Chase Utley had eight career home runs at Dodger Stadium entering Wednesday night, but none yet as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
That changed when Utley deposited a ball over the wall in right-center field against Mike Leake of the San Francisco Giants in the bottom of the sixth inning. The home run came after the Giants had tied the game at one in the top of the inning and proved to be the difference in a 2-1 victory.
After the game, Utley was calm and collected about the big hit, saying it was nothing more than trying to help the team. “”Just trying to contribute any time, especially when Clayton is on the mound,” the veteran second baseman said.
“I definitely wasn’t trying to hit a home run. Was just trying to hit the ball hard and see what happens.”
What happened was a 2-1 lead that Kershaw would not relinquish and a three-game sweep of the Giants to push them 6.5 games behind the Dodgers for the division lead. The reigning NL MVP ended the night tying career-highs with 132 pitches and 15 strikeouts.
Utley talked about what it’s like seeing Kershaw work from the other side. “I played a lot of games against him over the course of my career and I thought he was a pretty good pitcher,” he said. “Now that I’m behind him, I realize that he’s an extremely good pitcher.” Utley was 6-for-21 with a home run against Kershaw as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies.
The 36-year-old was acquired and thrown into the middle of a pennant race when he was traded to the Dodgers, something Utley was used to before when he and Jimmy Rollins were winning with the Phillies. Utley described the series with the Giants. “It felt like a playoff atmosphere, which is fun to be a part of,” he said.
If Utley can continue to hit clutch home runs, he could help replicate the World Series run he was a part of in 2008.