Chase Utley makes two costly throwing errors, and suddenly he's being mentioned with Steve Sax and Chuck Knoblauch.
PHILADELPHIA — Chase Utley makes two costly throwing errors, and suddenly he’s being mentioned with Steve Sax and Chuck Knoblauch.
Utley’s fielding gaffes were the talk of the town when the Philadelphia Phillies returned home Saturday after splitting the first two games of the NL Championship Series in Los Angeles.
Game 3 is tonight in soggy Philadelphia, weather permitting. The forecast calls for showers all day, and it’s expected to be 42 degrees at game time.
The weather will make it tough to grip the ball and make accurate throws. Utley, a four-time All-Star second baseman, had enough problems throwing to first in sunny L.A. The Phillies overcame his blunder in Game 1, but it hurt them on Friday.
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Trailing 1-0, the Dodgers got their first two runners on in the bottom of the eighth. After failing to put down a sacrifice, Russell Martin then hit a sharp grounder to third baseman Pedro Feliz. It was a routine double-play ball except Utley’s relay throw sailed wide of first. Instead of two outs and a runner on third, the Dodgers had a run and one out. They went on to score again and held on for a 2-1 victory.
Utley wasn’t around to speak to reporters during Saturday’s one-hour, open clubhouse session. But manager Charlie Manuel and others had his back.
“I’m sure nobody in Philadelphia hates that more than Chase, but at the same time, he’ll correct it,” Manuel said. “I have all the faith in the world in him as far as that goes. That’s going to happen to anybody.”
In the series opener Thursday, Utley made a similarly poor throw on what should have been an inning-ending, double-play grounder hit by Andre Ethier in the fifth inning. Manny Ramirez followed with a two-run homer that cut Philadelphia’s lead to 5-4, but the Phillies won 8-6.
In between the two errors, Utley made three iffy throws on routine grounders. All three resulted in outs, but his erratic tosses suggest this could be more than a simple case of two bad throws under difficult circumstances in clutch spots.
Dodgers third base coach Larry Bowa, who managed Utley when he first came up in Philadelphia, doesn’t buy it.
“No, no, no,” Bowa said when asked if Utley’s issues are comparable to Sax and Knoblauch. “I don’t think it’s a problem at all. He rushed two throws. It was coincidental that he did it two games in a row.”
Sax, the NL Rookie of the Year with the Dodgers in 1982, inexplicably stopped being able to make routine throws to first in his sophomore season. Sax committed 30 errors that season, many on errant tosses.
Knoblauch began experiencing the same problem shortly after joining the New York Yankees in 1999. A former Gold Glove winner with Minnesota in 1997, Knoblauch was moved to the outfield because he never regained his ability to throw to first.
Dodgers manager Joe Torre managed Knoblauch in New York. He’s not ready to put Utley in that category.
“He’s too tough a kid and he’s too good of a player,” Torre said. “Stuff like that happens. Sometimes there’s no rhyme or reason why it happens, but the nature of the game is what it is.”