Pirates spoil Utley's return

Associated Press Modified: June 27, 2012 at 10:46 pm •  Published: June 27, 2012
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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Chase Utley did everything to help the Philadelphia Phillies win except pitch middle relief.

Utley homered in his first at-bat of the season, but the Pittsburgh Pirates spoiled his return by connecting three times and beating the Phillies 11-7 Wednesday night.

Michael McKenry hit a three-run homer and Andrew McCutchen and Casey McGehee also went deep for Pittsburgh. The Pirates set season highs for runs and hits (14), all against the Phillies' maligned bullpen.

"It was a good first step, but obviously winning would've been ideal," Utley said.

Utley missed the first 76 games this year because of a chronic problem in both knees. He had three hits, but it wasn't enough on a night the Phillies got more encouraging news about their injured stars.

Former NL MVP Ryan Howard will start a rehab stint on Thursday night and two-time Cy Young winner Roy Halladay is making progress and could throw off a bullpen mound next week.

Until they're all healthy, it won't be easy for the five-time defending NL East champions.

James McDonald (7-3) allowed four runs and six hits in 5 2-3 innings. It was the first time in 15 starts this season he allowed more than three runs, and his ERA climbed from 2.19 to 2.44.

McKenry drove in a career-best four runs and the Pirates feasted on Philadelphia's pitching.

"I'm not trying to do too much and hit what they give me," McKenry said.

Reliever Raul Valdes (2-1) started for the Phillies, who were out of starters because of a doubleheader Sunday. He allowed three runs and two hits in two innings in his second career start. Joe Savery came in and gave up five runs in 2 2-3 innings. He was optioned to Triple-A after the game.

"There were doubts about our bullpen," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "We felt like with what we had in the minors, this could give us more flexibility. But it backfired. We got lit up."

The Phillies entered with a 4.41 bullpen ERA that was 25th in the majors.

"We have to get our bullpen straightened out," Manuel said.

Utley can't help in that department.

The Phillies took a 2-0 lead in the first when Utley and Carlos Ruiz hit back-to-back homers.

Utley drove a 2-2 pitch way out to right-center. He got his third standing ovation in a 15-minute span and came out for a curtain call after circling the bases and getting mobbed by teammates in dugout.

"It was pretty exciting," Utley said. "The fans were awesome and it was nice to hit the ball hard my first at-bat."

Ruiz then hit a drive to left for his 11th homer. That had another sellout crowd at Citizens Bank Park buzzing.



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