Thome ties, passes McGwire on homer list

Thome ties, passes McGwire on homer list

MINNEAPOLIS -- On a weekend where the Twins had gathered many of their all-time greats to celebrate the team's 50th season in Minnesota, Jim Thome delivered a performance on Saturday afternoon that moved him up on a list of baseball's elite.

Thome blasted career home runs Nos. 583 and 584 on Saturday afternoon in a 12-4 victory against the Rangers, passing Mark McGwire for ninth place on the all-time home run list.

The Twins' designated hitter led off the third inning by taking an 0-1 pitch from Rangers starter Colby Lewis deep into the upper deck in right-center field to tie McGwire at 583 homers. The distance was estimated at 449 feet, making it the longest homer in Target Field's brief history.

One inning later, Thome came up to the plate with two runners on and two outs. On a 3-2 pitch from Lewis, Thome belted a shot into the bullpens in left-center field. The three-run homer was Thome's 20th of the year and earned him a curtain call from the cheering home crowd.

"Thome, what a day," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "It never ceases to amaze us. He just keeps going up there and whacking the ball. It's Babe Ruth all over again, passing a lot of people."

It was the 46th multihomer game of Thome's career and his second of the season. Both times that Thome has hit two home runs in a game this season, he's done so to take over sole possession of a spot on the all-time list. Thome tied and passed Harmon Killebrew for 10th place when he belted homers No. 573 and No. 574 on July 3 against the Rays at Target Field.

Next on the all-time list is Frank Robinson with 586.

Thome reached in all four of his plate appearances Saturday. In addition to the home runs, Thome also walked twice. It brought his career number of walks to 1,668 -- moving him past Frank Thomas (1,667) for sole possession of ninth place on the all-time list.

But while Thome continues to deliver memorable performances that move him up on the prestigious home run list, his primary focus after Saturday's win was the impact that the homers had on his club.

"You respect it and it's very humbling," Thome said of passing players on the home run list. "But I think the main goal right now is where we're at as a team -- if you can do something that helps your club win and be a part of that. It's not about a single guy that's done this or has done this in his career. It's about all of us coming together.

"It's a neat thing and when it's over with or the season is over with, you'll look back and look at it and go, 'Man, that was pretty special.'"

In just 237 at-bats in his first season with the Twins, Thome has a team-leading 20 homers. He took over sole possession of the team lead with his first long ball of the day, passing Jason Kubel and Justin Morneau, who has been out since July 7 with a concussion.

Thome signed a one-year, $1.5 million deal in January in hopes of securing the World Series title that has eluded him over the parts of 19 previous seasons he's spent in the big leagues. With Kubel set to be the Twins' primary DH, Thome signed on to be a bench player in Minnesota -- one who would occasionally see time in the DH spot.

But since signing with Minnesota, Thome has certainly provided a big lift. Along with his 20 home runs, he's batted .270 with 49 RBIs and a .394 on-base percentage.

Could Thome, who turned 40 on Aug. 27, have envisioned this type of season for himself?

"I didn't know, to be honest," Thome said. "When I went to [the Dodgers] last September, I was a pinch-hitter. When I wasn't getting any calls this winter, I really didn't know. When the Twins had called, I knew about their club and I knew they had Kubel. Without any expectations, I just wanted to be healthy. I think that was the main thing. If I played, then great."

Injuries to players such as Morneau have certainly provided Thome with more at-bats than expected. But the Twins, particularly Gardenhire, have been cautious not to overuse the veteran slugger who has battled back problems the past few years.

Thome has managed to stay in good health this season, besides a few ailments including some recent back and hip stiffness that kept him out of the lineup earlier this week. And he credits Gardenhire for helping him to stay healthy and not overusing him, which has perhaps led to this standout season.

"This has been a new year for me because I'm used to playing every day," Thome said. "In the past, you get to September and you're playing every day. Your body does wear down. So maybe it has helped out."