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Thome ends long-ball drought as Phillies roll past Rockies

CBS SportsLine.com wire reports
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PHILADELPHIA -- With one swing, Jim Thome unloaded some soaring stress. With another efficient and effective outing, Jon Lieber looked more and more like Philadelphia's ace.

Thome ended his season-long homer drought to back another solid outing from Lieber, who became the major leagues' first four-game winner in the Philadelphia Phillies' 6-3 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Thursday.

"It's always nice to get going," Thome said.

With Thome slugging, Lieber cruising and Billy Wagner finishing with a save, this was exactly how the Phillies expected to contend in the NL East.

Lieber (4-0) so far has lived up to his billing as the ace of Philadelphia's otherwise so-so staff. He's done what No. 1 starters are supposed to -- stop losing streaks. In his previous start, he snapped Philadelphia's three-game skid and ended a two-game losing streak in this one.

"I'm just getting the ball every fifth game and trying to help us win a ballgame," said Lieber, whose answers are as expeditious as his innings.

Lieber, who signed a $21 million, three-year contract in December, gave up nine hits and struck out only one in eight innings. But it was his second straight start where he didn't walk anyone.

A 20-game winner with Chicago in 2001, Lieber has delivered for the Phillies in his return to the National League. He's the first Philadelphia pitcher to win his first four starts of the year since Dennis Cook in 1990 and pitched at least eight innings in his last three starts.

"I'm going to have some rough games, I'm sure, this year," Lieber said. "It's only my fourth start and it's a long season. I want to be able to be pitching like this in August and September, also."

And he doesn't waste any time, throwing 57 strikes in 98 pitches, completing a game that took just 2 hours, 15 minutes.

"He does what the book says, he works fast, throws strikes and mixes it up," Colorado's Todd Helton said. "That's what he did today. He's not going to blow you away. He catches corners and he knows how to pitch."

Lieber got some offensive help in the fourth with a pair of two-run homers from Thome and Todd Pratt. Thome, who hit 89 homers his first two seasons with the Phillies, was off to the longest home run drought to start a season in his career.

Hitting just .231 and without a homer in 53 at-bats, Thome hit one the other way to left off Joe Kennedy (1-2) and got a big ovation around the bases. He broke into a wide grin back in the dugout, the pressure off for a while.

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said before the game that Thome was pressing, trying too hard to knock one out. Manuel joked he wasn't going to get concerned until Thome had 350 at-bats.

Thome acknowledged how badly he wanted to hit first home run since Sept. 23 against Florida.

"I think after a while, sure, you want to hit it," Thome said. "That's my job, to drive in runs. I'm not a .350 hitter. I'm a guy that hits the ball out of the park. You can't try and do it. The more you try, the worse it gets. I'm just glad it's over with."

Kennedy then walked Jason Michaels and gave up Pratt's first homer of the year for a 4-3 lead.

"It's nice to see Jimmy get that first one out of the way," Pratt said. "It's a little something off his shoulders."

Kennedy allowed four runs and seven hits in six innings and struck out five.

Placido Polanco added an RBI single and Thome had an RBI groundout in the seventh off Scott Dohmann for a 6-3 lead.

Wagner struck out two in a perfect ninth for his third save.

Lieber got some help from his defense to avoid a big inning in the second.

With Colorado ahead 1-0 and with runners in scoring position, Aaron Miles hit a shallow fly ball to left. Catcher Todd Greene tagged and challenged strong-armed Pat Burrell, whose throw was toward the left-handed hitter's side of the box. Pratt, though, came around for a sweeping tag to complete the double play.

Lieber gave up a two-run homer to Desi Relaford in the fourth inning for a 3-0 Colorado lead.

"He made one mistake today, but he makes it easy," Pratt said.

Notes

  • The Phillies went 4-3 on their homestand and head to Atlanta for a three-game series.
  • The Rockies have lost 11 of their last 12 on the road.
  • Attendance was 21,749 on a beautiful afternoon at the second-year ballpark.
  • Pratt's homer came in his 10th at-bat. Last season, he didn't homer until his 108th at-bat.
 
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
 
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Players of the Game
Philadelphia

J. Lieber
IP 8.0
H 9
ER 3
BB 0
K 1
Colorado

D. Relaford
AB 3
R 1
H 2
HR 1
RBI 3
 
Colorado Rockies
Aaron Miles, 2B4010002 .327
Clint Barmes, SS4010000 .448
Todd Helton, 1B4010002 .278
Preston Wilson, CF4000012 .200
Matt Holliday, LF4000012 .323
Bradley Hawpe, RF3230000 .364
   a- Michael Restovich, PH1000010 .348
Todd Greene, C4010002 .280
Desi Relaford, 3B3123000 .300
Joe Kennedy, P1000001 .222
   b- Cory Sullivan, PH1000000 .333
    Scott Dohmann, P0000000 .000
    Ryan Speier, P0000000 .000
Totals333930311 
a-struck out for Hawpe in the 9th
b-grounded out for Kennedy in the 7th
Batting
HR - Desi Relaford (1, Lieber)
SH - Joe Kennedy (1)
RBI - Desi Relaford 3 (3)
2-OUT RBI - Desi Relaford 2 (2)
Team LOB - 4
Fielding
DP - Miles-Helton
E - Scott Dohmann (1, Wild pickoff throw), Todd Greene (1, Wild throw)
Colorado Rockies
Joe Kennedy (L,1-2) 6744352 8.18
Scott Dohmann 1322010 19.06
Ryan Speier 1000010 12.60
IBB - T. Perez by Joe Kennedy
WP - Joe Kennedy (2)
Pitches-Strikes - Joe Kennedy 98-57, Scott Dohmann 27-18, Ryan Speier 12-8
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Joe Kennedy 7-5, Scott Dohmann 1-1, Ryan Speier 1-1
Batters Faced - Joe Kennedy 27, Scott Dohmann 6, Ryan Speier 3
Philadelphia Phillies
Jimmy Rollins, SS4110001 .294
Placido Polanco, 2B4121000 .237
Bobby Abreu, RF4020011 .281
Pat Burrell, LF3100114 .333
Jim Thome, 1B4113011 .232
Jason Michaels, CF3110111 .391
Todd Pratt, C4112001 .167
Tomas Perez, 3B3020110 .300
Jon Lieber, P3000024 .000
   a- Jose Offerman, PH1000000 .222
    Billy Wagner, P0000000 .000
Totals3361063713 
a-flied out for Lieber in the 8th
Batting
2B - Jason Michaels (3, Kennedy)
HR - Jim Thome (1, Kennedy), Todd Pratt (1, Kennedy)
RBI - Placido Polanco (3), Jim Thome 3 (9), Todd Pratt 2 (2)
SB - Jimmy Rollins (4, 3rd base off Dohmann/Greene)
Team LOB - 6
Fielding
Outfield Assists - Pat Burrell 1
DP - Burrell-Pratt, T. Perez-Polanco-Thome
Philadelphia Phillies
Jon Lieber (W,4-0) 8933011 2.73
Billy Wagner (S,3) 1000020 0.00
Pitches-Strikes - Jon Lieber 99-70, Billy Wagner 11-8
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Jon Lieber 9-12
Batters Faced - Jon Lieber 31, Billy Wagner 3
Game Information
Attendance - 21749
Game Time - 2:15
Temperature - 60
Umpires - Home - Jim Wolf, First Base - Randy Marsh, Second Base - Larry Vanover, Third Base - Sam Holbrook