BALTIMORE (AP)—Frank Thomas will return in 2008 to finish the two-year contract he signed with Toronto last November. The Baltimore Orioles would have preferred to send the 39-year-old slugger a nice retirement gift at the end of the week.
Thomas went 4-for-4, hit his 513th homer and drove in three runs to lead the Blue Jays past Baltimore 11-4 on Tuesday night.
Thomas gave Toronto a 6-0 lead in the third inning with a three-run drive off Brian Burres. The homer moved him past Eddie Mathews and Ernie Banks into sole possession of 18th place on the career list.
“He gave us a good cushion tonight, a nice little lead,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said.
Thomas is batting .311 with 42 homers and 124 RBIs in 140 career games against the Orioles.
“He’s great for the game,” Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. “He wasn’t good for us tonight, but he’s great for the game with what he’s done and his accomplishments.”
Thomas scored three runs, and his four hits matched a season high. He needs six RBIs over the final five games to reach 100 in a season for the 12th time.
“I’ll be trying, but I’m not going to be upset if I don’t get there,” Thomas said. “It’s been a long grind and I closed so well down the stretch. I’d prefer to get there, I’ll try to get there, but if it doesn’t happen, like I said, it’s been a decent season.”
Aaron Hill hit his 17th homer for the Blue Jays, matching Roberto Alomar’s 1993 club record for a second baseman.
A.J. Burnett (10-7) gave up four runs and 10 hits in 6 2-3 innings, striking out seven and walking three. The right-hander is 5-0 in six career starts against Baltimore.
He might have had better numbers if not for two stints on the disabled list.
“It’s underachieving. I’m not boasting or bragging, but I’d like to see what happens if I can stay healthy for a full season,” Burnett said. “We’ve got such a good thing going here and it seems like every time I get in a groove or start to do well, something comes up and bites me. Hopefully, that’s in the past.”
Miguel Tejada had three hits for the Orioles, who have yielded at least 10 runs in 17 games this season—including nine of the last 34.
“Like we’ve been saying for the better part of 40 or so games here, it’s about starting pitching,” Trembley said. “And our starting pitching, after we lost the guys that we lost, it’s been spotty. It’s real hard to be out there when the runs come as quickly as they come.”
Burres (6-7) allowed seven runs and eight hits in 3 1-3 innings. In his last outing against the Blue Jays, on Sept. 14, the left-hander pitched seven shutout innings.
The Blue Jays got five hits in the second inning and took a 3-0 lead. Thomas and Hill singled before Gregg Zaun hit an RBI double. Curtis Thigpen then singled in a run and scored on double by John McDonald.
Toronto got a run in the sixth when pinch-hitter Russ Adams bounced into a double play. Hill homered after Thomas hit a leadoff single in the seventh, and McDonald added an RBI double for an 11-3 lead.
“It was a good hitting performance by our offense tonight,” Thomas said. “What can I say? The season’s almost over for us, and we might as well finish strong and have fun.”
Tejada singled in a run in the seventh.
By the fourth inning, every Toronto starter except Adam Lind had at least one hit. Lind singled in the sixth. … Baltimore (67-90) has lost 90 games in five of seven seasons. … Huff went 0-for-3 with two walks and is hitless in his last 14 at-bats. … Toronto leads the season series 9-7 with two games left.