06/11/2003 9:59 PM ET
Red Sox rough up Tomko early
Cardinals pitchers give up 19 hits
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
BOSTON -- The front of the Cardinals rotation matches up with any in baseball. The bullpen is coming around. The lineup is arguably the National League's best, and the same goes for the defense. But three out of every five days, the Redbirds don't know what they're getting from their starting pitchers.
Brett Tomko's may-or-may-not May has turned into a full-on June swoon, leaving the Cards with three big question marks after Matt Morris and Woody Williams. Tomko was drilled for nine runs on 10 hits in two-plus innings as St. Louis fell to Boston, 13-1, on Wednesday night. Tomko is winless in seven starts dating back to April 25. Over his last five starts, Tomko is 0-3 with a 9.49 ERA.
"He had nothing working," said Cardinals manager Tony La Russa. "His location was either off the plate for a ball and right down the middle. He was kind of at their mercy. Sometimes, you start that way and something clicks in, but he couldn't get anything going."
Tomko's struggles were magnified when contrasted with the performance of his successor on Wednesday. Kiko Calero pitched four effective innings against the mighty Boston offense, holding the Red Sox to one run on four hits and striking out four. Calero, a starter throughout his minor league career, could be an option in the rotation if St. Louis decides to make a change.
But Calero's showing came far too late to save the day. Tomko gave up seven runs in the second, as the Red Sox sent 11 batters to the plate. He gave up two more in the third without recording an out before giving way to Calero. It was the Cards' second loss in nine games.
"They hit me," Tomko said. "Everything I tried to do, they countered it. I tried to make pitches, thought I made some good pitches, and they were right on them. Then you make some bad pitches, and they're right on them. I don't know how to explain it. It's a bad night."
It's been a bad month not only for Tomko, but for Garrett Stephenson and Jason Simontacchi, who will start for the Cardinals on Thursday against the Red Sox and Friday against the Yankees, respectively. The three have a collective 6.54 ERA as starters since May 6, and the Cardinals have gone 7-12 in those games.
The options, unfortunately, are quite limited. Calero could get a look, but Wednesday marked his first outing of more than 2 1/3 innings all year. He might be sent to Triple-A to make some starts and audition for the big club's rotation. Top prospect Danny Haren has pitched well except for a brutal Triple-A debut, but he still has a grand total of 82 2/3 innings above A ball. Beyond that, there's just not much.
"I always believe that guys respond better when they know you believe in them, and we do," La Russa said. "Because they've shown flashes of it. But in this league, either you do or you don't. And right now, we'll see what happens the next couple days with Garrett and Jason. But Brett, that's a couple ugly starts in a row. And I know this is eating at him."
It's worth noting that things didn't go much better for the Cards offense. Pedro Martinez made his first appearance in nearly four weeks, and didn't look the slightest bit rusty. He pitched three scoreless innings, allowing singles to Scott Rolen and Eduardo Perez and striking out three. John Burkett picked up where Martinez left off, earning the win in relief with six strong innings.
Trot Nixon homered to start the first outburst against Tomko. Bill Mueller followed with a single and Jason Varitek and Johnny Damon doubled. Nomar Garciaparra singled in a run, Manny Ramirez walked and David Ortiz singled, and Kevin Millar capped off the rally with a two-run double.
Tomko yielded a pair of singles to start the third, and he was done. Damon and Todd Walker each singled in a run to greet Calero, and Garciaparra lifted a sacrifice fly for the ninth tally. But Calero got out of the situation without any more damage, and crusied through the fourth and fifth. Ramirez cranked a solo homer off him in the sixth for Red Sox run No. 10.
St. Louis' best chance came in Burkett's first inning. Albert Pujols led off with a double, and Jim Edmonds singled him home. Edgar Renteria drew a one-out walk, but Eduardo Perez and Joe Girardi both grounded out to end the threat. The Cards were unable to score in the sixth after putting runners on first and second with no out. Renteria struck out, and Edmonds was thrown out trying to steal third on the play.
The Red Sox tallied three more runs against Dustin Hermanson in the seventh. It was Hermanson's first appearance at Fenway Park since he pitched for the Red Sox in 2002.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.