MINNEAPOLIS – Scott Diamond made the game look pretty easy in his first seven starts of the season, emerging as the surprising ace of the Minnesota Twins.
In start No. 8, Jim Thome showed the young lefty just how thin that line between success and failure can be.
Thome hit a big home run and Joe Blanton pitched his second complete game of the season to lead the Philadelphia Phillies to a 6-1 victory over the Twins on Thursday night.
Diamond (5-2) gave up four runs and five hits in six innings. He pitched well for the most part, but left a cutter over the plate to Thome in the third inning that the slugger turned into a three-run shot that put the Phillies well on their way to taking the series.
"I tried to work in a little bit and work both sides against him and that cutter came back in over the plate," Diamond said. "He's such a good hitter. He's not going to miss a pitch like that."
The former Twins designated hitter didn't miss much this series. It was his second homer in as many days, and it landed in the flower bed above the scoreboard in right-center, giving the Phillies a 4-1 lead and Thome 607 homers in his brilliant career. He currently sits in eighth place on baseball's career list, but Sammy Sosa (609) is in his sights.
Several fans leaned over the railing and rummaged through the flowers in hopes of getting their hands on a piece of history, but none were able to find it. A Twins spokesman said the team planned to dig out the ball Friday afternoon and send it to Thome, who spent most of the previous two seasons in Minnesota.
"Nothing he does surprises me," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He's such an ox."
On Wednesday night, Thome hit a long drive estimated at 466 feet that landed near a concession stand deep in center field.
"It had a walleye stick on it or something," Thome joked, referring to the "walleye on a stick" fried food served at the concession stand in that part of Target Field.
Trevor Plouffe homered for the third consecutive day and fifth time in six games for the Twins, but that was all they could muster against Blanton (6-6).
The right-hander gave up seven hits and struck out seven while going the distance for the sixth time in his career, snapping an ugly string of five straight starts with at least five runs allowed.
"He pretty much chewed us up," Gardenhire said.
Ty Wigginton also homered for the Phillies, who took two of three from a Minnesota team that was unbeaten in its previous four series.
Jimmy Rollins added three hits, and Carlos Ruiz and Placido Polanco drove in the final two runs for the Phillies.
Blanton scattered four singles over his final seven innings, mixing his fastball and changeup effectively to keep the Twins off balance. He got a scare in the sixth when Justin Morneau just missed a two-run homer on a drive that was caught by Shane Victorino at the wall in center field, but other than that it was fairly effortless as Blanton was able to give Jonathan Papelbon the night off after the closer picked up a four-out save on Wednesday.
Diamond entered with a 1.61 ERA and a 13-inning scoreless streak. That ended at 14 when Wigginton hit a solo shot to left field in the second.
"He didn't throw the ball too bad, but a couple mistakes ends up with four runs and that's all that guy on the other side needed," Gardenhire said.
Joe Mauer and Alexi Casilla had two hits apiece for the Twins.
"I challenged a lot of guys and was able to mix it up a little bit," Diamond said. "If I was able to take those two pitches back, that would be a whole different ballgame. I just tried to work down and challenge hitters as much as I could."
NOTES: Thome's homer was his 99th in a Phillies uniform. One more and he becomes the fourth player to hit at least 100 homers with three teams, joining Alex Rodriguez (Mariners, Rangers, Yankees), Reggie Jackson (Angels, Yankees, Athletics) and Darrell Evans (Braves, Giants, Tigers). ... The Twins placed RHP P.J. Walters on the disabled list with a shoulder injury, and Gardenhire stressed to him that he needs to make the team aware when he isn't feeling right. Walters started the game on Wednesday, but had to be pulled in the first inning. "That's the mistake," Gardenhire said. "You've got to trust (the trainers) in that room and let them do their job." ... The Twins announced they will recall Liam Hendriks from Triple-A Rochester to start on Saturday. They plan to announce a corresponding roster move Friday night. ... The Twins open a series against Milwaukee at Target Field on Friday night. LHP Francisco Liriano (1-7, 6.45 ERA) will face Brewers RHP Yovani Gallardo (5-5, 4.21).