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Thome delivers in pinch

PHILADELPHIA – 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 Philadelphia 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 No. 609, tying Sammy Sosa for seventh place on baseball’s career list. It was the major league-record 13th time he did it to end a game.

“You never forget them,” said Thome, who homered on the eighth pitch of the at-bat. “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 win.

In the first meeting at Citizens Bank Park between the 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.

Thome then came through to lead the five-time defending National League 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,” the 41-year-old 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 RBIs 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. 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.

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 2 for Tampa Bay’s only win of the ’08 Series, 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 mph fastball off a left-hander, and they beat us,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said.

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