Jays fall to Yanks after Thomas ejected
Slugger tossed from game after arguing called third strike
NEW YORK -- Frank Thomas sat in a back corner of the visitor's clubhouse at Yankee Stadium, staring ahead as his Blue Jays teammates packed for the trip back to Toronto on Thursday night. Thomas was still fuming about a frustrating moment in a disheartening loss for the Jays.
The Blue Jays suffered a late-inning collapse at Yankee Stadium, where New York dealt Toronto a 3-2 loss, spoiling a strong effort by right-hander Dustin McGowan. For the final five innings of the defeat, the Jays were without Thomas' bat thanks to an angry tirade that resulted in the veteran being ejected from the contest.
The fourth-inning spat between Thomas and home-plate umpire Bill Miller came at a crucial point in the game -- a situation that stood out even more after Toronto could only plate a pair of runs. But manager John Gibbons had no problem with the heated exchange that prompted Thomas' exit.
In fact, Gibbons enjoyed seeing emotions running high so early in the season.
"It's good to have some emotion," Gibbons said. "There's nothing wrong with that. It's good for guys every now and then. That's healthy.
"You're best when you're emotional in this business sometimes."
It might have seemed like the type of moment that could ignite a Toronto team that's labored a bit offensively in the first three games of the 2008 season. Both before and after Thomas was tossed, though, the Blue Jays (1-2) were unable to solve New York starter Phil Hughes beyond the two runs.
The source of Thomas' frustration came with a runner on third base and two outs in the fourth, when Hughes sent a 3-2 fastball inside. Believing he had drawn a walk, Thomas backed away from the pitch and immediately bolted out of the batter's box -- but only made it five strides down the first-base line.
After the crowd roared in response to Miller calling Thomas out on strikes, the 6-foot-5 DH spun around, jogged back toward home plate and hovered over the umpire. Thomas barked in disgust and Miller's patience wore thin, leading him to motion for the 39-year-old slugger to leave the game.
"It was a bad call," Thomas said angrily. "It was a ball when it left the strike zone, and it was a ball on tape. It's a ball. A ball is a ball. I've been in this game a long time, and I've had a great eye for a long time. That was a terrible call.
"I was fired up -- sorry. I don't care. I was locked in. It was a great at-bat, and it was a ball. It was ball four, and you never know what could happen in the game right there with Lyle [Overbay] coming up with [runners on] first and third."
Earlier in the fourth, the Blue Jays had taken a 1-0 lead on a run-scoring single by right fielder Alex Rios. An inning later, Toronto moved ahead, 2-0, on an RBI single by shortstop David Eckstein. That ended up being the only offense the Jays would manage against Hughes, and Toronto was shut out over the final four frames by New York's bullpen.
McGowan turned in six innings against New York (2-1) and surrendered only two runs as well, but the lack of offense derailed his chance at a victory. The right-hander threw five shutout innings but ran into trouble against New York in the sixth, loading the bases and yielding two runs -- one on a wild pitch and another on a sacrifice fly.
Considering that McGowan was one day removed from being sidelined with the flu, the Blue Jays had to be pleased with his effort.
"I'm a little drained right now," said McGowan, who struck out four and walked three in a no-decision. "I just left a couple balls up there in the end and got myself in trouble -- hit a batter, walked a batter. I got myself in trouble there."
The trouble persisted for the Jays in the eighth inning, when left-hander Scott Downs came out of the bullpen to face New York's Johnny Damon with a runner on first base and no outs. Damon bunted a pitch down the first-base line, and the pitcher hustled toward the ball.
The baseball rolled in and out of Downs' glove, and the reliever collided with Damon, who reached first base safely on the play. Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter followed with a successful sacrifice bunt, which advanced runners to second and third base, then Downs gave up a run-scoring single to Bobby Abreu to put Toronto behind for good, 3-2.
That one-run cushion was more than ample for Yankees closer Mariano Rivera to seal a victory with a ninth-inning save.
"We just didn't make the play on that one bunt play," Gibbons said. "We still got out of the jam there in a one-run ballgame, but that's the best closer of all time, probably, sitting over there, too. That's what makes it so difficult in this place."
The loss was a source of frustration for the Blue Jays, and made for a quiet clubhouse following the game.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.