Diamond wilts while facing Thome and Phils
MINNEAPOLIS — Two bad pitches was all it took for Twins left-hander Scott Diamond to pick up his second loss of the season.
Diamond allowed four runs on five hits Thursday as the Twins fell, 6-1, to the visiting Philadelphia Phillies. For Minnesota, Thursday's loss meant it dropped the series to Philadelphia, snapping a streak of four consecutive series wins. It was just Diamond's second loss this year, and his first since May 23 against the White Sox.
Three of the four runs allowed by Diamond came on a blast off by Phillies slugger Jim Thome, whose homer to right-center field gave Philadelphia starter Joe Blanton a 4-1 cushion in the third inning.
It was the second home run in as many days for the 41-year-old Thome against his former team. This time, he took his former teammate deep after the 25-year-old Diamond left a pitch up and over the plate.
"I try to look at it as another at-bat, but him standing in there, he definitely has a presence," Diamond said of Thome, who now has 607 home runs in his career. "He was not only a great player when he was here but also a great teammate. It's tough not to focus on that, but I was just trying to go pitch by pitch."
On Wednesday, Thome tagged reliever Anthony Swarzak for a 466-foot homer to straightaway center. Thursday's homer didn't travel as far — it was estimated at 382 feet to the flower boxes in right-center — but the impact was just as great.
"Nothing he does surprises me," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of Thome. "He's such an ox. As a matter of fact, a blue ox."
The other mistake Diamond made in his six innings of work came in the second inning, when he served up a solo homer to Ty Wigginton. The Phillies first baseman sent an 0-1 pitch to the left field seats for his seventh home run of the season and the fifth given up by Diamond this year.
After the third inning, though, Diamond settled down and allowed just one single in the next three innings and retired the last seven batters he faced. He left after six innings, allowing four runs on five hits while walking two and striking out one.
"He didn't throw the ball too bad, but a couple mistakes ends up with four runs," Gardenhire said. "That's all the guy on the other side needed."
Diamond's start came one day after P.J. Walters exited Wednesday's game after facing just four batters without recording an out. Walters was placed on the disabled list Thursday, and the Twins recalled reliever Lester Oliveros, who allowed one run in two innings against the Phillies in the series finale.
With Walters' early exit, Minnesota's relievers had to pitch all nine innings of Wednesday's game. Diamond admitted he had that on his mind entering Thursday's start.
"Our bullpen has been worked a little bit lately," Diamond said. "I'm trying to go as deep into ballgames as much as I can myself. That was my focus tonight. Even after those tough second and third innings, that was still my focus."
After Thursday's game, Minnesota announced that right-hander Liam Hendriks will be recalled to make the start Saturday against Milwaukee. Gardenhire hinted at the move before Thursday's game, knowing that his team needed another arm.
With Walters going on the disabled list, and right-hander Carl Pavano also on the DL with a shoulder injury, Minnesota is having to mix and match with its rotation. In the meantime, the Twins are still hoping Diamond can anchor the staff like he has been.
Diamond certainly didn't pitch poorly on Thursday. He threw two mistakes that ended up costing him. After how he had pitched in his first seven starts — 5-1 with a 1.61 ERA — it's important for Diamond to not let Thursday's end result detract him from what has been an otherwise impressive start to the 2012 season.
"That's what I'm going to have to do," Diamond said of wiping the slate clean. "It was a tough loss, but I'm going to be prepared for my next start and work hard these next five days to make sure it doesn't happen again."
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