The U's Have It: Utley and Uggla Lead The Way

Chase Utley and Dan Uggla are leading the Phillies and Marlins as the two teams face each other in Philadelphia this weekend. Both are potential all-stars and MVPs, but will their teams wind up in different directions?

For Chase Utley, leadership comes from a quiet power within. While he's not among the most vocal members of the Phillies clubhouse, his leadership values can't be discounted. Some say he's picked up the leadership void left by the departure of Aaron Rowand to the San Francisco Giants. For Utley though, it's just all about doing his job. Utley hit his majors-leading 17th home run Wednesday night, putting him on pace to hit 50 homers this season. That would shatter the record for homers by a second baseman. Rogers Hornsby hit 42 homers in 1922, and Davey Johnson tied that mark in 1973. Utley's career high for homers is 32 in 2006. He hit 22 homers last season, when he missed one month with a broken wrist. "He does everything for us," manager Charlie Manuel said.

For Dan Uggla, his leadership skills are still developing, but he hopes to model himself after the Phillies second baseman. "I love everything about his game," Uggla said. "He brings the same energy, and he's the same guy who comes to the field every day. You know exactly what you're going to get from him, day in and day out. I think he's one of those rare cases - he can hit for average, hit for power and drive in runs," gushed Uggla.

For his part, Uggla shouldn't sell himself short when drawing comparisons between the two second basemen. Uggla comes into Philly hitting .307 and is just one home run behind Utley in the battle for power supremacy. In fact, you can make an argument that Uggla's stats are more important to his team than Utley's are to the Phillies. In Philadelphia, battling through injuries to key players has been the norm and in fact, they battled through the loss of Utley for a month late last season when Tadahito Iguchi stepped in and took over while Utley's broken wrist healed. But for the surprising Marlins, they might well be lost without Uggla's bat and his gritty play that have pushed them to the top of the division.

To many, the thought was that by now, the Marlins might be able to stay in a division battle; battling with the Washington Nationals to stay out of the bottom spot in the division. Instead, they've led the division for much of the season which has people starting to pay attention. One Phillie though has been paying attention to the Marlins for a few months now.

"I'm absolutely not at all surprised," Phils manager Charlie Manuel said of the Marlins' success. "I said in spring training that they're going to be tough."

Keep in mind that the Marlins' payroll is $22 million, or about one-fifth of the Phillies' payroll. Even with putting together a cheap roster and having traded two of their best players - Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis - the Marlins have found a way to put themselves on a 30-22 roll that has been fueled by a homer-powered offense and better pitching than most pundits expected.

Manuel cited the hiring of new pitching coach Mark Wiley as a contributing factor to the Marlins' quick start. But the strength of Florida's pitching comes in their bullpen, where the relievers have a 3.11 ERA. Marlins starters have a 4.96 ERA. That's similar to the Phillies, whose relievers have a 2.86 ERA and starters have a 4.59 ERA. Of course, the Marlins offense hasn't exactly been non-existent, ranking second in the majors with 76 home runs, behind only the Phillies, who have 79.

While many of the faces on the Marlins won't be familiar, one will be; Wes Helms. The former Phillie isn't tearing up opposing pitchers, but he is providing some steadying qualities among the collection of young players assembled in the Florida clubhouse. His addition has been more important to the Marlins than his numbers show and he's taken to the role well and appears to be enjoying himself more than he would be in a utility role in Philadelphia.

Pitching Matchups:

Friday: Mark Hendrickson (7-2, 4.14) vs. Brett Myers (2-6, 5.79)
Saturday: Ricky Nolasco (4-3, 4.70) vs. Cole Hamels (5-3, 3.18)
Sunday: Andrew Miller (4-4, 5.53) vs. Jamie Moyer (5-3, 4.45)

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