Big Hurt crushes home run No. 499
Thomas' fourth-inning blast puts him within one of elite club
TORONTO -- The ticket stubs for the Toronto Blue Jays' Sunday afternoon tilt at Rogers Centre nearly became collectors' items.
Blue Jays slugger Frank Thomas pulled to within one swing of launching his 500th career home run, while starter Dustin McGowan vied for a no-hitter. Both players came up just short of those impressive achievements in a 5-0 win over the Rockies.
"That would've been priceless -- 500 and a no-no," McGowan said with a smile.
In the fourth inning against the Rockies, Thomas launched the 499th homer of his career, leaving him one shy of becoming the 21st member of the 500 home run club. In the ninth, McGowan gave up a leadoff single to Colorado's Jeff Baker, ending his bid for the second no-hitter in Toronto history.
No milestones were reached, but that didn't matter to Thomas. The 39-year-old designated hitter has started to get into a better rhythm at the plate, and has belted long balls in three of Toronto's last five games. Each of those home runs have come in victories, which is what Thomas is concerning himself with right now.
"I'm just happy we're winning," Thomas said. "It's easy to play this game when everybody's playing good and the team is winning. That's what momentum is all about. So we just have to stay focussed and keep doing what we're doing."
With that last sentiment, Thomas might as well have been talking about himself. He's been mired in a season-long slump, which has been a part of the reason Toronto's offense has been inconsistent this season.
Through 74 games, Thomas has hit .242 with 12 home runs and 34 RBIs for the Jays. On Toronto's recent homestand, though, Thomas posted a .344 average with four homers and 12 RBIs in nine Interleague games, in which the Jays went 6-3.
"I'm just happy to get back on track a little bit," Thomas said. "Hitting is very contagious and once I find that groove, I can harness it a little bit and make things happen on a daily basis. I'm just really happy to be hitting the ball with authority again."
Thomas' latest blast came on the first pitch he saw from right-hander Josh Fogg, who watched the ball arc high into the air above left field and then land in the second deck for a solo home run. That fourth-inning shot was his second homer in as many games for the Blue Jays, and Thomas has now tallied four long balls in each of the season's first three months.
The homer off Fogg, who became the 324th pitcher to yield a blast to the DH, came one day after Thomas turned in one of his best performances in recent memory. On Saturday, Thomas went 4-for-4 with four RBIs, including two on a first-inning homer against Colorado's Aaron Cook. It marked the first time since May 20, 2004, when Thomas was with the White Sox, that he tallied four hits in a single game.
Toronto signed Thomas to a two-year deal worth $18 million in November, following his impressive 2006 campaign with Oakland. After playing in only 108 games between the 2004-05 seasons due to a severe foot injury, Thomas hit .270 with 39 homers and 114 RBIs in his lone season with the A's.
His showing earned him the American League Comeback Player of the Year Award from his peers, and convinced Toronto to hand him a multi-year deal to serve as the DH in the heart of the Jays' lineup. It also gave Thomas the opportunity to continue his purstuit of 500 homers, which is a goal he's always had in mind.
On June 17, Thomas belted his 244th home run as a DH, setting a new record for the position. The record was previously held by Edgar Martinez, who hit 243 of his 309 home runs with the Mariners as a DH. Thomas is now five blasts shy of tying Hall of Famer Eddie Murray for 20th on the all-time list with 504 homers.
Thomas will take his quest for 500 home runs on the road to the Metrodome in Minnesota, where he's launched 15 career homers. He's hit 49 of his 499 home runs against the Twins, representing the most Thomas has against any opposing club.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.