MINNEAPOLIS (AP) _ Jim Thome has the classic slugger’s swing, a hard uppercut that rarely yields a cheap home run.
He’s sure getting the most out of his first season with Minnesota, too.Thome homered twice, moving past Mark McGwire for ninth place on baseball’s all-time list and powering the Twins over the Texas Rangers 12-4 on Saturday.
“He never ceases to amaze us,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He’s just going up and whacking the ball. It’s Babe Ruth all over again.”
At age 40, Thome now has 584 career home runs, continuing to hack away at that hallowed _ even if steroid-tainted _ leader board. As for the Babe, though, he’s still 130 homers ahead.
“I don’t think so,” Thome said, when asked if he could catch Ruth for third. “I think I’ll be fishing by then.”
Thome went deep leading off the third inning, a shot to the second deck above right field estimated at 449 feet. Then with two on and two outs in the fourth, Thome’s full-count drive into the bullpen behind left-center made it 9-0.
Thome also drew a couple of walks, giving him 1,668 lifetime freebees. That moved him into ninth in that career category, too, passing Frank Thomas.
“Anything he does, you just like watching him,” said Matt Tolbert, who had a career-high five RBIs. “It kind of doesn’t set in that you’re playing on a team with a future Hall of Famer.”
In just 237 at-bats, Thome has 20 homers. He took over sole possession of the Twins lead, passing Jason Kubel and the disabled Justin Morneau.
His back and hip can be a bother, keeping him out for a few days even this week. That’s why Gardenhire limits Thome’s time even with Morneau’s absence creating more need for a designated hitter. Thome insisted he didn’t have expectations for this year, knowing he would no longer be an everyday player.
It’s not easy for him to sit out, but it might help him down the stretch.
“In the past, you get to September and, let’s face it, you’re playing every day and your body starts to wear down,” Thome said.
After six straight one-run games, the Twins let loose against slumping starter Colby Lewis (9-12) and the AL West-leading Rangers. Carl Pavano (16-10) got plenty of support, and the Twins kept their AL Central lead over Chicago at four games for the moment. Earlier in the afternoon, the second-place White Sox beat Boston in the opener of their doubleheader.
Tolbert hit two triples, and J.J. Hardy drove in two runs on three hits. After a two-run double by Hardy and a bases-loaded triple by Tolbert gave the Twins a 5-0 lead, both with two outs, Pavano had all he needed. He snapped a three-start losing streak with eight strong innings, allowing an RBI single by Mitch Moreland in the fifth and a two-run double by Julio Borbon in the sixth.
Lewis fell to 0-7 in his last nine starts, a skid that first started because of a lack of runs behind him but has been extended by some poor performances.
“I wish it wouldn’t have happened,” manager Ron Washington said. “He wasn’t at his best. They put it to us today.”
In his last four turns, Lewis has lasted only 22 1-3 innings with 32 hits and 23 runs allowed. He left after Thome’s second homer and was charged with nine runs, eight hits and two walks.
“Left some pitches over the plate, and that’s what happens,” Lewis said. “I feel great. There’s nothing wrong with me. I feel like I did opening day. It’s a situation where I didn’t really get very good calls when I needed to get calls.”
Batting leader Josh Hamilton of Texas returned to center field for the first time since Sunday, but he was taken out in the fifth inning with the Twins leading big. He bruised his ribs making a running catch against the wall two innings earlier, and Washington said he’ll probably be out for the next two days.
NOTES: Tolbert played 3B for Danny Valencia, who sat out after leaving Friday’s game because of tightness in his right hamstring. … Washington will join former teammates in a “legends game” Sunday afternoon as part of 50th anniversary festivities put on by the Twins. Gardenhire, however, will not. “I’ve missed enough balls. I’ve made enough outs. That’s why I became a coach and a manager,” he said. … RF Jeff Francoeur made his first start for the Rangers since coming in a trade Tuesday with the New York Mets. He went 1 for 4. … Ian Kinsler homered in the ninth off Twins RH Rob Delaney’s fourth pitch in the majors. … Former SS Greg Gagne was inducted to the Twins Hall of Fame before the game.