Cardinals continue tumble
Wednesday, August 2, 2006
ST. LOUIS -- Chase Utley extended his hitting streak to 33 games. His manager thinks he can go a lot longer.
Utley kept the major league's longest streak this year alive with two hits -- one in the first inning -- against the team that stopped teammate Jimmy Rollins' 38-game run early season.
"I don't want to say too much about it, but that's a pretty good hitter," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said after Utley helped Philadelphia beat the sagging St. Louis Cardinals 5-3 on Tuesday night. "There's some luck that comes into play, there's a whole lot of things that come into play.
"But he's a type of guy who can go a long ways in a streak."
Utley is five games shy of the franchise record held by Rollins, who hit in the last 36 games of 2005 and the first two this season before going 0-for-4 against Jason Marquis and Josh Hancock on April 6. He has consistently declined comment during the streak, leaving the superlatives to his teammates and opponents.
"What he's doing, I think not only the fans in Philadelphia but I think baseball fans everywhere appreciate what's going on," said Ryan Howard, who homered and had three RBIs in his first game in his hometown. "It has everybody on the edge of their seats wondering what he's going to do."
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said he enjoyed tracking Utley's streak before the Phillies came to town. Not anymore.
"His bat helped beat us, so I didn't enjoy that at all," La Russa said. "I know what he's doing and how tough it is, so we'll try to be as tough as we can on him."
The Cardinals have lost five in a row, a slump that began with them getting swept in a four-game series in Chicago for the first time since 1972. They swept the Phillies in a three-game series to open the season, outscoring them 21-10, but got all three of their hits and all three runs Tuesday in the fourth inning.
Rookie Scott Mathieson and three relievers retired the final 16 Cardinals hitters.
"You make outs like that, where's the excitement?" La Russa said. "Three up, three down. Three up, three down. We're not generating anything, so we have to do something about that."
Chris Coste also homered for the Phillies, who have won four of five.
Utley's single up the middle on an 0-1 pitch from Jeff Suppan in the first made him 4-for-8 against the right-hander for his career. He was robbed of a second hit when first baseman Albert Pujols snared his sharply hit grounder, although Pujols mishandled the ball out of his glove for an error. Utley added a single on a high hopper off Pujols' glove in the ninth.
Utley is batting .404 (57-for-141) to raise his average to .328 during the streak, tied for the ninth-longest in the National League with Rogers Hornsby (1922) and George Davis (1893).
Mathieson (1-2) got his first career win in his fourth major league start, allowing three runs and three hits in five innings. The 22-year-old, who began the year at Class AA, worked around five walks with only one scoring.
Tom Gordon got the last three outs for his 26th save in 29 chances.
Howard grounded into a double play with runners on first and third to end the first. He didn't miss his next opportunity with a two-run single with the bases loaded in the third, then hit his NL-best 36th homer leading off the fifth for a 4-3 lead.
Howard, who went to Lafayette High School in west St. Louis County, is 6-for-17 with three homers against the team he rooted for as a boy.
"Being able to come home and perform like that in front of my friends and family is special to me," Howard said. "It means a lot to be able to come home and play and play well."
Suppan (8-6), who had allowed only two runs in 20 innings over his last three starts, struggled to make it through the fifth. He allowed five runs, four earned, and nine hits. He is 0-3 against the Phillies the last two seasons with 14 runs allowed in 12 innings.
Ronnie Belliard went 0-for-3 in his debut with the Cardinals, who acquired him from the Cleveland Indians on the nonwaiver trade deadline.
The other new Cardinals player, reliever Jorge Sosa, retired Pat Burrell on a lineout with the bases loaded for the last out in the sixth and retired the side in order in the seventh.
Jim Edmonds and Suppan had RBI singles in the fourth for the Cardinals to tie it at 3 before homers by Howard in the fifth and Coste in the sixth made it 5-3.
* Utley, who hit in every game in July, is only the fourth player in the last 20 years to hit in every game in a month. The others are Rollins last September, Shawn Green of the Blue Jays (July 1999) and Albert Belle of the White Sox (May 1999).
* The Cardinals have lost four or more in a row three times this season after having no slump longer than three games last year.
* The Phillies have hit 21 homers in their last 14 road games.