Thome picks perfect time for first pinch-hit
(Photo: Howard Smith/US Presswire)
(Photo: Howard Smith/US Presswire)

Posted Jun 23, 2012


With one swing of the bat, Jim Thome got his first pinch-hit of the season, set a Major League record, tied another home run hitter for career longballs and gave his buddy and mentor Charlie Manuel his 900th win as a manager.

Jim Thome knows the routine. Hit a game-ending homer, circle the bases, get mobbed by teammates. It never gets old.

Thome hit a pinch home run leading off the bottom of the ninth inning to lift the Phillies over the Tampa Bay Rays 7-6 on Saturday after Jonathan Papelbon blew his first save in 18 chances this season. Thome connected off Jake McGee (2-2) for home run number 609, tying Sammy Sosa for seventh place on baseball's career list. It was the 13th time he did it to end a game, setting a Major League record.

"You never forget them," Thome said. "These are moments you never know how long you'll have them." Juan Pierre and Jimmy Rollins also homered for the Phillies, helping manager Charlie Manuel earn his 900th career win.

"To do that for him, it was special for sure," said Thome, who is very close to Manuel.

In the first meeting at Citizens Bank Park between the two teams since Philadelphia won the 2008 World Series, the Phillies rallied from a 3-0 deficit against James Shields with homers from their number one and two hitters, but Papelbon couldn't hold the lead after converting his first 17 save opportunities this season.

Thome then came through to lead the five-time defending NL East champions out of last place for the first time since May 4. He hit a high drive to left field, jogged around the bases to a rousing ovation and got a cream pie in the face from Shane Victorino afterward on the field. "That felt great," Thome said. "They put whipped cream instead of shaving cream so that was nice."

Tampa Bay's Jeff Keppinger was 5-for-5 with three RBI in his first game after he missed 29 because of a broken toe.

Papelbon (2-2) allowed his first earned runs in a save situation this season. He walked Jose Lobaton with two outs to extend the game. Keppinger followed with an RBI single, before Brooks Conrad ripped a run-scoring single to right to tie it at 6-6. Conrad was 3 for 41 before that hit.

"I've got to do a better job," Papelbon said.

Papelbon said he told Thome in the on-deck circle that he would give him $5,000 if he hit a homer. Papelbon said he wrote the check in the clubhouse. "That was a huge pickup by Jim Thome," Papelbon said. "I couldn't be happier for anybody in the clubhouse."

Shields, who beat the Phillies in Game Two of the `08 Series for Tampa Bay's only win, allowed five runs and seven hits in five innings. Since starting 5-0, Shields is 2-4 with a 4.69 ERA. Tampa Bay has lost three straight.

"Tip your hat to Thome. He hit a 96 mile-per-hour fastball off a left-hander and they beat us," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. The 41-year-old Thome was 0-for-12 as a pinch-hitter before his at-bat. He batted .333 with four homers and 14 RBI in nine games as a designated hitter during interleague play earlier this month.

Shields fanned the first two batters in the fourth before getting in trouble. Pinch-hitter Mike Fontenot and Rollins hit consecutive singles. That brought up Pierre, who hadn't gone deep in 366 at-bats, dating back to last August 16 with the Chicago White Sox. Pierre lined career home run number 17 over the right-field fence, and strutted down the line with a finger pointed in the air.

Pierre reached on a two-base error, hustling his way to second base in the seventh. Carlos Ruiz looped an RBI single to right off Brandon Gomes to make it 6-3.

The Rays loaded the bases with no outs in the eighth against Antonio Bastardo, but only got one run on an RBI single by Sean Rodriguez.

Kendrick got Philadelphia started in the third with a leadoff walk. Rollins followed with a drive that hooked inside the right-field foul line to cut the deficit to 3-2. The Phillies had runners on first and third with one out, but couldn't push across the tying run. Ty Wigginton struck out and Placido Polanco flied out.

Kendrick allowed three runs and six hits in four innings, striking out six. He is 1-3 with a 7.36 ERA in five starts since shutting out St. Louis on May 26.

Notes: Pierre was 2-for-4 with three RBI, two runs and two stolen bases. He also made a sliding catch in left field... Phillies RHP Mike Stutes will have arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder on Tuesday. Dr. Lewis Yocum will perform the operation... Ruiz was hit by a pitch for the major league-leading 12th time... The Phillies posted their 255th straight sellout, including postseason play... The Phillies will send Cole Hamels (10-3, 3.25) and Cliff Lee (0-3, 3.48) to the mound in their day/night double-header Sunday. David Price (9-4, 3.08) will pitch the first game for Tampa Bay. The Game two starter is undecided.

Rob Maaddi can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/RobMaaddi.




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