Still going, still winning, Chase Utley returns to another ovation from Phillies fans

Still going, still winning, Chase Utley returns to another ovation from Phillies fans

This time, it wasn't so overwhelming.

"But it's still a little awkward," Chase Utley admitted.

Still a fan favorite in the city in which he played for 13 seasons, Utley returned to Citizens Bank Park for the second time as a visiting player Monday night. He started at second base and batted seventh for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Utley received standing ovations and even a curtain call after hitting two home runs (one was a grand slam) when he returned to Philadelphia for the first time with the Dodgers last summer. The ovation before his first at-bat Monday night was not as long or as loud — a smaller crowd had something to do with that — but it was still quite nice. Utley, in fact, had to back out of the batter's box and tip his cap to the crowd.

"For the amount of years that I played here, to suit up in this locker room is just different," Utley said in the visiting clubhouse before the game. "You have to keep the focus if you're going to win some ballgames. There are some guys over on that team that I know and some new faces that I'm not familiar with. But we're here to win."

This four-game series won't be Utley's last visit to Citizens Bank Park — he'll always be a Phillie and will end up on the team's Wall of Fame someday — but it may be his last visit as an active player. He is 38 and hitting just .234. He did not re-sign with the Dodgers until the start of spring training this season and there has been speculation he could retire at season's end.

"I'm trying to take it one day at a time, but I'm still enjoying it, I'm still having fun," he said. "I still feel like I can contribute out there so I'm not looking too far ahead."

Utley won a World Series with the Phillies in 2008 and played in another with the club in 2009. He's an important role player and veteran presence on the team with the best record in baseball. A late-career return to the World Series would be special for Utley.

"We have a very talented club," he said. "There's a lot of excitement in that lineup, pitching staff and defense we have. There's a lot of good attributes here."

"I think the whole goal for everyone is to get to the World Series. That's what we work for. I believe we have not only the talent but the desire to get there."

MLB Playoffs: Javier Baez snaps out of funk to help Cubs avoid sweep

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MLB Playoffs: Javier Baez snaps out of funk to help Cubs avoid sweep

CHICAGO -- Javier Baez snapped an 0-for-20 skid with two home runs, Wade Davis hung on for a six-out save and the Chicago Cubs avoided a sweep, holding off the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-2 Wednesday night in Game 4 of the NL Championship Series.

Jake Arrieta pitched three-hit ball into the seventh inning to held the defending World Series champion Cubs close their deficit to 3-1. Manager Joe Maddon got ejected for the second time in this series in the eighth, and a packed Wrigley Field crowd watched Davis get Cody Bellinger to ground into a game-ending double play.

Maddon was heavily criticized for not using Davis during a 4-1 loss in Game 2. This time, the Cubs closer threw 48 pitches to finish the job.

Willson Contreras also homered for the Cubs. Bellinger and Justin Turner connected for the Dodgers, who had won a team-record six straight playoff games.

Game 5 is Thursday, with Jose Quintana pitching for Chicago against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw (see full recap).

Tanaka, Yankees blank Astros to take ALCS lead
NEW YORK -- Masahiro Tanaka pitched seven innings of three-hit ball and the New York Yankees finally solved Houston Astros nemesis Dallas Keuchel, beating the ace lefty 5-0 on Wednesday for a 3-2 lead in the AL Championship Series.

Gary Sanchez hit an RBI single off Keuchel and later homered to help the wild-card Yankees win for the third straight day at home and move within one victory of their first trip to the World Series since 2009.

The teams head back to Houston for Game 6 on Friday night, when Justin Verlander and the reeling Astros will try to regain their footing following an off day and force a decisive Game 7. Luis Severino is scheduled to start for New York.

Just days ago, Houston was up two games to none and appeared to be closing in on its second World Series appearance. But the Astros, like defending AL champion Cleveland before them, have been unable to put away these poised Yankees, who improved to 6-0 at home in this postseason in front of their cheering, chanting fans (see full recap).

MLB Playoffs: Yankees storm back for win over Astros to even ALCS

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MLB Playoffs: Yankees storm back for win over Astros to even ALCS

NEW YORK -- Aaron Judge ignited a rousing rally with a home run, then doubled during a four-run eighth inning to spur the New York Yankees over the Houston Astros 6-4 Tuesday night and level the AL Championship Series 2-2.

The Yankees trailed 4-0 against starter Lance McCullers Jr. until Judge homered leading off the seventh. He tied it with a line drive that nearly left the park in the eighth and scored on Gary Sanchez's go-ahead two-run double off loser Ken Giles.

The Yankees have rallied from a second straight 0-2 series deficit -- they beat Cleveland in the Division Series by winning three in a row to take that best-of-five matchup.

Aroldis Chapman struck out two in a perfect ninth, and New York improved to 5-0 at home in the playoffs.

Masahiro Tanaka pitches for New York against Dallas Keuchel in Game 5 Wednesday and rematch of the opener, won by the Astros 2-1 (see full recap).

Dodgers on brink of World Series after shutout
CHICAGO -- Yu Darvish pitched sparkling ball into the seventh inning, Chris Taylor homered again and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Chicago Cubs 6-1 on Tuesday night to open a commanding 3-0 lead in the NL Championship Series.

Andre Ethier also went deep and Taylor added an RBI triple in the fifth as Los Angeles set a franchise record with its sixth consecutive playoff win. Yasiel Puig had two more hits in another entertaining performance that included an impressive bat flip -- on a long foul ball in the first inning.

Looking for a four-game sweep and their 22nd NL pennant, the Dodgers will send Alex Wood to the mound Wednesday night at Wrigley Field with a chance to reach the World Series for the first time since their last championship in 1988. Jake Arrieta, eligible for free agency after the season, pitches for the Cubs in what could be his final start with the team.

Los Angeles was eliminated by Chicago in the NLCS last year, but this is a different group of Dodgers. The lineup is patient and pesky and the pitching staff is much deeper, especially since Darvish was acquired in a trade with Texas in the final minutes before the July 31 deadline (see full recap).