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From Rollins to Utley to Howard

The Phillies core, even as they age and decline, are still historically great.

No infield trio has ever played more games together than Howard, Utley and Rollins. Credit: Getty Images No infield trio has ever played more games together than Howard, Utley and Rollins. Credit: Getty Images

Perhaps there will never be a Jimmy Rollins to Chase Utley to Ryan Howard poem ala Tinker to Evers to Chance. But the Phillies double-play combination has played more games together at short, second and first than any three teammates at those positions in Major League history.

Rollins, Utley and Howard have started 901 regular season games together for the Phillies, which is 15 more than the previous record held by the Dodgers trio of Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes and Bill Russell.

“We’ve been at it a long time,” Rollins said. “What that means is that we must be doing something right.”

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The core of the Phillies was together before the franchise’s glorious 2007-2011 run, which produced five consecutive division titles, two NL pennants and a World Series championship.

“We’re proud that we were part of all of that,” Rollins said. “No matter what we’re part of a huge part of Phillies history and we hope to add to that.”

Rollins loves playing up the middle with Utley since he can easily anticipate what his double play partner will do.

“I’ve played out there with Chase so much that I know what will happen before it does,” Rollins said. “I know where he’ll be. I know how the toss will come. It’s a huge benefit.”

Utley and Rollins can still flash the leather. The latter made a tremendous diving catch during the fifth inning of today’s game, robbing the Cardinals’ Matt Holliday of a hit.

“They’re an incredible unit out there,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley play great defense and look at the offense they have provided for years. And then there’s Howard, who is one of the greatest run producers I’ve ever seen. He absolutely murders us. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone beat up this franchise like him.”

Howard’s numbers are staggering against the Cardinals, who he grew up rooting for in suburban St. Louis. The Big Piece, who homered against the Cards Saturday, entered Sunday’s game hitting .368 with 19 homers against St. Louis. He has averaged a homer every 10.74 at-bats against St. Louis.

“I don’t know what it is but I just wish he would take it easy on us,” Matheny said. “When you look at what’s happened with that team, you can’t blame those guys. They’ve produced over the years and they’re still producing.It’s very impressive what Utley, Rollins and Howard have accomplished.”

 
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