LOS ANGELES -- About the time Chase Utley arrived in the Los Angeles Dodgers clubhouse after he had already made his name in Philadelphia, the team was in Houston and several players had begun to play around with what have since become a team-wide craze.
They're these little hands-free scooters that zip a person around at surprisingly high speeds and are now the indoor vehicle of choice for a handful of players. Shortly after he got to the stadium Saturday afternoon, Yasiel Puig stepped out of the elevator, hopped on his and motored down the hallway toward the Dodgers clubhouse.
Utley, who had been a Dodger for all of two days back when the team was in Houston, saw a prominent Dodgers player trying one out in the clubhouse and said, "You could get hurt on that thing."
He wasn't smiling and he didn't even make eye contact. He just kept walking.
Utley has stood out ever since he arrived. Among a group that is fun-loving and gregarious, he is serious and quiet. He is also hard-nosed, with the latest bit of evidence his aggressive late takeout slide of New York Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada during Saturday night's 5-2 win, a slide that might have changed the course of the National League Division Series and that broke Tejada's leg.
The Utley acquisition never seemed to entirely make sense when you consider that the Dodgers are run by a front office that grinds numbers intensely and his were among the worst in the National League. It makes more sense when you view it as part of the Dodgers' attempt to make their team a little more professional and, yeah, probably a little edgier.
Utley had a head of steam when he slid late into Tejada's right leg, flipping him in the seventh inning to trigger a four-run Dodgers rally that might have saved their season. In the immediate aftermath, the debate will be about whether the play was clean or dirty.
To no one's surprise, the Mets seemed to lean toward dirty and the Dodgers seemed to lean toward clean. Most neutral observers, including baseball's discipline czar, Joe Torre, seemed genuinely stuck in the gray.
"I thought it was a little late, so that's what I'm digesting right now," Torre said.
Utley might not play enough in the coming days to be a victim of retaliation by the Mets, though the Dodgers are certainly aware that somebody might get targeted. He'll certainly hear an earful when he's announced before Monday night's Game 3 at Citi Field in New York. Thus far, his contributions have been limited to two pinch-hit at-bats.
Some players in baseball aren't going to like how Utley plays. To others, his style is the kind that leads to winning when the stakes are highest.
"He's been doing it since, I'm pretty sure, he was little," said Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal, who once tore up his knee in a collision at home plate when Anthony Rendon of the Washington Nationals hit him. "I wasn't surprised that, in a playoff game, he was going to go in hard to second. That's the reason why he is where he is right now."
"From my perspective, I love the way he plays the game. He plays hard. If he's coming to second, he's going to come in hard," Dodgers reliever Chris Hatcher said. "He gets down the line. He runs balls out. To me, that's playing the game the right way."
Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen took it a step further, calling on more players to go back to the old school.
"We should play how the game used to be," Jansen said. "In that situation, it's win or go home."
Technically, it would have been win or go to New York with an exceedingly good chance you'd be going home soon. Had Tejada turned a double play in that situation -- which probably wasn't going to happen -- the Dodgers would have had a 23 percent chance to win the game, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Had they lost Saturday's game, they would have been dangling by a thread. Only two teams in the division series era have lost the first two games at home and advanced: The 2001 New York Yankees and the 2012 San Francisco Giants.
So, it's far from a stretch to say that Utley might have saved the Dodgers' season even if he ended Tejada's. Replay officials decided that Utley should be awarded second base -- overruling the call on the field -- because Tejada never touched the bag. After that, Adrian Gonzalez and Justin Turner came up with clutch RBI doubles and the Dodgers' hopes in this series are, suddenly, alive and well.
Utley was remorseful about the part of the play that resulted in an injury to Tejada. He was not remorseful about the part that resulted in the Dodgers' World Series hopes going from sickly to robust.
"The tying run's on third base, I'm going hard to try to break up the double play," Utley said. "I feel terrible that he was injured. I had no intent of hurting him whatsoever."
So now the Dodgers go to New York needing to win one of two games to get the series back to Dodger Stadium for a winner-take-all Game 5. They also know they'll be going into an environment that would have been hostile to start with and now might be hazardous. The Mets weren't letting on whether they plan any sort of retaliation, but the Dodgers' veterans have seen that kind of thing before.
"It's unfortunate, but I hope nobody gets into those types of things," Howie Kendrick said. "I hope we just go out and play baseball and see who the better team is."
The Dodgers feel they are a better team, because they have Utley, a player who goes so hard after wins, he pushes the envelope from fair to partly hazy.