Tomko comes within two outs of first shutout


LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The last time Brett Tomko was at Dodger Stadium, he said it was his favorite place to pitch. That hasn't changed.

Tomko came within four outs of his first career shutout and the
San Diego Padres got solo home runs from Mark Kotsay and Phil Nevin to beat Los Angeles 4-1 Thursday night, sending the sputtering Dodgers to their eighth loss in nine games.

Tomko (5-6), who came to the Padres on Dec. 11 in a six-player
trade with Seattle, allowed a run and five hits in eight innings.
He also had two hits, including an RBI single in the seventh that
chased Dodgers starter Andy Ashby (7-8).

"My off-speed pitch was a little sporadic, but I had a good sinker and a good four-seamer,'' Tomko said. "Fortunately, I was locating the ball pretty much where I wanted to all night, getting a lot of groundballs and letting the guys behind me help out.''

Tomko, who played his high school ball in nearby Placentia,
made his first appearance at Chavez Ravine since April 21.
That night he held the Dodgers to two hits and had a career-high 13
strikeouts -- 11 more than this time.

Since that victory, the right-hander has won only four of 16 starts and struck out no more than eight in any of them.

"I had a little bit better fastball the last time I was here
and a better off-speed pitch, which set up the fastball,'' Tomko
said. "But I don't care how many strikeouts I get. I'd rather have
none and get a win any way I can get it.''

Los Angeles finally scored in the eighth on an RBI groundout by
Dave Roberts, after singles by Mark Grudzielanek and pinch-hitter
Alex Cora put runners at the corners with one out.

The run ended a 21-inning scoreless drought by the Dodgers, who were blanked on four hits Wednesday night by San Diego's Brian Lawrence. They have scored fewer than three runs in each of their last five games.

Brian Jordan's two singles were the Dodgers' only hits through
the first five innings. Grudzielanek led off the sixth with the
first of his two hits and advanced on Ashby's sacrifice bunt -- but
was thrown out easily at third on Roberts' routine grounder to
shortstop Deivi Cruz.

"It's a collective thing, and everybody's performing bad,'' Jordan said. "And even if they weren't, we don't point fingers because we know that we've come too far. We've just got to overcome this and get on with the rest of the season.''

Trevor Hoffman got three outs for his 22nd save in 23 chances.

The Padres' victory gave them back-to-back wins on the same road
trip for the first time since April 24-26, when they beat
Pittsburgh after taking two at Philadelphia. It also is their first
three-game winning streak since May 12-15, when they won four

"The important thing is that we play well the rest of the season because you never know what's going to happen,'' Nevin said. "Games like this are important because there are teams ahead of us that are fighting for a playoff spot, and it's a playoff atmosphere. This will build confidence for next year.''

The Padres, who lost 11 of Tomko's previous 13 starts, opened the scoring in the third with Kotsay's seventh homer.

Nevin, limited to 46 games because of a strained left elbow and
a fractured left arm, homered for the second night in a row when he
led off the fourth with his seventh of the season.

"We missed him, no question about it,'' Padres manager Bruce
Bochy said. "He's a big part of our lineup, and he gave this team
a sense of confidence when he came back. He's still not there, but
he got a couple of big hits here.''

Ashby, who spent six full seasons with the Padres, was charged
with four runs and 10 hits in six-plus innings. He has failed to
record an out after the sixth in any of his last five starts.

"It just wasn't a real good game. I made a couple of mistakes, and then I started to get behind in the count,'' Ashby said. "I've been pitching backwards the last couple of starts. It's hard enough trying to get guys out when you're ahead.''

Game notes
The Padres have outscored the Dodgers 16-1 in their last
three meetings. ... Padres C Wiki Gonzalez left the ballpark about
three hours before the game and returned to San Diego, where his
wife went into labor with the couple's first child. ... Jordan, who
entered in a 3-for-25 slump that dropped his average to .263, has
started taking batting practice indoors instead of on the field
because he had more success early in the season with that routine.
... Tomko's nine hits are the most among Padres pitchers. He had 22
hits in three seasons with Cincinnati before spending the 2000 and
2001 seasons in the AL.