Thome powers Hamels, Phillies past Twins 9-8

Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer, right, watches as Philadelphia Phillies' Jim Thome (25), Carlos Ruiz (51) and John Mayberry Jr., left, celebrate Mayberry's three-run home run off Minnesota Twins relief pitcher Jeff Manship in the first inning of a baseball game on Wednesday, June 13, 2012, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

June 13, 2012 8:42:43 PM PDT
Jim Thome drove in four runs against his former team, including a long homer to pad Philadelphia's lead, and the Phillies hung on for a 9-8 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday night.

John Mayberry also had four RBIs, including a three-run home run in the first inning to give Cole Hamels (9-3) a six-run lead he barely held. Jonathan Papelbon got the last four outs for his 17th save in as many attempts.

Hunter Pence and Carlos Ruiz both had three hits and scored two runs, helping the Phillies - who have been in last place since May 5 - win for only the second time in their last 11 games.

Denard Span had three hits, Joe Mauer drove in two runs and Josh Willingham and Trevor Plouffe both homered for the Twins, who nearly erased deficits of 6-0 and 9-3. Papelbon promptly ended their rally by striking out Mauer in a perfect ninth.

After a two-run single in the first, Thome took Anthony Swarzak deep - really deep - for a two-run shot in the fourth.

Thome has talked often of the difficult adjustment to becoming a full-time pinch-hitter, finding a routine that works with his limited role, but when he's the DH - as he was most of the time with the Twins in 2010 and 2011 - he sure does fine.

The distances are unscientific, estimated on the spot by Twins communications staff in the press box, but Thome has the four longest home runs in Target Field's three-season history. This one took third place, measured at 466 feet to the standing room above the batter's eye in center field.

Since coming off the disabled list last week - he missed more than a month because of a lower back strain - Thome is hitting .435 in 23 at-bats with six runs, 10 RBIs and both of his homers this year. Twins fans enjoyed the soft-spoken, hard-hitting slugger so much in his two seasons here that they stood, cheered and clapped for the 41-year-old as he jogged around the bases.

After three straight soft singles to start the game against P.J. Walters (2-2), Thome smacked one to right field to drive in two runs and prompt Twins manager Ron Gardenhire to visit the mound. Walters wasn't able to get loose, the team later announced, and left with no outs and stiffness and pain in his shoulder.

Jeff Manship entered, and two batters after an RBI single by Ruiz, Mayberry cleared the bases with his three-run shot.

Hamels, Pence and Papelbon have arguably been the only Phillies stars performing up to expectations in this injury-ravaged season, and even Hamels has been off his game lately. After going 5-0 in May, Hamels has fallen into his usual June swoon. It's the worst month of his career; he's 11-16 all time. After blowing leads in each of his last two starts and allowing a total of nine runs over 12 2/3 innings, Hamels failed to retire a batter in the seventh.

Willingham's leadoff home run in the sixth trimmed the lead to 9-4. Nine of his 12 long balls this year are at home. Then came the seventh, which Brian Dozier started with a sharp double. Span drove him in with a double, summoning Antonio Bastardo from the bullpen. Ben Revere met him with an RBI single, Mauer did the same and another run came in on a groundout by Justin Morneau after a wild pitch moved the runners up to avoid a possible double play.

NOTES: Thome has started at 1B four times this year, and manager Charlie Manuel hinted that he could do that more this summer once the DH option disappears at the end of their interleague road schedule. "He's got to stay healthy, but there's always that chance we put him in the field," Manuel said. ... Willingham extended his hitting streak to 15 games, thanks to an error Sunday that was later switched to a single. ... Phillies RHP Joe Blanton (5-6, 5.40 ERA) pitches the series finale Thursday, with LHP Scott Diamond (5-1, 1.61) taking the mound for the Twins. Blanton has allowed five or more runs in each of his last five starts, winning only the previous one. Diamond has the lowest ERA for a rookie in Twins history after his first seven starts of a season. ... Placido Polanco returned at 3B for the Phillies after missing a week with a left wrist injury. ... Plouffe has 11 homers, second-most on the team, with 10 in the last 20 games.