Thomas' blast helps Jays snap skid
Slugger launches homer No. 490 to help Jays top Red Sox
BOSTON -- The baseball that Blue Jays designated hitter Frank Thomas launched into the Boston night initiated the countdown. The ball arced high above Fenway Park's Green Monster and bounced off a billboard that sits atop the 37-foot-high wall in left-center field.
While the baseball was still in flight, Thomas made his way around the bases for the 490th time in his career. His latest blast woke Toronto's offense from its recent slumber and paved the way for a 7-3 victory over Boston on Monday. The home run also left Thomas 10 shy of what's widely considered to be a one-way ticket into the Hall of Fame: the 500 homers club.
"That's always been a goal of mine," Thomas said. "But I'm going to keep playing that down because it's a long season and I definitely don't want to be done after this year. So, I want to look past that."
Fair enough. But Thomas' homer came during a crucial juncture against the Red Sox and helped the Blue Jays put an end to their five-game losing streak. In the sixth inning, Toronto (9-10) trailed, 2-1, when Thomas stepped into the batter's box with a runner on first base and no outs.
The 6-foot-5 slugger watched one knuckleball from Boston starter Tim Wakefield (2-2) float by for strike one. Entering the game, Thomas owned just a .211 average in his career against the righty with just eight hits. Three of those hits went for homers on Sept. 15, 1996, though.
On the next pitch, Thomas unloaded on a second knuckleball from Wakefield, sending it well on its way toward Lansdowne Street -- had it not been for that billboard -- for his third home run of the season.
"You throw a pitch where you aren't supposed to and he can still do that to it," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "We respect that. He didn't really have a lot of good numbers coming in off of Wake, but he got a ball he can handle."
The home run put the Blue Jays ahead, 3-2, and ultimately wasn't the deciding factor in the game. It did, however, ignite Toronto's bats. After Thomas' heroics, the Jays pounded out nine of their 14 hits, including a two-run homer by Aaron Hill in the ninth. This from a club that averaged just 2.5 runs over its previous seven contests.
"It's good to see the big man get his home runs," said Hill, who had four hits in the win. "Something like that, a play like that, that'll get you sparked up. It definitely did. It got us going. We came alive a little bit."
Toronto can only hope that the homer helps Thomas -- signed to a two-year, $18 million deal in the offseason -- emerge from his woes at the plate this month. Thoms is hitting .232 for April, but less than a week ago his average stood at just .191. He collected two hits for the second straight day on Monday -- the first time he's had four hits in two days this season.
"He smoked that thing," said Toronto manager John Gibbons, referring to Thomas' homer. "Frank was signed to be a big run producer for us and he's been struggling to this point. Hopefully, that'll get him going."
"The way I've been swinging, I'm just trying to get a hit right now," said Thomas, who entered the game with a .285 career average in April. "I wont lie -- I've been scuffling bad. It just felt great to get four hits in two days, because it'd seem like I'd get one hit every three or four days.
"I know what I can do in a short period of time. I just have got to get my focus back and get that confidence back at the plate."
The offensive outburst by the Jays helped Tomo Ohka (1-2) pick up his first victory of the season. The right-hander allowed three runs -- two earned -- on six hits over five-plus innings for Toronto, which handed Boston (12-6) its first loss in six games. Boston sluggers David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez went a combined 0-for-6 against Toronto's starter.
After Ohka exited the game, the Jays bullpen effectively held the Red Sox in check. Casey Janssen, Scott Downs, Jeremy Accardo and Jason Frasor combined for four scoreless innings. Frasor was responsibility for the final 1 1/3 frames and earned his second save of the year as Toronto's replacement for injured closer B.J. Ryan.
"I thought Ohka pitched great," Gibbons said. "[The Red Sox] have been hot. They've been rolling, and this is a tough place to pitch. He pitched very good and the bullpen came through."
So did Thomas, who is inching closer to a historic milestone.
"There's 10 more to go," Thomas said.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.