Twins 8, Blue Jays 5
MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—Thankfully for Frank Thomas, his family had to catch an early flight Thursday.
That meant his wife, three children and father-in-law got to see Thomas hit his 500th home run. And they were gone when Thomas got ejected.
“They had to leave for the airport at 1:45. My daughter said, ‘Dad, you’ve got to do it in the first couple of at-bats,”’ he said.
But in the ninth, Thomas was ejected by plate umpire Mark Wegner after being called out on strikes for the second time in the game. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons came out to argue and also got tossed.
“I’m probably the first to get 500 home runs and get thrown out of the ballgame,” Thomas said. “That’s something I didn’t want to happen, but the moment just got the best of me.”
“I’ve still got hunger and desire. You saw that in the ninth inning,” he said. “I still care. The game wasn’t over in my opinion, and I was up there to battle.”
Thomas also had an RBI double and tied his season high with four RBIs.
“You can’t upstage 500 home runs. It’s hard to do. I’ll be lucky if I hit 300,” said Hunter, who has 181 career homers.
Thomas came up after Matt Stairs’ RBI single in the first and sent Silva’s 1-2 pitch an estimated 396 feet into the left-field stands.
Todd Eisenlohr, sitting in the fifth row and wearing a jersey of Twins player Jason Bartlett jersey, caught the ball in his glove.
“I lost it in the roof as it was coming down,” Eisenlohr said. He said he traded the souvenir ball for an autographed ball, bat and jersey.
Thomas said he plans to keep the ball unless it is wanted by the Hall of Fame.
Before the at-bat, Thomas looked at the scoreboard and saw that his average with runners in scoring position was .182.
“I said, ‘Let’s just get a hit right here.’ That’s when home runs happen, when you’re really not trying to do too much. He hung a slider over the corner and I stayed with the pitch,” he said.
The Metrodome crowd responded with a standing ovation for the two-time AL MVP. Thomas put his head down for his home run trot and then pointed toward his family down the right-field line when he crossed the plate as Toronto players spilled out of the dugout to congratulate him.
Thomas hit his first career home run at the Metrodome against Gary Wayne while with the Chicago White Sox on Aug. 28, 1990. Thomas has 16 homers overall at the stadium.
Next on Thomas’ ascent on the career home run list are Eddie Murray (504), Mel Ott (511) and Ernie Banks and Eddie Mathews (512 each). Also within reach of 500 this year are Alex Rodriguez, Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez.
The 39-year-old Thomas shook his head in amazement when he thought about joining the likes of Hank Aaron, Barry Bonds, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays and Harmon Killebrew in the 500 club.
“It’s an unbelievable class of talent. I saw a lot of them play. I have the utmost respect, and I’m very happy to be here because it takes a long time to hit 500 home runs and I think I’ve paid my dues long enough through numerous injuries,” he said.
“At one point, I didn’t think I’d ever get here because of the ankle. I’d never be back on the field.” he said.
The injured left ankle limited Thomas to 108 combined games in 2004 and 2005, leading to his exit from Chicago, where he played the first 16 years of his career.
Thomas is in his first season with the Blue Jays. He played last year in Oakland.
“Now that I’m healthy again I would love to get to 600. It’ll take a lot of luck to get there, but I really got to have a strong second half and really prove that I can still play this game,” he said.
He doesn’t care that his milestone came in an era when skepticism surrounds some of the game’s most prolific home run hitters.
“This means a lot to me because I did it the right way and I’ve busted my butt since college. I always worked hard in that weight room to be strong. I’m a big guy and I’ve been blessed with this talent,” he said.
Thomas entered Thursday with four home runs in his previous 10 games. He has 13 this season. This was his second lifetime homer off Silva.
Thomas has hit 50 career homers against the Twins, his most against any team and the most by an active player against Minnesota. Rocky Colavito hit 52 against the Twins and Mickey Mantle and Reggie Jackson each hit 51.
AL MVP Justin Morneau returned to the Minnesota lineup after missing six games with a bruised lung. He went 0-for-3 with a walk and an RBI as a designated hitter.
Toronto’s A.J. Burnett, pitching for the first time since leaving a June 12 start in San Francisco with a shoulder strain, gave up five runs and six hits in four-plus innings. He tossed his glove into the stands when he was removed.
“This loss is my fault,” he said. “My teammates swung the bat and played great defense.”
Hunter has eight two-homer games. … Bartlett twice stole second base and is 15-for-15 in attempts this year. … Jason Phillips had a passed ball in the sixth, the second straight game a Toronto catcher has allowed a passed ball.