LOS ANGELES -- As the Phillies headed back to Philadelphia following a tough 2-1 loss here in Game 2, they dragged a very troubling question with them:
What in the world is going on with second baseman Chase Utley?
He air-mailed a relay throw past Ryan Howard in Game 2 Friday on what would have been an important eighth-inning double play.
And a night earlier, he heaved another relay throw over Howard's head and into the Phillies' dugout that helped keep alive the Dodgers' three-run fifth inning.
"Utley is probably one of the most fundamentally sound players I've ever seen," Dodgers' pinch-hitter Jim Thome, a former teammate of Utley's, said following Game 2. "Him and Omar Vizquel, and you can't forget about Roberto Alomar. He's in there too. Utley is a very sound player."
Which is what make his two spectacularly off-target throws so inexplicable.
"He's a great player, obviously," Phillies reliever Ryan Madson said. "That's the human nature part of it."
Utley now has two errors in two NLCS games after committing only 12 over 156 regular season games this year.
In Game 1, Utley threw away a relay after taking a quick flip from shortstop Jimmy Rollins. He appeared to lose the handle on the ball as he threw. Rollins, after watching the replay following the game, said he didn't think Rafael Furcal was close enough to the bag to where his slide would have bothered Utley.
In Game 2, third baseman Pedro Feliz started what looked like it was going to be a quick 5-4-3 twin killing, with Utley receiving the throw from Feliz but heaving it to the Phils' dugout instead. That time, it appeared as if Ronnie Belliard's slide might have had something to do with Utley's too-quick release.
"Chase is better than that," manager Charlie Manuel said. "Those mistakes that you make like that, that happens sometimes. ... I know it plays a part in a game, and so does he.
"But at the same time, I've got a lot of faith in him. If there's one guy in the world that will work on it and correct it, it's Chase Utley."
Dodgers manager Joe Torre, too, thought Belliard's slide may have had something to do with Utley's Game 2 error.
"Errors are part of the game, and strikeouts and all that stuff," Torre said. "I mean, I'd certainly like to have his problems. He's pretty damned special."
Likes: Pedro Martinez and Vicente Padilla were such a pleasure to watch Friday afternoon. Martinez, especially, simply because he's such a different pitcher now. Where he once threw pure gas in the mid-to-upper 90s, he was lucky if his fastball touched 90 all afternoon. He mixed in mid-to-upper 80s fastballs, 87 m.p.h. changeups and some slow curves. "I'm tricking 'em," was how Martinez described his success. ... Can't blame Phillies coach Davey Lopes for declining to participate in the ceremonial first pitch ceremony before Game 1 when the Dodgers dragged out their famous infield from the 1970s -- Steve Garvey, Bill Russell and Ron Cey. Lopes was invited but, ever competitive, wasn't having any of it. Good call, Davey. ... Excellent work by the Falcons of Monroe (Mich.) St. Mary Catholic Central High in shutting out Jefferson 21-0 on Friday night to clinch another Huron League football championship. Catholic Central, hats off to thee, to your colors. ... ah, who am I fooling. I can't sing.
Dislikes: Poor Chase Utley.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Is there nothing that I can say
"To make you change your mind
"I watch the world go round and round
"And see mine turning upside down"
-- Genesis, Throwing It All Away