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PHI@MIN: Thome crushes a long three-run shot

MINNEAPOLIS -- It had been a while since a Phillies clubhouse looked and sounded like this.

Music blared and players laughed easily following their 6-1 victory on Thursday over the Twins at Target Field. In between bites of their postgame meals, they hollered at one another and at the TVs above them which showed the final minutes of Game 2 of the NBA Finals.

"Sometimes, a little bit goes a long way," Blanton said.

Like two wins.

The Phillies won consecutive games for the first time in two weeks and enjoyed their first series victory since they took two of three from the Mets on May 28-30. They remain in last place in the National League East, nine games behind the first-place Nationals, but at least they could enjoy their flight to Toronto, where they open a three-game series on Friday night with the Blue Jays.

At least they took a step.

The Phillies won the series because they did something they have been unable to do in the same game at the same time for a long time: they hit -- Jim Thome continued to lead the way with a career-high nine RBIs in the three-game series -- pitched and played good defense.

The Phillies have made their living on pitching and defense the past few seasons, but they had allowed 126 runs in their previous 24 games, their worst 24-game stretch since the beginning of the 2009 season, when they allowed 132. But Blanton, who had been the rotation's biggest offender lately when it came to giving up big innings, allowed seven hits, one run and struck out seven in his second complete game of the season.

"It was a very pleasant surprise," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.

"Blanton basically chewed us up," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.

Blanton had a 9.91 ERA in his last five starts, giving him the highest ERA in baseball since May 19. He had also allowed five or more earned runs in each of his last five starts. But after Blanton allowed a solo home run to Trevor Plouffe in the second inning to make it 1-1, he allowed just five more hits over the next 7 2/3 innings.

"I felt like, the last two [starts], I was getting close but not quite there, and kind of the same today," Blanton said. "It's not one of those where it was a quick fix and everything suddenly got better. It's been kind of trying a few different things and gradually getting a little more comfortable."

Ty Wigginton hit a solo home run to left field to give the Phillies a 1-0 lead in the second. Thome made it 4-1 when he hit a three-run home run into the flower bed up the right-field wall in the third.

It was Thome's 607th career home run, and his 99th with the Phillies. If he hits one more with Philadelphia, he will become the fourth player in baseball history to have 100 home runs with three teams (Indians, White Sox and Phillies). He would join Alex Rodriguez (Mariners, Rangers and Yankees), Reggie Jackson (A's, Yankees and Angels) and Darrell Evans (Braves, Giants and Tigers).

Thome has been collecting his home run balls for some time. He got the 466-foot monster he crushed over the batter's eye in center field on Wednesday.

"It had a walleye stick on it or something," said Thome, referring to the walleye-on-a-stick stand where he hit it.

He is still waiting for the one he hit Thursday. It's whereabouts are unknown.

"I think it's in some plant or something, but they're trying to get it," he said.

Thome, 41, remains the Phillies' most dangerous hitter during their nine-game road trip through the American League. He is hitting .458 (11-for-24) with two doubles, three homers, 13 RBIs, three walks and seven runs scored in six games as the Phillies' designated hitter.

"Jimmy is a very positive guy," Manuel said. "He gets excited about the game. He's one of those guys who guys in the lineup like to hit with. It means a whole lot."

Asked if it feels better to be locked in at 41 than 28, Thome said, "Yes. No question. There's always going to be people who doubt the age. That's part of it. To know you can work hard and have some success does mean a lot, no doubt."

Nobody knows what will happen once the Phillies return to their NL schedule and Thome becomes a full-time pinch-hitter. Thome has three more games to DH this weekend in Toronto.

But that can wait. The Phillies got a win, and they were going to enjoy it.

"You go out and try to have solid at-bats," Thome said. "Our guys are getting on base. It's a lot of fun. To come out the last two days and win these ballgames and hopefully build a little momentum, it's big."

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