Utley’s hit off knee has players talking
AP Sports Writer
DENVER – Shane Victorino joked about Chase Utley’s single off his right knee that put the Philadelphia Phillies on the cusp of advancing to the NL championship series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
In the other clubhouse, it was no joking matter.
Utley’s check-swing, ninth-inning single that actually hit him in the batter’s box and should have been ruled a foul ball played a key role Sunday night in the Phillies’ 6-5 win over the Colorado Rockies in Game 3.
Yet, Rockies manager Jim Tracy wasn’t going to harp a day later about that blown call by plate umpire Jerry Meals, who acknowledged after looking at the replay that he missed it.
“I was more concerned about safe or out at first base because it would have changed what I had an opportunity to do if in fact he was out at first base on the throw,” Tracy said.
Ryan Howard, whose sacrifice fly scored Jimmy Rollins with the decisive run, would have been intentionally walked with two outs and the Rockies would have taken their chances with Jayson Werth.
Replays showed that first baseman Todd Helton dragged his leg across the bag for what should have been an out after catching closer Huston Street’s lob throw over the head of the runner at first.
First base umpire Ron Kulpa ruled Utley was safe and when Tracy came out to argue, Kulpa told him that Utley beat the throw anyway, according to Tracy.
Either way, Tracy insisted that wasn’t why the Rockies lost.
“Rather than get into a long dissertation about this, that’s not what beat us,” Tracy said.
He suggested the eight walks and inability to come through in the clutch on offense were more costly.
The Rockies had runners at first and third after Scott Eyre injured an ankle trying to field a bunt and had to come out of the game in the seventh with the Phillies leading 5-4.
Ryan Madson came in cold out of the bullpen and struck out Helton on a high fastball, allowed a sacrifice fly to Troy Tulowitzki and got Yorvit Torrealba looking.
That’s another thing: Tracy jumped up during that inning pleading for a balk to be called on Madson. None was.
Meals’ missed call is the latest in a string of blown calls by the umpires this postseason.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said he’s a purist who didn’t want instant replay added to the game as it was for disputed home run calls, starting last year. But he said now that it’s part of the game, maybe Major League Baseball needs to go all in and use instant replay on other disputed calls.
“I mean, they’ve been missing calls ever since baseball has been 100-something-years-old or whatever. They’ve been missing them that long,” Manuel said. “But at the same time if they want to get them right, then getting it right is getting them right.”
Victorino suggested instant replay wouldn’t have helped the Rockies on Sunday night because neither Tracy nor Torrealba, who had the best view from his spot at catcher, argued that the ball hit Utley.
Utley’s sprint to first base might have had something to do with that. He said he didn’t hear the umpire call out that it was a dead ball, so he took off running.
“I think subconsciously sometimes you just react,” Victorino said. “A situation like that, I think you smell a hit, I guess you could say, more than anything.
“Obviously, I know if I hit the ball off my knee and it was going to the pitcher, you’d better believe I’m jumping around to try to get something, if nobody called it.”
Victorino said he didn’t realize there was a controversy until he saw the replay.
“Being right in the dugout looking at the play happening, I didn’t see it,” he said. “So, obviously for a base umpire to see it, it would have been very difficult. The guy who had the best chance to see it to me was Torrealba, and he didn’t react. So, he probably didn’t see it right away, nor did Jerry Meals.
“With Chase, he’s that kind of guy. He’s going to play the game hard. He probably felt it but he said, ‘Hey, I’m going to take off, nobody is saying anything.’ And it turned into a pivotal play in the game.”