A Fresh Start: Utley is Back

It has been 212 since Chase Utley suited up for the Phillies in Game 6 of the 2010 National League Championship Series.  For the Phillies, who have endured a near season-long offensive slump, it seems like a lifetime ago since Charlie Manuel could put Utley’s name on the lineup card.

That changes today.

Utley will be back in the lineup for the Phillies, hitting third and playing second base.  All is right with the world again in Philadelphia.

Despite an anemic offense lately, the Phillies have the best record in the National League, and they are on pace to win 99 games.  Now, with Utley back for the final 116 games of the season, the Phillies are the clear favorites to carry the best record in the league into October.

Although adding Utley is a crucial step to restoring the team’s offensive production, there are still a lot of question marks about how he’ll perform.

Last year he played in 115 games, nearly the maximum he could play in this year, and his production was down.  His .275 average and .832 OPS were his lowest since he became an everyday second baseman in 2005.  Also, look for Utley, once the team’s Iron Man, to get regular days off to make sure his knee remains healthy.

The pitching staff carried the team during the first quarter of the season, but with the recent call up of Domonic Brown, and Utley’s return, the offense could get the spark they desperately need to become and even more dominant team.

Still, more help is on the way.  Jose Contreras has made a few rehab assignments and is expected back soon, and Brad Lidge is only about a month away from returning, even if he has lost his job as the closer.  Shane Victorino, who was one of the few people hitting consistently, should be back in two weeks.

Projecting Tonight’s Lineup

1- Rollins (SS)

2- Polanco (3B)

3- Utley (2B)

4- Howard (1B)

5- Ibanez (LF)

6- Mayberry (CF)

7- Brown (RF)

8- Ruiz (C)

9- Hamels (P)

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