06/28/07 5:54 PM ET
Thomas' 500th not enough vs. Twins
Burnett gives up five earned runs in four innings in finale
By Leslie Parker / MLB.com
But it was Thomas' big smile that was on display Thursday afternoon as he jogged around the bases after belting his 500th career home run in the top of the first inning. With the three-run blast, Thomas became the 21st player to join the elite club.
The home run began a game that was bookended by memorable moments from Thomas. Both he and manager John Gibbons were ejected in the ninth inning for arguing balls and strikes -- the end result of what turned out to be a very frustrating 8-5 loss for the Jays.
Thomas was about the only person grinning in the Jays clubhouse after the game.
In his first start since spending 16 days on the disabled list with shoulder soreness, A.J. Burnett struggled through four-plus innings. He gave up five earned runs on six hits and was pulled with 74 pitches after he gave up back-to-back singles to lead off the fifth inning.
Burnett handed Gibbons the ball when he came out to get him and threw his glove into the stands as he walked off the field. He tore his jersey off as he walked into the dugout.
"I didn't do it because I was happy," Burnett said when asked if those were displays of frustration.
The main reason for Burnett's frustration was his inability to keep the 5-1 lead that his team had built for him.
"That's why you never [complain] about run support, because they're going to give you some one day and you're going to screw it up," Burnett said. "I just didn't get it done today. I had the opportunity to win the ballgame and the bottom line was, it's my loss. My team went out and swung the bat and played great defense. I just don't know what else to say."
It was the third time this season Toronto has blown a four-run lead.
"I don't even want to look these guys in the eyes today," Burnett said. "I just want to get out of here and see them tomorrow because it's a big letdown. They gave me a lead and I didn't do anything with it."
Even with Burnett's strong performances before he went on the DL and the hype surrounding Thomas, who also had an RBI double in the game, Gibbons said he just had a feeling that the game was not going to end well for the Blue Jays.
"[Despite having] a 5-1 lead, in about the third or fourth inning, I started to have a bad feeling about it anyway. And then they took it to us late," Gibbons said. "It was just a feeling. Burnett wasn't too sharp. He was getting toward the end of it anyway."
Gibbons wasn't the only one with that feeling. After playing with the White Sox, the Twins' AL Central rivals, for 16 seasons, Thomas knew all about the Twins' never-say-die attitude.
"I've had so many battles with these guys over the years. Even when we were up, 5-1, I told the guys that this is typical Minnesota Twin baseball right here. This game is not over, because I've seen them do this to me like 15 or 20 times," Thomas said. "They get a big early lead like this and find a way to chip back and win the ballgame. I hate to say it, but dang, they did it again."
Gibbons had said before the game that Burnett would not be on a hard pitch count, but that he would be carefully watched. His velocity was noticeably lower, but Gibbons attributed that to spending time on the disabled list.
Burnett said his shoulder felt fine after the game, and he was not worried about his velocity.
"I didn't really think about it a lot," Burnett said. "I felt good out there. I just wanted to throw strikes. I only gave up three runs, but obviously I wasn't up to par at all."
Jason Frasor came on in relief of Burnett and, after giving up two earned runs, took the loss since Burnett was not eligible for the decision.
Besides Thomas, the lone bright spot in the game was Jordan De Jong's three innings of relief. With Burnett out early, it looked as if Gibbons would have to use the tired Blue Jays 'pen again.
The relievers combined for 8 1/3 innings in the series' previous three games, with De Jong the only one not being used. De Jong allowed just one unearned run, the result of first baseman Matt Stairs' throwing error, on one hit.
Stairs' error was his third in two games, but the defensive miscues were contagious. The Jays racked up eight errors over the course of the series.
Thomas said that he's glad to have the milestone out of the way so that he can focus on the team. With an even record of 39-39, the Jays can't seem to get more than one game over .500. The last time they were two games over .500 was April 18, when they were 8-6.
"I've just got to stay positive and stay focused and keep that hunger and desire," Thomas said. "I think you guys saw that in the ninth inning -- I still care. The game wasn't over, in my opinion. I'm up there to battle. I'm probably the first one to achieve 500 home runs and get thrown out of the ballgame. It's something I didn't want to happen, but the moment got the best of me."
Though the game ended on a sour note, with the loss and the ejections, Thomas still had a beaming grin on his face during his postgame press conference.
Asked if he knew it was a home run right off the bat, Thomas said he wasn't sure. He was still a little foggy because of the game's 12:10 p.m. CT local start time.
"It was early in the morning," Thomas said. "I was just like, 'Man, you hit it!' and a big smile came to my face."
Leslie Parker is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.