TOP OF THE SEVENTH: DODGERS 13
(5) – 2 PHILLIES
Chase Utley of the L.A. Dodgers has returned to Philadelphia, to a giant salad of superfan worship at Citizens Bank Park, a red sea of admiring, cheering, bowing nostalgics, holding up big hand-written posterboards to show their forever approval.
“Welcome home Chase, I miss you!”
“CHASE UTLEY: A PHILLIE FOREVER”
“The man! #26”
Dan Baker introduces him on the stadium PA before each at-bat, as if he had never left—an essy hiss of endearing energy:
“Number twenty-sssssix….ssssecond basssse-man…. Chasssse Utley!!!”
— MLB Social (@MLBsocial) August 17, 2016
Ryan Howard claps with love, for his former World Series brother, as Phillies’ Utleyphilia sets in around an entire town. Sir Chase doffs his helmet and waves it in honored reverence for the fans, enjoying the moment. Hacks a few practice swings in the on-deck circle. Steps into the box, in front of a rectangular ad that’s pure Philadelphia—the red, yellow, block-lettering of SuperPretzel, east-coast counterpart to the Dodger Dogs, the Universal Studios, the 76-ball each sitting high above his faraway new home.
He comes up again, in the fifth inning, to another ovation and hits a solo shot into the bullpen in right. A curtain call, another ovation. The youngest of the Philly fans too young to remember the greatness, with only a handful of years past, and the ’08 championship further back now in history than anyone present would like to admit.
Utley comes up, for the third time, in the top of the seventh, to yet another ovation, another rotating wave of the arm, another legacy at-bat with a whole park smiling. He walks to lead off the inning, step one in the biggest Dodgers frame of the year.
There’s a cat named Elvis Araujo on the mound, the second of two current Elvises on major-league rosters, a sort of history-repeats itself throwback to the King, Mr. Presley, himself. Doing his best to hide a massive smear of pine tar on the back of his cap. A few short moments away from quick descent into Heartbreak Hotel, embodying a never released unknown single from Mr. Presley: “Dogshit E.R.A.”
The catcher comes out for a mound visit, after Corey Seager doubles down the right-field line.
“You alright out there?”
“I’m all shook up.”
“Slider to Turner, don’t leave anything hittable.”
“Don’t be cruel,” says Araujo.
“Treat me nice.”
“Just focus this next at-bat.”
“Any way you want me, that’s how I will be.”
Cameron Rupp jogs off the mound back to his spot behind the plate, beyond confused. Justin Turner steps up from the on-deck circle, and slaps a line-drive corkscrew hit into and out of the glove of Ryan Howard. It’s in, it pops out, it’s bobbled, and Turner sprints in safe to first with Araujo late covering the bag. Everybody safe. A bizarre drop, in-and-out burgered into a flub. Howard slaps his palm against his mitt, lamenting the error.
Elvis stays in the game, with another mound visit from the infield, and Adrian Gonzalez comes up to a swift two-seamer beamed straight into his back. Nowhere near the zone. Seager trots home to score. 6-2 Dodgers.
Grandal works a full count, and then a walk. 7-2 Dodgers, with Turner trotting home and another run forced in. The patented philly boos pour out from all angles. Joc Pederson walks. 8-2 Dodgers. Boo, says the crowd, boo boo boo boo—like the droning soundtrack to a Halloween theme house.
Araujo gets pulled, the most disastrous of single-inning disasters. Galvis consoles him with a butt-slap. Michael Mariot trots in from the bullpen to salvage what hope remains. And Rob Segedin, August star for the surging Dodgers, comes up to pinch-hit for Kenta Maeda, ripping the first big hit of the inning, a single to left, driving home Gonzalez scores. 9-2 Dodgers ahead, with the bases still, somehow, after almost an hour, loaded.
L.A. has batted around. And up to bat yet again is the great, the royal, the beloved, the laurel-bedecked Sir Chase Utley. The man who represents an sure addition to the blowout, but an accepting relief into the last-place abyss. We’re privileged, the fans say, we get to see our very own star beat us, and no one else. If anyone’s gonna send us home crying at the current state of our collapsed franchise, it’s gonna be dear ol’ Chase. We love you, Chase. So much!
Utley hits a grand slam deep into the right-field seats.
We love it, Chase!! We’re not sad, not crying, not crying!! We love seeing that baseball fly through the Philly air again, off our own pitchers, for four more runs, for a score of 14-2, for a grand slam, we love it, Chase!! It’s the best feeling we know! So good to see you back, putting us down by eleven runs and having no hope for the future, while you soar up the standings of a first-place Dodger team. We love that about you, Chase!!
Utley rounds the bases, touches home, and steps out of the dugout for a final curtain call, to the best night of baseball he’s had in years.
Our team has been run into the ground, the Philly fans all sing, Run it many miles deeper into the ground, Sir Utley, please! Please please please. We’d gladly go 0-162 to see you jack grand slams each game of the year, Chase!
Put us, mercifully, out of our damn misery…