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MIA@PHI: Utley hits a go-ahead homer in the 8th

PHILADELPHIA -- Roy Halladay often called Chase Utley the Derek Jeter of the National League for his importance to the Phillies, his professionalism and the positive impression he left on players around the game.

Tony Gwynn Jr. was one of those players.

"That he was a baller and he continues to be a baller," Gwynn said when asked about his impressions of Utley following Sunday's 4-3 victory over the Marlins at Citizens Bank Park.

Utley hit a game-winning solo home run to right field in the eighth inning against Marlins left-hander Mike Dunn to help the Phillies sweep the Marlins and improve the team to 6-6. Utley is hitting .500 (20-for-40) with six doubles, three home runs, 10 RBIs, five walks and just two strikeouts this season. He is the first Phillies player to have a 20-for-40 stretch at any point in a season since Von Hayes in 1989.

Utley also leads the National League with a .565 on-base percentage and an .875 slugging percentage.

"I don't know," he said. "I've had some decent days."

Utley's .380 on-base percentage from 2005 through Sunday ranks 21st out of 208 hitters in baseball with at least 2,760 plate appearances. He always has understood the importance of working a count and getting on base, which had been a trademark of the Phillies for years. But the previous two seasons the team has ranked 23rd in baseball with a .312 on-base percentage.

It is just 12 games, but so far the Phillies have followed Utley's lead and swung their on-base percentage back in the opposite direction. The Phils picked up 13 hits and six walks Sunday to lead the National League with 49 walks, and placed second only to the Rockies with a .354 on-base percentage.

Philadelphia is fifth with 42 runs.

"We try to put a game plan together prior to a series and execute it," Utley said. "Obviously the more guys we have on base, the more opportunities we're going to have to score. Obviously on-base percentage is important. Trying to get a good pitch to hit is important. Right now, we're executing, which is a good sign."

Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg agreed.

"We're giving ourselves numerous chances with men on base with the walks," he said. "In some regards, we've lacked a big hit with multi-baserunners, so I think that will come. Just having the chances and keep the threat and having their pitchers throw strikes to us and taking our walks, I think that all adds up."

The Marlins took a 1-0 lead in the first inning, which started when Ryan Howard missed a catchable ball up the first-base line. Christian Yelich reached second on the two-base error and scored four batters later when Casey McGehee hit a two-out single to left field. Miami built a 2-0 lead in the second when Yelich's two-out single to center scored Jeff Mathis.

Howard has made three errors this season, which are the most in baseball for first basemen. But Howard ripped a 1-0 fastball to center field for a home run to make it 2-1. Wil Nieves doubled to right field with two outs in the fifth to score Utley and Domonic Brown and tie the game at 3.

Phillies right-hander Kyle Kendrick allowed two unearned runs in six innings, but his most impressive play came in the fourth when he snared a line drive at his head.

"I didn't see it at all, just a little bit at the end," Kendrick said. "Just self defense."

B.J. Rosenberg, Antonio Bastardo and Jonathan Papelbon threw three perfect innings of relief to help the Phillies rebound following four consecutive sloppy losses last week to the Cubs and Brewers.

But Utley set up the victory. He went 3-for-4 with one double, one home run, one RBI, one walk and two runs scored. He hit a 1-0 slider from Dunn out of the park.

"He's a smart hitter," Dunn said. "He's been around a while. He was sitting on slider. He wasn't fooled."

"Hope he hits it at someone," said Rosenberg, when asked how he would pitch Utley right now. "It's pretty awesome to watch. He's clutch, any time there's a big spot in the game and he's up to bat, you know he's going to get it done."

Utley has had a fantastic start, but nobody can keep up that pace forever. But the Phillies certainly hope they continue to work the count, get on base and put as many runners on base as possible. It was a formula that worked for years, when they won five consecutive National League East championships, two NL pennants and one World Series from 2007-11.

"I still think there's room for improvement," Utley said. "It's all about having trust in the guy behind you, not trying to do too much at the dish. It's hard at times to tell yourself that, but that's a good game plan." Comments