Phillies manager Charlie Manuel has been taking advantage of American League rules with Jim Thome slotted as his designated hitter.
Manuel and Thome go way back from their days in Cleveland and the slugger's recent play has probably jarred a few memories. Thome will try to go deep for the third time in as many games when the Phillies continue a nine-game road trip tonight with the first of three matchups with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Thome has homered three times so far on the interleague trip and cracked a three-run blast in Thursday's series-clinching 6-1 win at Minnesota. It was the 607th home run of Thome's career and he made a winner out of starting pitcher Joe Blanton, who went the distance for the second time this season and allowed one run and seven hits, struck out seven and walked none. Phillies starters entered the game 6-12 with a 5.76 ERA in the previous 24 games.
Carlos Ruiz and Ty Wigginton finished with an RBI apiece, while Jimmy Rollins went 3-for-5 with a pair of runs scored for the Phillies, who won for just the third time in the past 12 games and are 3-3 on the trek. The Phillies are still last in the National League East at nine games off the pace.
"To come out and win these two ballgames and carry some momentum going from this series to Toronto, it's big," said Thome, who has hit safely in all six of his interleague games this season.
Thome 62 homers during interleague play are also a major-league best.
The Phillies have lost two straight and three of Vance Worley's last four starts, and hope he can bounce back Friday at Rogers Centre. Worley has recorded two straight no-decisions and allowed three unearned runs and four hits in six innings of Saturday's 6-4 loss at Baltimore.
Worley, who is 3-2 with a 3.00 earned run average in nine starts, is 2-1 in five road assignments this season and has never faced Toronto.
Toronto was just swept in three games by the Washington Nationals to kick off a six-game homestand and has lost six of seven games overall to fall below the .500 mark (31-32) for the first time this season.
The Blue Jays sustained a 6-2 loss to the Nationals in Wednesday's series finale, as starter Kyle Drabek left the game after just 4 1/3 innings because of an elbow issue and allowed four runs on seven hits and two walks.
"He felt a popping sensation in the back of his elbow," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said about Drabek. "Most encouragingly is that he felt no discomfort in the training room afterwards, but when he felt the pop on the mound it was clear that we had to take him out for precautionary reasons."
Jose Bautista continued his torrid stretch with a home run and Brett Lawrie added the other RBI for the Jays, who fell to 4-8 this month and have won only eight of their past 21 home tilts against NL foes. Bautista has reached base safely in 14 straight games and is batting .297 with seven homers and 15 RBI in his last 11 games. He has 19 homers this season and two in as many games.
"When Jose's at his best, he's not expanding the strike zone where he's not forced to," Farrell said on the team's website. "I think he has laid off a number of high fastballs, and when he has gotten pitches on the plate, we've seen for a long period of time what he's capable of doing, and that's the situation he's in right now."
Blue Jays starters are dropping like flies lately with Brandon Morrow landing on the disabled list and Drabek exiting his latest start. Rookie Drew Hutchison hopes to stay healthy and get himself back into the win column when he takes the mound tonight versus the Phillies.
Hutchison had won two straight and four of five starts until a 5-2 setback at Atlanta in which he was ripped for five runs and seven hits in 6 1/3 frames. The right-hander fell to 5-3 in 10 starts and his earned run average elevated slightly from 4.35 to 4.66. He is, however, 3-0 in four home starts and has never faced the Phillies.
The Blue Jays lost two of three meetings with the Phillies a season ago and have dropped six of the past eight contests in this series.