Cardinals vs. Phillies: Philadelphia Phillies' X-Factor for Game 5

Manny RandhawaCorrespondent IIIOctober 6, 2011

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 01:  Chase Utley #26 of the Philadelphia Phillies hits a double in the fourth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals of Game One of the National League Division Series at Citizens Bank Park on October 1, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

He missed the first two months of the season due to injury. He had a very slow start once he got back into the Phillies lineup in late May. He had an even slower finish to the season in September.

His regular-season numbers are not awe-inspiring, not by a long shot. Indeed, a .259 batting average with 11 home runs and 44 RBI are not exactly what Chase Utley hoped for before the 2011 season began.

But so it's been for Utley over the past two injury-plagued seasons, a far cry from his 2009 campaign in which he posted a .282 batting average with 31 homers and 93 RBI.

Don't let all of that fool you, though. Utley is back, and in the postseason he's looking to help get his Phillies back to the World Series.

Despite Philadelphia's distinction as the team with the best regular-season record in the big leagues and the fact the Phillies were chosen by the vast majority of baseball experts to be the National League's representative in the World Series, the club faces elimination Friday night against the St. Louis Cardinals in a do-or-die Game 5 of the NLDS.

With all of the analysis going into who or what the difference-maker will be in this decisive contest, sometimes the simplest of stats can give the best answer.

Chase Utley is 7-for-15 lifetime against Cardinals' Game 5 starter Chris Carpenter. And he's 6-for-13 in the NLDS thus far, with two doubles and a triple.

While Roy Halladay will certainly have the opportunity to make a huge impact on whether the Phils move on to the league championship series for the fourth consecutive season, keep your eye on Utley because No. 26 may just be the X-factor that saves Philadelphia's season and keeps the bid for a return to the Fall Classic alive and well.