Jays blast four homers in win
Thomas leads the charge with a pair off Santana
TORONTO -- Frank Thomas didn't care who was on the mound. Toronto's designated hitter had grown overly frustrated with himself over the past few days and he wanted desperately to emerge from one of the many dismal slumps he's endured this season.
Never mind that the man Thomas would be squaring off against was Minnesota ace Johan Santana, who already has two American League Cy Young Awards sitting on his mantle. The Blue Jays' 39-year-old slugger stepped into the batter's box in the first inning and promptly let Santana know that it was a poor day to pitch at Rogers Centre.
"It's easy to harness your focus when one of the best starter's in the game is on the mound," said Thomas, who helped pace Toronto to a 6-4 victory two of the Jays' four home runs against the typically dominant Santana.
In the first, Thomas lifted a 1-1 fastball from Santana deep to center field for a two-run homer. The two-out blast came after Toronto left fielder Reed Johnson led off the game with a home run that provided some foreshadowing of the offensive outburst in store for the Jays (49-50).
Toronto right fielder Alex Rios led off the third inning with another homer, upping his team-leading total to 20 on the year. That also marked three home runs yielded by Santana, who had never given up more than a trio of long balls in his impressive career. The left-hander set a new personal high when Thomas strolled to the plate in the fifth.
"One thing about that guy is he's going to challenge you," Thomas said. "You watch him on tape, he challenges all the great hitters in the league day in and day out. That's why he's great."
With the count again at 1-1, Santana (11-8) decided to challenge Thomas with another two-seam fastball. This time, the 6-foot-5 slugger pounded the offering to the bleachers in left-center field, giving him 16 home runs on the season and 503 for his career. One more blast, and Thomas will be tied with Hall of Famer Eddie Murray for 20th on the all-time list with 504 homers.
"I tried to throw a couple fastballs away, but they stayed up," Santana offered. "He's the Big Hurt. If you make a mistake, you're going to pay for it and that's what it was."
Prior to Thomas' showing against the Twins (51-48), he had labored through a five-game stretch in which he went just 2-for-17 at the plate. His first-inning shot snapped a span of 62 at-bats without a long ball, dating back to July 1, when Toronto was in Seattle.
"It was a big breakout night for him," Toronto manager John Gibbons said. "He was due. He was overdue."
Before the Jays took the field against the Twins, Thomas spent more time than usual sorting through some issues in the batting cage. He believes that preparation helped him regain some confidence before stepping in to face Santana, who exited after yielding six runs on seven hits over five innings.
"I've not been a happy camper," Thomas said. "I was overswinging the last few days. I was a little frustrated over the weekend and today I just really worked hard in the cage. I spent some extra time in the cage, honing my focus."
It worked, and a long list of Twins pitchers can share in Santana's suffering.
The two homers gave Thomas 52 in his career against Minnesota, moving him into a tie with Rocky Colavito for the most ever against the Twins franchise. Thomas simply cited the fact that the first 15 years of his career were spent with the White Sox, who compete against the Twins in the American League Central.
"We battled each other for many, many years in the Central Division," said Thomas, whose 500th home run came in Minnesota on June 28. "They were always the best team and we were always the best team. So, we always came with our best."
Toronto's four home runs provided ample support for right-hander Shaun Marcum (6-4), who endured his own struggles with the long ball over six innings. Minnesota first baseman Justin Morneau belted a pair of homers to account for three runs off Marcum, who also allowed a solo shot to Torii Hunter in the sixth.
Marcum received additional aid from Toronto's defense, which turned a unique double play in the fifth inning. With the Jays ahead, 4-3, Jason Tyner and Nick Punto opened the frame with consecutive singles. With runners on the corners and no outs, Minnesota's Luis Castillo chopped a ball to Toronto first baseman Matt Stairs.
Stairs gloved the ball and immediately relayed it to catcher Curtis Thigpen, who forced Tyner into a run down. As Tyner retreated up the third-base line, Thigpen threw the ball to third baseman Troy Glaus, who put a glove on the runner before spinning and firing to shortstop Royce Clayton. Punto attempted to advance from first to third, but Clayton applied a tag in time for the second out on the play.
"They ended up getting the double play," said Morneau, who watched Marcum then escape the frame with an inning-ending groundout. "All of a sudden we're out of the inning right after that instead of having [our] 2-3-4 [hitters] coming up with a couple of guys on base. It's the play that probably changed the game."
Perhaps, but Thomas issued the final blow.
"You just never know when you might get a hot streak," Thomas said. "Hopefully I can get one over the next 62 ballgames and things will even out, because it's been a rough season.
"I haven't given up. I know that I can get on a roll, and when I get on a roll, that's when things happen quick."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.