Thomas leads way to Jays win

Thomas leads way to Jays win

TORONTO -- Frank Thomas won't sugarcoat his season. The veteran is quick to voice criticism about his own performance, and he'll come right out and vent the frustrations he's felt as he's labored through his first campaign as Toronto's designated hitter.

Thomas also has the luxury of pointing to multiple stretches throughout his 18-year career in order to provide perspective to his current situation. He knows he hasn't lived up to his own expectations -- let alone those of the team or the Blue Jays' fan base. He also understands that there's still time to salvage his season, and maybe give Toronto a boost in the process.

He certainly gave the Blue Jays a lift on Saturday. Thomas continued his climb up the all-time charts by belting two home runs, powering Toronto to a 9-5 win over Texas at Rogers Centre. With the blasts, Thomas reached 505 homers for his career, passing Hall of Famer Eddie Murray for 20th place in baseball history.

"I really just want to stay focused and finish strong," Thomas said, "because I'm disappointed in my season so far. I know what I'm capable of doing. It just hasn't worked out. But with two months to go, who knows? I might get on one of those hot streaks and make it a very good season."

Thomas can easily cite last season as precedent. Over the final two months last year with Oakland, the 6-foot-5 slugger hit .302 with 16 home runs and 55 RBIs. That capped off a stellar second half in which Thomas hit .298 with 20 homers and 68 RBIs in 72 games with the A's, who advanced to the playoffs.

The two home runs Thomas launched on Saturday for the Blue Jays (55-54), who extended their home winning streak to seven games, were his 17th and 18th shots of the season. It marked the 31st multi-homer game of Thomas' career, and he's hoping the outburst can develop into a jumping-off point for the remainder of his, and Toronto's, season.

"That's why we play six months," said Thomas, who is batting .255 with 60 RBIs in 105 games. "Numbers even out over a six-month period of time. The first four have been so up and down, you just never know what might happen in the last two months.

"I just have to get my focus on and give this team everything I've got down the stretch," he continued. "You never know where we might find each other in September. I just really feel we're not out of this. With the lineup that we've got, and the way the pitchers have been pitching, the Wild Card is still a possibility."

First things first, Toronto will aim for a series sweep over Texas (48-62) in Sunday's finale. If the Blue Jays accomplish that feat, the club will move two games over the .500 mark for the first time since it was 8-6 on April 18. Toronto's seven-game winning streak at home also represents the longest such run since the Jays took eight straight home contests from April 14-21, 1999.

Against the Rangers, the Jays exploded for six runs in the opening frame -- highlighted by Thomas' first long ball of the afternoon. With two runs already across, and two men on base, Thomas offered at the first pitch he saw from Rangers starter Willie Eyre (3-4), who lasted just 2 1/3 innings. The ball arced high and deep to center field, where it darted just beyond the wall for a three-run shot.

"I knew going into that situation there that he was probably going to try to get ahead," Thomas said. "I didn't want to miss it. I've been taking a lot of those lately. I'm not a big-time first-ball hitter, so you have to pick your spots. That was just one of those situations where I picked a spot."

That moved Thomas into a tie with Murray, who then slipped down one slot on the all-time home-run list in the third inning. This time, Thomas lifted a 3-2 offering from Eyre to left field for a solo home run to put the Blue Jays ahead, 7-2. Thomas was honored to be in the same class as Murray.

"He's one of my buddies and one of the greatest of all time. That's a good feeling," Thomas said. "I spent a lot of time with him, doing a lot of charity events early in my career, and I got to know him a little bit when he was still playing. Eddie's a fine man -- a great one."

The offensive outburst by Toronto -- Vernon Wells, Alex Rios and John McDonald also added RBIs -- made things a little easier for starter Shaun Marcum (8-4), who struggled with his location against the Rangers. Still, Marcum managed to turn in six innings, yielding three runs (two earned) on eight hits for his ninth quality start of the year.

"It was a huge day for Frank," Toronto manager John Gibbons said. "We came out swinging again [Saturday]. It wasn't an easy day. Marcum never really found his rhythm. Usually, he's hitting his spots. [Saturday], he battled that a little bit, but he hung tough and we gave him some runs to work with. It turned into a nice win."

And perhaps it can be the start of a strong stretch for Thomas and the Jays.

"The guys are confident," Thomas said. "Throughout the lineup, guys are swinging the bat. If we can keep this consistent pitching that we've been getting over the last couple weeks, you just never know what might happen.

"I really feel I still have a lot to give."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.