PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A month off didn’t affect Jeff Keppinger’s swing.
Keppinger went 5 for 5 with three RBIs in his first game after missing 29 because of a broken toe, but the Tampa Bay Rays lost 7-6 to the Philadelphia Phillies when pinch-hitter Jim Thome led off the bottom of the ninth with a solo homer Saturday.
After Jonathan Papelbon blew his first save in 18 chances this season, Thome connected off Jake McGee (2-2) for home run No. 609 to tie Sammy Sosa for seventh place on baseball’s career list. It was the 13th time he did it to end a game.
“Tip your hat to Thome. He hit a 96 mph fastball off a left-hander and they beat us,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
Juan Pierre and Jimmy Rollins also homered for the Phillies, helping manager Charlie Manuel earn his 900th career win.
In the first meeting at Citizens Bank Park between this teams since Philadelphia won the 2008 World Series, the Phillies rallied from a 3-0 deficit against James Shields with homers from their Nos. 1-2 hitters. But Papelbon couldn’t hold the lead.
“It’s great to be back, but I’d feel a lot better if we had won,” Keppinger said.
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. Then, Brooks Conrad ripped a run-scoring single to right to tie it. Conrad was 3 for 41 before that hit.
“I’ve got to do a better job,” Papelbon said.
Shields, who beat the Phillies in Game 2 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.
“We’ve not been good with runners in scoring position, and that will always come back to hurt you,” Maddon said. “Keppinger was wonderful. He was really eager to be in there.”
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 RBIs 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 to Aug. 16 with the Chicago White Sox. Pierre lined career homer No. 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.
Phillies starter Kyle 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.
Kendrick got Philadelphia started in the third with a leadoff walk. Rollins followed with a drive that hooked inside the right-field foul pole 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 retired the first four batters before unraveling with one out in the second. He allowed a single to Ben Zobrist and walked Lobaton. Keppinger followed with a two-run double down the left-field line. He advanced to third on a throwing error by second baseman Michael Martinez and scored on Shields’ groundout for a 3-0 Rays lead.
Notes: Rays RHP Todd Farnsworth (right elbow strain) is scheduled to make his first back-to-back rehab appearances on Sunday and Monday. … Shields struck out seven. … The Phillies will send Cole Hamels (10-3, 3.25) and Cliff Lee (0-3, 3.48) to the mound in their day/night doubleheader Sunday. David Price (9-4, 3.08) will pitch the first game for Tampa Bay. The Game 2 starter is undecided.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.