously, I was able to squeak one over the fence early in the game, but it's a good feeling when you can help your team win."

Both of Utley's homers came on two-strike pitches -- from a 2009 American League Cy Young Award candidate. The third-inning shot happened on the ninth pitch of a classic encounter with Sabathia.

"The majority of the time with two strikes I'll choke up on the bat a little bit to try to stay as short as possible," Utley said. "It doesn't always work out like that, but that's the goal."

Sabathia, the losing pitcher, tipped his hat to Utley. Not many other Phillies did any damage against him.

"The first at-bat he just has a good at-bat," Sabathia said. "He got a pitch out over the middle of the plate and put a good swing on it. The second home run was my fault. It was just a fastball right over the middle. I was trying to go in, and it came right back over the plate."

The record of 26 consecutive postseason games on base came for Utley with two outs in the first. Utley worked Sabathia for a six-pitch walk in that at-bat, and that was followed by a double by Howard and a walk to Werth. Utley was stranded at third on Ibanez's groundout, but it still put Utley into the history books.

Then Utley touched 'em all. Twice.

Utley went 0-for-4 in his first postseason game in 2007. He has since reached base safely in every postseason game in which he has played.

Powell played in an era of fewer opportunities as well; the postseason was merely a World Series until it was expanded to two rounds per league with 1969 expansion.

The record was the first thing Phillies manager Charlie Manuel was asked about in the postgame news conference.

"It says that he works the count and he's patient at the plate, and he finds ways to get on base," Manuel said. "He's always had a good on-base percentage. He had a good night."

Utley came through big after a long, seven-day rest following the National League pennant clincher against the Dodgers. He had a similar long rest last year.

"I think when you're a player like Utley, I think -- first of all, when he hits .282, if you want to know the truth, I think that's low for him," Manuel said. "I think he's a .300 hitter. I think he knows he's a .300 hitter. I think it's just a matter of time until he hits. I think he said it today or yesterday, but he's probably going to have a good series. He works hard, he's consistent."

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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