Chase Utley (Trading Card DB)

June 18, 2010: Chase Utley, Ryan Howard lead charge as Phillies score early and often against Twins

This article was written by Steve Ginader

Chase Utley (Trading Card DB)The 2010 Philadelphia Phillies had plummeted in the National League East Division standings after a dismal stretch from mid-May to mid-June during which they lost 17 of 25 games. After they held first place with a five-game lead on May 18, the drop to third place with a 34-30 record in the middle of June was a disappointment for the team and its fans after back-to-back World Series appearances.

Star second baseman Chase Utley’s average dropped almost 60 points during the Phillies’ slump, and a report surfaced before the June 18 game with the Minnesota Twins that he had an injured knee. The 31-year-old Utley, an All-Star and a Silver Slugger Award winner in every season from 2006 through 2009, admitted to having soreness in his right knee but would not use the soreness as an excuse for his slump. Brushing aside the injury reports, Utley said, “In my opinion, an injury is something that keeps you off the field. It’s been a little bit of a battle here the past month. I’m trying to make some adjustments.”1

The Twins were starting a nine-game interleague road trip clinging to a half-game lead over the second-place Detroit Tigers in the American League Central Division. Since the designated hitter was not utilized in NL ballparks, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire shuffled his lineup for the Friday night game. Orlando Hudson returned from the 15-day disabled list to play second base and outfielder Michael Cuddyer shifted to third base2 to keep the bats of outfielders Delmon Young and Jason Kubel in the lineup.

With a sellout crowd of 45,120 on hand at Citizens Bank Park, Phillies starter Joe Blanton took the mound looking to reverse his and the team’s fortunes. Blanton was a key contributor to the 2008 Phillies’ World Series championship and won 12 games for the NL champions in 2009. But after his first eight starts of 2010, he had one win and a 7.28 ERA.

In the first four innings, Blanton generated 10 groundball outs while holding the Twins hitless.  Kubel was the only Twin to hit the ball in the air with a fly to deep left-center in the second. “I did a little mechanical change to help me get down in the zone,” Blanton said.3

The Twins turned to 28-year-old Nick Blackburn to start the series opener. He was experiencing an up-and-down season with a 6-4 record and a 4.96 ERA entering the game. In a career-high 205⅔ innings in 2009, Blackburn had surrendered the most hits in the American League and was on track to surrender well more hits than innings pitched in 2010.

The Phillies got off to a quick start, plating three runs in the first inning. Shane Victorino walked and stole second with Plácido Polanco batting. Polanco’s weak grounder to shortstop advanced Victorino to third, and Utley stroked a line-drive single to score Victorino with the game’s first run.

Slugging first baseman Ryan Howard – following Utley in the batting order as he had since 2008 – tripled down the right-field line to bring Utley home, and Jayson Werth drove Howard in with a fly ball to left. The inning ended when Raúl Ibañez struck out looking.

The onslaught against Blackburn continued in the second inning, and Utley and Howard were again in the middle of it. Wilson Valdéz blooped a one-out single to right-center, and after Blanton struck out attempting to bunt, Victorino walked. Polanco’s single drove in Valdéz.

The lefty-swinging Utley stepped to the plate. He had hit at least 31 home runs in three of the previous four seasons, but it had been nearly a month since his last homer, on May 20. Utley turned on a low and inside pitch from Blackburn and powered the ball into the right-field seats for a three-run homer, his 11th of the season.

On the next pitch, Howard followed with another home run, his 12th of 2010, and the Phillies were on top 8-0. It was the second time in three days the Phillies hit consecutive homers. “Anytime the middle of the lineup can contribute, it’s going to lead to more runs,” Utley said.4

After Werth walked, Gardenhire pulled Blackburn and summoned Jesse Crain from the bullpen.   The abbreviated outing (1⅔ innings) was the shortest of Blackburn’s season. “It seemed like everything I left up, they hit,” he said.5

Crain held the Phillies in check through the fourth.

Kubel recorded the Twins’ first hit by stroking Blanton’s 1-and-1 pitch off the center-field wall leading off the top of the fifth. The ball bounded away from Victorino, and Kubel headed around third trying for an inside-the-park homer. Victorino relayed the ball to Utley, who uncorked a strong throw to catcher Carlos Ruiz that nailed Kubel at the plate.

