The Los Angeles Dodgers may have traded for Chase Utley to add his veteran leadership, help fill in for Howie Kendrick and even with the idea he would provide more roster flexibility. But just seven games with his new teammates, the veteran second baseman is proving to also be of value on the bases.
Utley was placed on the disabled list June 23 with ankle inflammation, stemming from a sprain suffered in January. He was reinstated Aug. 7 and traded to the Dodgers 12 days later. On Friday Utley’s RBI triple gave the Dodgers a 1-0 lead in the third inning, but he had a larger impact later in the game.
With the score tied at 1-1, Utley drew a leadoff walk in the sixth and helped spark a three-run inning. “Chase, obviously with the big hit, the way he ran the bases, just being aggressive, might have set the tone for us tonight,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said after his club reeled off a fourth consecutive win.
Standing on second base following an Adrian Gonzalez base hit, Utley broke for third on a Jason Hammel pitch that bounced in the dirt and up into Miguel Montero’s face mask. Montero quickly gained control of the ball and fired over to Kris Bryant.
However, Montero’s throw went wide of the Cubs rookie third baseman, allowing Utley to easily score and Gonzalez to advance to second base. “It didn’t look like he knew where the ball went so I took off, took a chance,” Utley said. “I just broke for third. Probably a good throw gets me, but I took a chance.”
The 36-year-old UCLA product has shown impressive speed for a player of his age, but Mattingly was also certain to point out other factors that lend to Utley’s success.
“Without bad-mouthing anybody else, it’s just his awareness of how to run the bases,” Mattingly said. “An aggressive style, but also running with some smarts. I think it’s one of the areas where, honestly, we’ve been lackadaisical. Hopefully this aggressiveness kind of helps all of us.”
Clayton Kershaw allowed just one run over eight innings and collected 14 strikeouts en route to earning his 11th win of the season and improving to 6-0 in his last 10 starts. He too had praise for Utley’s spark plug moment.
“That was awesome,” Kershaw said. “Baserunning has been kind of a point of weakness for us this year. That was just an amazing play by him. He’s a gamer. That was a big run for us right there.”
Friday was Utley’s seventh game with the Dodgers, but first at Dodger Stadium. He finished the night 1-for-3 and is now 5-for-24 with one triple, two doubles and two walks since being traded.