P.J. Walters was long gone from the mound when the Minnesota Twins rallied from their early deficit.
Now they have another hole in their rotation to fill.
Jim Thome drove in four runs against his former team, including a long homer to pad Philadelphia's lead, and the Phillies hung on for a 9-8 victory over the Twins on Wednesday night.
After three straight soft singles to start the game against Walters (2-2), Thome smacked one to right field to drive in two runs and prompt Twins manager Ron Gardenhire to visit the mound. Walters wasn't able to get loose, and he left with no outs and stiffness and pain in his shoulder.
"You never want to leave the field like that. You always want to be healthy and help the team. The last thing you want to do is have the bullpen throw nine innings," Walters said. "Offense puts up eight runs tonight, and we lose. That's about as bad as you could've drawn it up."
Jeff Manship entered, and two batters after an RBI single by Carlos Ruiz, John Mayberry cleared the bases with a three-run homer. Gardenhire said the team had "no idea" about Walters' discomfort.
"When I went out there he said, 'I'm fine, I've got no problem,'" Gardenhire said. "And I said, 'You're not fine. You're throwing 80 miles an hour. You threw one pitch at 85. What's going on here?' And he said 'Skip, I'm fine. I can do this.'"
Walters said he's never missed a start before, but that streak will probably end. The Twins announced after the game they will recall right-hander Lester Oliveros from Triple-A Rochester to give the bullpen more depth. After four solid starts, Walters has been roughed up over his last three turns.
"He hasn't been in the training room and hasn't received any treatment, but obviously he's trying to pitch through something," Gardenhire said. "That's not a good way to go about it tonight, because it put us in a pretty big hole."
Mayberry also had four RBIs to give Cole Hamels (9-3) a six-run lead he barely held. Jonathan Papelbon got the last four outs for his 17th save in as many attempts. Hunter Pence and Carlos Ruiz both had three hits and scored two runs, helping the Phillies — who have been in last place since May 5 — win for only the second time in their last 11 games.
Denard Span had three hits, Joe Mauer drove in two runs and Josh Willingham and Trevor Plouffe both homered for the Twins, who nearly erased deficits of 6-0 and 9-3. Papelbon promptly ended their rally by striking out Mauer in a perfect ninth.
After a two-run single in the first, Thome took Anthony Swarzak deep — really deep — for a two-run shot in the fourth.
The distances are unscientific, estimated on the spot by Twins communications staff in the press box, but Thome has the four longest home runs in Target Field's three-season history. This one took third place, measured at 466 feet to the standing room above the batter's eye in center field.
Since coming off the disabled list last week — he missed more than a month because of a lower back strain — Thome is hitting .435 in 23 at-bats with six runs, 10 RBIs and both of his homers this year. Twins fans enjoyed the soft-spoken, hard-hitting slugger so much in his two seasons here that they stood, cheered and clapped for the 41-year-old as he jogged around the bases.
Willingham's leadoff home run in the sixth trimmed the lead to 9-4. Nine of his 13 long balls this year are at home. Then came the seventh, which Brian Dozier started with a sharp double. Span drove him in with a double, summoning Antonio Bastardo from the bullpen. Ben Revere met him with an RBI single, Mauer did the same and another run came in on a groundout by Justin Morneau after a wild pitch moved the runners up to avoid a possible double play.
NOTES: Plouffe has 11 homers, second-most on the team, with 10 in the last 20 games. He is batting .400 (16 for 40) with four doubles, six homers, 13 RBIs and 11 runs in 10 games this month. ... Willingham stretched his hitting streak to 15 games. He's hitting .337 at home this season.