Coming into tonight’s game, San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Brett Tomko had ten career complete games, with three of these games against the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Giants were more than happy to have Tomko continue that trend.
In the fast-moving game ever at SBC Park (lasting but one hours and forty-nine minutes), the Giants edged the Pirates 2-1, with Tomko throwing a complete game six-hitter for his second straight complete game victory over the Pirates.
Contrary to the casual observer, however, Pittsburgh came into the ballgame as a legitimate threat with some momentum – a wining road record coming into the game, winning five of their last six, most recently a 16-2 trouncing of the Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix on Sunday.
Thus it was no great surprise that Pittsburgh struck first. After a scoreless first frame, Pirates second baseman Jose Castillo led off the second inning with a single up the middle. Third baseman Rob Mackowiak (who always seems to enjoy sticking it to the Giants) followed with a single. After a double play by ex-Los Angeles Dodgers catcher David Ross got Castillo over to third, Tomko walked Pirates shortstop Jack Wilson to get to pitcher Mark Redman. The play backfired, however, as the normally light-hitting Redman lined a center to center field, scoring Castillo for a 1-0 Pirates lead.
The Pirates looked like they were going to get more in the third inning. Center fielder Tike Redman led off the third with a single. Reigning NL Rookie of the Year Jason Bay then reached with an infield hit, putting runners on first and second with no one out. But Tomko bore down, striking out first baseman Daryle Ward and Castillo, then got Mackowiak to ground out to escape the inning unscathed.
The Giants finally got it going in the bottom of the third inning. Following Redman’s lead, Tomko decided to help his own cause by hitting a one-out single. After a Jason Ellison single to left put runners on first and second, Omar Vizquel then hit a shot off of Mackowiak’s glove for a double, and Tomko came around to score to tie the game. Lance Niekro immediately followed on the next pitch with a sacrifice fly that plated Ellison for a 2-1 Giants lead.
It was the Giants turn to threaten to no avail in the bottom of the fourth. Ray Durham led off with a solid single. Grounders by Feliz and Grissom advanced Durham to third base. Redman then walked both Mike Matheney and Tomko to load the bases, but Ellison grounded out weakly to the pitcher to end the threat.
The Giants’ two runs, however, turned out to be all they needed. Tomko pitched magnificently, retiring an amazing twenty one Pirates in a row (that’s the equivalent of seven perfect innings, folks) to end it. He found his groove in the third inning, and only seemed to get stronger as the game progressed, blowing away Mackowiak with a fastball in the ninth to complete a six-hitter.
SF Dugout’s Player of the Game: Tomko. He located his fastball well, and mixed in changeups and sliders masterfully to keep Pirates off balance all night. With Jason Schmidt and the bullpen ailing, this was an ace-worthy performance, and a tremendous shot in the arm for the ball club.
Notes: Unless he comes back on one day’s rest this Wednesday, Tomko is finished tormenting the Pirates this season, as the two teams have no more scheduled games remaining with one another in 2004. Guess we’ll have to wait for the playoffs. Or maybe not… The game lasted as long (or as short) as it did because a) Pirates hitters seemed to attack Tomko’s first pitch, mostly to no avail, and b) both teams played sound, errorless defense. Sure, it’s nice to see Giants blow out their opponents, but to see them win close ones like this with efficient pitching and adept defense is pretty reassuring… Redman likewise pitched a beauty, scattering six hits and two runs over eight innings, getting an amazing twenty ground ball outs… Sure he only had one hit tonight, but with every game, Ellison looks more and more like a fixture as a regular, and more importantly in the leadoff spot. It’s about time – the last position players to make a significant Major League impact from the Giants farm system before this season? Try Bill Mueller in the late 1990s.
Don Shin eats, breathes, thinks, and bleeds in Orange and Black. Pac Bell Park officially opened on his 25th birthday (the one year he decided to move out of the Bay Area!!!). For the 2000 playoff drive, he dyed his hair orange while studying in Korea. He watched Game 6 of the '02 World Series at a restaurant in LA, and couldn't finish his meal afterwards. Feel free to write him at firstname.lastname@example.org to commiserate, cheer, and complain.
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