By Chris Murray
For the CM Report
After Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon blew his first save of the season by giving up two runs in the top of the ninth, fans began walking out of Citizen’s Bank Park and the fans who stayed were in a pretty surly mood. Papelbon got booed while walking off the mound after getting the final out of that disastrous top of the ninth.
Shortly before the bottom of ninth inning, Papelbon said he offered a little reward for anyone who could win the game on a walk-off homerun.
“I came into the clubhouse and I said, ‘whoever walks this guy off, I’ll give ’em five grand,” Papelbon said.
It took just one swing of Jim Thome’s bat to send the sellout crowd with a smile as the Phillies walked away with a 7-6 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays in Interleague play Saturday afternoon in front of 239th consecutive sellout at Citizen’s Bank Park.
“I didn’t think Jim would do it right off the bat, not that he needs the money,” Papelbon said. “I just wrote him a check for $5,000.”
Thome’s homerun, the 13th walkoff homer of his career, was the 609th tying for the seventh on the all-time Major League list with Sammy Sosa. For the veteran slugger hitting game-winning homeruns never gets old. If you can read lips on the TV replay, Thome appears to be telling Papelbon, ‘I want that check.’
“Walkoff homers are great because your teammates are there waiting for you,” Thome said. “Pinch hitting is a challenge. It’s a challenge. You have an at-bat you have a day to sit on it. The goal is to work to be positive to try to accomplish it.”
Meanwhile, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel got his 900th career victory as a manager that also includes his time as the Cleveland Indians skipper.
For the Phillies, it was a day where the team found itself in and out of predicaments. Most notably the top of the ninth. The Phillies came into the inning with a 6-4 lead, but the Rays got RBI singles from Brooks Conrad and Jeff Keppinger to even the score.
At the end of the day, Thome’s home run was just reflective of how the Phillies kept fighting their way out of tough situations.
“It was a collective all-round victory today, especially offensively,” said Phillies outfielder Juan Pierre. “That what’s team is about. We’re picking each other up. Papelbon has been lights out all year and you can’t say enough about (Thome). He keeps doing it, picking Paps up. That’s what we did throughout the day, we picked each other up.”
Pierre did his share as well. The speedy outfielder usually scares opposing pitchers with his ability to steal bases. But today, Pierre put a jolt into Rays starting pitcher James Shield by going yard himself.
With his team trailing 3-2 in the fourth inning,t was Pierre’s bat that turned tide of the game when he crushed a three-run homer to right field and put the Phillies on top for good in a 6-5 win over the Tampa Rays at Citizen’s Bank Park.
“It just shocked me coming off the bat because I was just trying to get a base hit up the middle like I normally do,” Pierre said with a smile while talking to reporters. “(Shields) left it up and that’s one of the few times you’ll see me smiling and stuff coming around the bases with the guys giving me flak. I said now I’ve only hit 17 of them at least let me enjoy it for a half inning.”
. It was all part of a huge day for Pierre, who was 3-for-3 with three runs batted in, two stolen bases and two runs scored. It was just his 17th career homerun.
Kyle Kcndrick, who pitched four innings, but allowed three runs (two earned) on six hits. Phils manager Charlie Manuel took him out of the game after he threw 93 pitches.
“He definitely had a lot of runners on base, he was in trouble and he accumulated a lot of pitches,” Manuel said.
Kendrick had his bad moments and good moments in this game.
The bad moments came first. Rays jumped on Kendrick in the top of the second inning with an RBI double that scored Ben Zobrist, who reached on a single and Jose Lobaton, who walked. Keppinger went to third on an errant throw to the plate by Michael Martinez.
Rays shortstop Elliot Johnson was walked by Kendrick, pitcher James Shields drove home Keppinger on a ground out to short to give Tampa Bay a 3-0 lead.
The good came when Kendrick showed some mental toughness by pitching his way out of some difficult jams.
In the third, Kendrick gave up singles to Carlos Pena and B.J. Upton and then retired the next three batters in order to get out of the inning. In the fourth, Kendrick gave up two hits and a walk, but didn’t allow a run.
After the Phillies fell behind 3-0 in the second inning, Rollins started the Phillies comeback with a two-run homer to cut the margin to 3-2.
The bugaboo for the Phillies this season has been the inability of the bullpen to hang onto leads. In the top of the eighth inning, the Rays got three consecutive singles off Phils reliever Antonio Bastardo to load the bases with no outs and it looked it was going to be another bullpen collapse.
But Bastardo also showed some grit. He struck out Brooks Conrad swinging, but then allowed a single to Sean Rodriguez that drove home Zobrist. Bastardo struck out Desmond Jennings and got Pena to flyout to right to end the Rays’ threat.
“Our bullpen did real good until the last couple of innings when we gave up three runs,” Manuel said. “Pap gave up two. Thome hit the homer to win it.”