With lefties Howard and Ibañez due up in the bottom of the fifth, Gardenhire brought in left- hander Ron Mahay. Howard thwarted the strategy by driving Mahay’s third pitch over the center-field wall for his second home run of the night. It was the first time in 2010 and 24th time in his career that Howard, who had hit at least 45 home runs in four straight seasons, had a multiple-home-run game. The Phillies had a 9-0 lead, and Utley and Howard had driven in or scored all but one of the runs.

The Twins finally reached Blanton for a run in the sixth. With one out, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau hit back-to-back groundball singles and Cuddyer drove in Mauer with a line-drive single to left. Kubel ended the threat by bouncing into a double play.

In the seventh inning the Twins narrowed the lead to 9-3 on Young’s single and a home run by Nick Punto, the former Phil’s first in 316 at-bats and his only round-tripper of the season. That was all for Blanton; Phillies manager Charlie Manuel replaced him with Chad Durbin. It was an encouraging outing for Blanton, who completed six-plus innings, surrendering three runs on seven hits. Durbin retired the next three batters on two grounders and a strikeout.

Brian Duensing pitched a scoreless sixth for the Twins, and veteran Matt Guerrier took the hill in the seventh. Utley grounded out, then Howard drove a 1-and-2 offering into the right-field corner for a double. The two-bagger was his fourth hit of the game, and the first time in his career with four extra-base hits and 13 total bases. “He’s a great hitter. You throw the ball up there like we did to him, he’s going to hit it,” Gardenhire said of Howard.6 Howard was stranded at second as Werth and Ruiz grounded out.

Left-hander J.C. Romero replaced Durbin in the eighth and gave up a single to Cuddyer but retired lefties Mauer, Morneau, and Kubel.

The Phillies failed to add on in the eighth and with a six-run lead, Scott Mathieson was tabbed to pitch the ninth. Selected by the Phillies in the 2002 draft, Mathieson made his major-league debut on June 17, 2006. He started nine games with a 1-4 record and a 7.47 ERA, but suffered an elbow injury on September 2. Three surgeries later, he was back in the big leagues for the first time since 2006.7

Young and Punto greeted Mathieson with singles, and one out later Denard Span’s single loaded the bases. A wild pitch scored Young and Orlando Hudson’s grounder scored Punto. With the score now 9-5 and Span on third, Manuel pulled Mathieson and called for closer Brad Lidge. Mauer flied out to right to end the game.

Utley and Howard manufactured six hits and seven RBIs between them, leading the Phillies to their fourth win in five games. Confident that the monthlong downturn was over, Howard said, “The lull we went through this time was a little longer than some of the ones we went through, but every year we get through it.”8

Utley had also emerged from his slump. He batted .394 the rest of the month before landing on the disabled list with a sprained right thumb on June 29. The injury cost Utley a fifth straight All-Star Game appearance; he had been selected in fan voting as the NL’s starting second baseman.

Even with Utley out of the lineup, the Phillies won more than 60 percent of their games and continued to rise in the standings. Utley returned in mid-August, and his steady influence in the lineup helped Philadelphia capture their fourth straight National League East championship.9



This article was fact-checked by Kevin Larkin and copy-edited by Len Levin.



In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted Baseball and for information including the box score and play-by-play.



1 Mandy Housenick, “Utley Hardly Looks Injured,” Allentown (Pennsylvania) Morning Call, June 19, 2020: Sports 1.

2 Cuddyer had not started at third base since September 20, 2005. His only defensive play occurred in the seventh when he retired Jason Werth on a soft grounder to third.

3 Bob Brookover, “Resurgent Phillies Trample Twins,” Philadelphia Inquirer, June 19, 2010: E01.

4 David Murphy, “Howard, Utley Power Win Over Minnesota,” Philadelphia Daily News, June 19, 2010: 39.

5 La Velle E. Neal III, “Off-Tune Opener to Road Trip,” Minneapolis Star-Tribune, June 19, 2010: C1.

6 Associated Press, “Phillies Power Past Twins,” St. Cloud (Minnesota) Times, June 18, 2012: 1D.

8 Brookover, “Resurgent Phillies Trample Twins.”

9 The Phillies defeated the Cincinnati Reds in the Division Series before losing to the San Francisco Giants in the NL Championship Series.

Additional Stats

Philadelphia Phillies 9
Minnesota Twins 5

Citizens Bank Park
Philadelphia, PA


Box Score + PBP:

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2010s ·