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By Jon Weisman
In every other way, this was Chase Utley’s night. He was welcomed home by his longtime fans in Philadelphia with a prolonged standing ovation. He homered — against the Phillies — and they begged him for a curtain call. He hit a grand slam, and the begged him for another.
But in one very specific way, tonight was about the fact that we are in the midst of one of the most meaningful stretches of Howie Kendrick’s 11-year MLB career.
The Dodger Insider cover guy ripped a mammoth two-run homer to center and flipped a one-run deficit in the fifth inning, part of a 4-for-5 night in the 15-5 victory that, pending the final score of the Giants’ game against Pittsburgh tonight, put the Dodgers in a tie for first place in the National League West.
Given that Utley and Yasmani Grandal would later homer off Vince Velasquez (who became the first opposing pitcher since Curt Schilling in 1997 to strike out 10 Dodgers while allowing three home runs — the second time in a week Velasquez was thrice hammered by Los Angeles), maybe Kendrick’s homer wasn’t as crucial as it seemed in the moment. But there’s no denying what it felt like at the time, or how valuable Kendrick has been to the Dodgers this summer.
Consider that since the All-Star Break, Kendrick was equal to NL MVP candidate Kris Bryant in wins above replacement among NL left fielders, trailing only Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun. His weighted runs created (148) was higher than Bryant’s (125) entering tonight.
But feel free to go back farther. Since May 1, Kendrick has a .367 on-base percentage, .468 slugging percentage and .835 OPS.
Grandal, who went 3 for 4 with a bases-loaded walk, resumed his own torrid hitting after going 0 for 8 in his previous two games. Since June 1, Grandal has a .398 OBP while slugging .585.
Kenta Maeda allowed two solo homers but only one other hit in his six innings, walking one and striking out nine.