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September 18, 2017

Chase Utley is back in Philadelphia tonight and it could get 'weird' again

Cheer up, downtrodden Philadelphia sports fans. Your favorite pro athlete from the last quarter century (OK, perhaps he’s tied with Iverson and Dawkins) is back at the South Philadelphia Sports Complex today.

Chase Utley and the Los Angeles Dodgers begin a four-game series against the Phillies tonight at Citizens Bank Park.

Clayton Kershaw is on the mound tonight (his first start in Philly since 2014), so that’s worth checking out, too. Yu Darvish starts Tuesday night opposite Aaron Nola.

And there seems to be a pretty good chance you’ll see Utley in the starting lineup in one of the first two games of the series, at the very least. He’s started four of the last six games at second base for Dave Roberts’ club and he’s hitting a modest .263/.349/.474 in his last 21 games.

Although we’d be foolish to underestimate Utley, we’re not sure his return will be able to match his first homecoming 13 months ago, when he homered twice, including a grand slam, in a 15-5 win in his first game at Citizens Bank Park in a uniform other than the Phillies. Utley was given a pair of standing ovations that night – as an opposing player.

Some people were not happy with that development.
Others understood it.

So what can we expect tonight?

“A little bit different only because it’s not the first time I’ll be back in a different uniform,” Utley told the Orange County Register over the weekend. “It may not be as emotional as it was last year. Still, it’s the place that gave me the opportunity to play in the big leagues and the city supported me the whole time. It’s still going to be fun to go back.”

The Dodgers, who have been baseball’s best team all summer, seem to be over their late-season swoon. After losing 11 straight (and 16 out of 17) the Dodgers arrive in Philadelphia having won four of their last five with a pristine 96-53 record on the season.

So, yes, with a sweep, they can get to 100 wins with still more than a week remaining in the regular season. But, more importantly in the Dodgers clubhouse, the team enters South Philly with a magic number of four to clinch their fifth straight National League West title.

The odds of this happening are pretty decent for a team that won two out of three in Washington this weekend. So, Utley dousing champagne on Kershaw, Darvish, and Co. in Dodger blue at Citizens Bank Park?

Sounds about right, given his return last season.

“It would probably be a little weird because I spent so many years there, winning divisions and celebrating,” Utley said in the Orange County Register. “To do it in the other clubhouse, initially, would probably feel a little weird.”

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @ryanlawrence21

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