Jim Thome and Charlie Manuel have always enjoyed a special relationship, and the slugger felt it was fitting that he and the manager shared more milestones together in an eventful afternoon in South Philadelphia.
Thome's solo, pinch-hit home run to lead off the ninth inning off hard-throwing lefthander Jake McGee provided the Phillies with Saturday's 7-6 win over the Tampa Bay Rays at Citizens Bank Park
It was Thome's 609th career home run, tying him with Sammy Sosa for seventh on the all-time list. It also provided Manuel with his 900th career win.
"It's special," Thome said. "To do that and accomplish it for him and help your club win, that is kind of the ultimate for sure."
What was truly special was Thome's eight-pitch at-bat. McGee was throwing smoke in the 97-98-m.p.h. range, and Thome fouled off some awfully tough pitches to stay alive.
Then he got all of a 97-m.p.h. fastball that he drilled the opposite way, 390 feet to left field.
"He made some good pitches," Thome said of McGee. "That pitch was a little more down than what he had been throwing me, and I put good wood on it."
It was also Thome's 13th career walk-off home run, making him the all-time leader in that category.
"I said last week, these are moments you never know how long you will have them," Thome said. "You enjoy them, and obviously you move on."
Thome had started nine straight games when the Phillies needed a designated hitter during interleague play in Baltimore, Minnesota, and Toronto.
He had four home runs and 14 RBIs in those games, but now he is relegated to pinch-hitting the rest of the year. This was only his third at-bat since Tuesday, and his first hit.
Manuel downplayed earning the 900th win, but was more than happy to talk about Thome, specifically his tying Sosa on the home run chart.
"It's good to see him tie him, but I will be glad when he beats him," Manuel said.
Thome saved a game that closer Jonathan Papelbon couldn't.
Staked with a 6-4 lead, Papelbon surrendered RBI singles in the ninth to Jeff Keppinger (who was 5 for 5) and Brooks Conrad.
"That was a huge pickup by Jim Thome, and I couldn't' be happier for anybody in the clubhouse," Papelbon said.
Then Papelbon added that he told his teammates, "whoever walks this guy [McGee] off, I will give $5,000."
Papelbon said he already wrote the check, but Thome said he hadn't received any payment.
What is interesting is that Thome wouldn't have been in the spotlight had it not been for the power of a less-noted home run hitter.
With the Phillies trailing by 3-2 in the fourth inning, Juan Pierre hit a hanging change-up off starter James Shields for a three-run blast in the fourth inning.
How rare an occurrence was that?
It was Pierre's first home run since Aug. 16 of last year, when he hit a two-run shot in the Chicago White Sox' 8-7 win over Cleveland in 14 innings.
Saturday's three-run jolt was Pierre's 17th career home run in his 7,023d at-bat. That is approximately one homer for every 413 at-bats.
"It shocked me coming off the bat," Pierre said. "I was trying to get a base hit up the middle, and he left it up."
The Rays scored three runs off starter Kyle Kendrick in the second inning. Keppinger hit a two-run double, and Shields added an RBI groundout.
The Phillies got two back in the third on Jimmy Rollins' two-run home run.
Leading by 5-3, the Phillies scored in the seventh, when Pierre reached base on a two-base error, stole third, and scored on Carlos Ruiz's bloop single.
Tampa Bay kept pecking way, but eventually couldn't deny the Phillies a comeback win on a memorable day for Thome and his manager.