PHILADELPHIA -- For those in attendance at the Philadelphia Phillies' series opener against the Dodgers, the night will mean much more than just an opportunity to see an interdivision game.
It will be a chance to welcome one of the franchise's favorite players back home.
Chase Utley, who helped the Phillies to a 2008 World Series championship, will make his first visit to Citizens Bank Park as an opposing player on Tuesday night in what is sure to be an emotional evening for one of the cornerstones of the franchise's best squads.
Utley, the team's starting second baseman from shortly after his 2003 call-up until his trade midway through last season, accumulated 1,623 hits, 142 home runs and 916 RBIs in his time in Philadelphia, making six All-Star Games and finishing in the top 10 in MVP voting on three occasions.
His ultra-competitive nature and professional demeanor made him beloved in a town that values hard work above all else, and his departure -- while a necessary move given the team's rebuilding status -- was seen as the end of an era in the city.
"Obviously I have so many great memories from playing in the stadium and in front of those great fans," Utley told Philly.com before the Dodgers hosted the Phillies last week. "It's going to be exciting. It might be a bit emotional. But I'm looking forward to it."
Los Angeles entered Monday's action one game behind San Francisco in the National League West, and has a 3 1/2-game lead in the NL wild-card race over Saint Louis, which is up only a half-game over the rest of the field.
Philadelphia is 6 1/2 games in back of the Cardinals, 10 games behind the Dodgers.
The Dodgers will start right-hander Kenta Maeda (11.7, 3.31 ERA) on Tuesday. He has been the Dodgers' most consistent pitcher, but struggled the last time he faced the Phillies, allowing three runs in five innings.
On Wednesday, the Dodgers will go with left-hander Scott Kazmir, who is 9-6 with a 4.44 ERA.
As the Phillies try to chase down a wild-card spot over the final stretch of the season, manager Pete Mackanin is just hoping his starting pitching rotation can hold together.
A line drive off the left (throwing) arm of starter Adam Morgan led to his removal in the fourth inning of Sunday's 7-6 win over the Colorado Rockies, just the latest Phillies starter to suffer an injury.
Vince Velasquez (8-4, 3.94), who will start the series opener, suffered a biceps strain that has caused him to miss several starts in June and July. Although he has made his last four starts, he hasn't made it past the sixth inning in any of them. Jake Thompson (1-1, 8.68 ERA), who is pitching Wednesday, is making his third career start.
"We've got the day off (Monday), they're going to inform me on whatever they have on Tuesday," Mackanin said.
How heavily has Philly's bullpen been taxed? Over the Phillies' last 14 games, Mackanin has used an average of 3.6 relief pitchers per game for nearly five innings per game (4.78). The 50 2/3 innings they've pitched in August are second-most in the NL and third-most in the majors.
The last time Mackanin was able to use fewer than three relievers for fewer than three innings in one game was on July 29, when Vincent Velasquez went six innings before two relievers threw an inning each. Of course, it helped that Atlanta didn't need to bat in the ninth inning.
"I looked back at my chart and we've been five innings, four innings, five innings, three innings with our starters and that really taxes the bullpen," Mackanin said.