Thome led off the Phillies' ninth and connected on a 3-2 pitch from left-hander Jake McGee, driving the pitch into the left-field stands, giving him career home run No. 609 while also giving Phillies manager Charlie Manuel career win No. 900.
Fighting to get back into the game, only to lose in the fashion they did, made Saturday's loss tougher to take. But while the Rays had overcome a lot, they had brought a lot of their issues upon themselves.
James Shields started for the Rays and got off to a nice start. The right-hander posted two scoreless innings and even drove in a run in the second following Jeff Keppinger's two-run double earlier in the inning, putting Shields and the Rays on top, 3-0.
But Shields walked Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick when he led off the bottom of the third. Jimmy Rollins then connected on a 1-0 changeup and the ball seemed to just keep going, even though it didn't seem to be hit particularly well. When the ball finally landed, it had just cleared the wall in right to give Rollins his sixth home run of the season while cutting the lead to 3-2.
Shields recovered to strike out the first two hitters he faced in the fourth. But Mike Fontenot and Rollins followed with singles before Juan Pierre hit a 2-1 changeup deep into the right-field stands for a 5-3 Phillies lead.
"I really made one bad, bad pitch tonight -- and that was to Pierre," Shields said. "I felt I made a really good pitch to Rollins. I think that kind of was a normal fly ball on any other day, the wind was blowing out and it's a short porch, as well. I was kind of on and off with my delivery today a little bit. I've got to do a better job of minimizing the damage."
Given the way the Rays have scored runs lately, the two-run deficit appeared monumental. But the Rays compounded the problem in the seventh when Ben Zobrist booted Pierre's grounder that started the inning. The hustling Pierre finished at second base on the play. One out later, Pierre stole third before scoring on Carlos Ruiz's bloop single to right, giving the Phillies a 6-3 lead.
"Even ... permitting Pierre to steal third base right there, that's something we can't permit to happen," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Those are the kinds of things that we normally prevent or don't permit to happen.
"When you're scrapping to score some runs, you just can't give them up the way we've been giving them up. We've been porous -- and we have to stop being porous."
Despite trailing by three going into the eighth, the Rays continued to fight and they managed to load the bases against Antonio Bastardo with no outs. Sean Rodriguez came through with an RBI single with one out, but Brooks Conrad and Desmond Jennings both struck out and Carlos Pena flied out to right to end the threat.
Jonathan Papelbon entered the game for the Phillies in the top of the ninth smelling his 18th save in 18 opportunities. The Rays had other ideas. Before Papelbon could record the final out of the ninth, Tampa Bay had pushed across two runs to tie the game at 5 -- thanks to RBI singles by Keppinger, via his fifth hit of the game, and Conrad, handing Papelbon his first blown save of the season.
Any euphoria that resulted from tying the game quickly subsided when Thome led off the Phillies' half of the ninth. The slugger connected on a fastball that missed its desired location for his 13th career walk-off home run -- a circuit blast that tied him with Sammy Sosa for seventh place on Major League Baseball's all-time home run list.
"It was a good battle, it was 3-2 and I didn't want to walk the leadoff guy," McGee said. "Made a decent pitch and he hit a home run. It was a fastball a little up and away. I was trying to go away. Got too much of the plate, it was up, he got the barrel on it.
"I knew right away [it was a home run] because this is a small ballpark, and when the ball gets up in the air it's usually not staying in."
According to Papelbon, Thome had a little extra motivation in that at-bat.
"I came in the clubhouse and I said, 'Whoever walks this guy off, I'll give 'em five grand,'" Papelbon said. "I didn't think Jim would do it right off the bat. ... I just wrote him a check for $5,000."
Maddon isn't particularly enamored with the way his team is playing -- just examine the ledger -- but he still likes his team's effort.
"We've been giving it up a little bit, and we have not gotten it on our side," Maddon said. "And that will come back to us. It will come back to you if you choose to not quit. If you choose to not give up, it comes back to you. The moment you start to quit, then it goes away. I have full faith that our guys will not quit on it."