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Thome comes through for Phils
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09/27/2003  4:52 PM ET 
Thome comes through for Phils
By Mike Gennaria / Special to MLB.com

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    PHILADELPHIA -- Jim Thome continues to delight the Philadelphia faithful despite the Phillies falling out of contention in the Wild Card race.

    Two home runs and a broken-bat double to lead off the bottom of the 10th inning from Thome propelled the Phillies to a 7-6 win over the Braves on Saturday afternoon. Thome scored the game-winning run when Chase Utley knocked a single through a drawn in infield one out later.

    The victory halted the team's six-game losing streak.

    A sold-out crowd of 58,303, a throng of alumni and the emotion of the events surrounding the Final Innings weekend didn't hurt matters either.

    Pregame ceremonies included the introduction of the All-Veterans Stadium team, including the likes of Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton, skipper Larry Bowa and Tug McGraw.

    Thome's second-inning homer off Atlanta starter Mike Hampton was his 46th this season, retaking the NL lead after Barry Bonds and Richie Sexson matched him at 45 Friday night.

    The Phillies slugger padded his lead with a 402-foot shot in the eighth. With Schmidt in attendance, Thome moved one step closer to becoming the first Phillie to lead the league in homers since the Hall of Fame third baseman did it with 37 in 1986. The second homer also ties him for the Major League lead, with Texas' Alex Rodriguez.

    Manager Larry Bowa heaped praise onto the unassuming superstar.

    "He's been unbelievable all year," Bowa said. "We were down all game and it seemed every time he came to the plate, we got back in the game."

    "I think he's given the fans their money's worth," Bowa continued. "He's given me my money's worth and he's given the Phillies their money's worth."

    How does Bowa think Thome motivates himself for a seemingly meaningless game?

    "When you look at a guy who has been through the playoffs, been to the World Series, he knows only one way to play, and that's hard all the time," Bowa said.

    Also, Thome collected his 131st RBI on Saturday, moving into fifth on the Phillies' single-season list. The mark is the most RBIs by a Phillie since 1932.

    Utley, who collected an RBI of his own when he plated Thome in the 10th, had trouble coming up with an explanation for the team's first baseman.

    "Words can describe it," Utley said of Thome's play this year.

    As usual, Thome deflected attention from himself after the game.

    "The most important thing is we won the game," he said. "Hopefully we can end the season on a good note."

    Although Thome came through late, the game didn't start off very well for the Phils.

    The Braves struck first, getting to starter Amaury Telemaco in the second. With one out, Javy Lopez and Julio Franco connected for back-to back home runs off the right-hander. Vinny Castilla followed with a double and Rafael Furcal knocked in the Atlanta third baseman with a single.

    Lopez's long ball off the left-field facade was his 42nd as a catcher this season (43rd overall), setting the all-time record for backstops. Lopez passed Todd Hundley, who hit 41 with the Mets in 1996.

    The Phillies trailed 3-0 and Telmaco's day was through.

    Hampton used this start as tuneup for the playoffs. He pitched just two innings, tossing 15 of his 16 pitches for strikes. However, one of those strikes was met by the bat of Thome and sent over the right-field wall.

    While the game began to resemble one from Spring Training, with numerous pitchers and lineup changes through out, a couple of September call-ups made the most of it.

    Ryan Madson made his Major League debut when he took the mound in the sixth inning. The 23-year-old right hander worked two perfect innings for the Phillies.

    Anderson Machado, who stole 40 bases with Double-A Reading before his call-up, also made his big-league debut. He came in to pinch-run for Kelly Stinnett, who had singled in a pinch-hit at-bat, in the seventh inning. Machado, 22, then proceeded to steal the first base of his career.

    Shortstop Jimmy Rollins also reached a milestone in the defeat.

    After hitting a one-out single up the middle in the first inning, Rollins stole second. It was Rollins' 20th stolen base of the year and 100th of his four-year Major League career. He has stolen at least 20 bases in three straight seasons.

    Rheal Cormier (8-0) pitched a perfect top of the 10th to earn the victory. The eight victories are his most since recording ten as a starter in 1992. The left-hander reliever has a 1.70 ERA in 65 appearances this year.

    The Braves set a franchise mark in the bottom of the inning when they used their 10th pitcher of the game.

    After another day of Thome heroics, Bowa didn't want to think about his team without the slugger.

    "I don't even want to venture to say where we'd be without Thome," he said.

    Mike Gennaria is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.



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