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Slump not bothering even-keeled Utley

Slump not bothering even-keeled Utley

PHILADELPHIA -- Chase Utley is in an 0-for-20 slide, not that his Phillies teammates have noticed.

"Really?" Shane Victorino said. "I didn't even realize."

"I didn't know that, actually," said Chris Coste.

It's true. The star second baseman leading the National League in voting for the 2008 All-Star Game, the guy with arguably the game's sweetest swing and Mr. Clutch for the Phillies is struggling.

"This is why baseball can be frustrating," Utley said. "It is a game of failure, and you have to learn how to deal with that failure. You [the media] have any advice? The more even keel you can be, the more sane it will keep you."

Sanity can be a good thing.

Utley hit .385 in his first 23 games, with 10 home runs and 21 RBIs, carrying the Phillies to a fast start. He cooled to .221 in his next 21 games from April 24 to May 17, then roared with a .330 spurt with eight homers in the next 25.

Now, he hasn't gotten a hit since Friday's 20-2 win over St. Louis.

Utley's struggles were paramount in Wednesday's 7-4 loss to the Red Sox, when he stranded five runners. With two runs in and two runners on base in the seventh, he had a chance to completely erase a five-run deficit that existed at the inning's start.

On most days, a tie game would arguably be considered automatic, especially with the Major League's leading home run hitter at the plate. But these days, Utley quickly fell behind 0-2 and lofted a fly to left.

Utley's current skid has dropped his average from .325 on June 2 to a season-low .294.

"He needs a day off and [Thursday] he's getting it," manager Charlie Manuel said. "I'm glad we're not playing [Thursday]. It's just a matter of time. He'll be fine. He could be a little tired. Ted Williams went 0-for-20. If you go through the course of a season, if you hit .300 or better, you go through three or four times and be 1-for-20, 0-for-20. That's how it goes at times."

As he was during Utley's previous rough patch, Manuel found no reason for concern. Utley's not getting his typical lift, and is grounding out as a result. Things won't stay that way.

Utley, as usual, isn't letting on that he's frustrated or even aware of the blip. He remains steadfastly upbeat, and a few media inquiries won't rattle him. He answered questions briskly, likely because he wanted to return to the video room.

Not all of his teammates can say the same thing.

"I'd be smashing things," Victorino said. "I don't know what he's thinking, but I don't think he lets that kind of stuff bother him. He's that great of a player. He might snap his fingers and might go 10-for-10, and the rest of this is all forgotten."

Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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