A's erupt to send Tomko to 100th victory

A's erupt to send Tomko to 100th victory

ARLINGTON -- As the line of zeros grew longer, Brett Tomko's focus grew sharper.

Even after his teammates gave him three, then seven, then nine runs of padding, Tomko didn't change a thing.

Career victory No. 100 was there to be had, and he wanted to do it in style.

No machine-gunning fastballs down Main Street, using the nine-run lead as Kevlar in the event of violent reprisal. No laying it in there, sitting comfortably atop the cushion.

No, Tomko decided. Stick with what's working. Breaking balls on the corners, lots of 'em. Paintball heaters, here and there. Just keep the shutout intact.

"If you're going to do it, you might as well do it right," Tomko said. "Really make it memorable."

It was that and then some. Tomko, who arrived in Oakland affixed with the unflattering "journeyman" label, looked like anything but -- again -- while arriving at his first significant milestone.

Win No. 100? How's a five-hit shutout without a walk against the playoff-hopeful Rangers grab you?

"Awesome," said A's reliever Jeff Gray, barely able to stop grinning after the 9-0 victory in the opener of a three-game series at Rangers Ballpark was in the books. "I'm just glad I was here to see it, be a small part of it.

"Unbelievable."

What Tomko has done over the past six weeks or so stretches the limits of feasibility, too. He was released by the Yankees, who used him exclusively out of the bullpen, on July 29. Signed by the A's on the cheap, he is 4-1 with a 2.95 ERA in six starts in green and gold, and he should be 5-1; he left his no-decision with a five-run lead.

A free-agent-to-be, Tomko might not be in youth-loaded Oakland's plans for 2010, but it's likely he's opening some eyes among the 29 other teams for which he might be auditioning.

"Brett's throwing in the low- to mid-90s, he's winning games, and he's going deep into games," A's manager Bob Geren said. "He's going to be an attractive guy [in free agency]."

Careful to say the right things about the opportunity afforded him by the A's, with whom he said he expects to at least have a conversation about coming back, Tomko conceded that his resurgence is coming at a prime time.

"This has been a huge deal for me," he said.

The 100th win was pretty big as well. He got the game ball and the original lineup card, and he suggested that his cleats and game jersey might someday be on display at home.

"It's not like I'm gonna win 300," said Tomko, who will be 37 next April.

Monday's gem marked Tomko's second career shutout, the first being a four-hitter while with the Giants in 2004, at Florida.

"The timing couldn't have been better," he said.

Tomko teased Texas by allowing leadoff singles in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings, but each time he got out of the frame with a double-play ball -- two on routine grounders, one of a line drive to second baseman Mark Ellis, who doubled rookie Elvin Andrus off at first base.

One of the better offensive clubs in the American League for years, Texas got all of one runner past first base and was held to five hits. Tomko threw a season-high 114 pitches

"We didn't swing the bats well," Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler offered, "but give the guy credit for throwing a complete-game shutout."

If Kinsler's quote appears begrudging, perhaps it's because he and the Rangers are tiring of this Ryan Sweeney character. When he's not stealing doubles and home runs, he's driving runs in.

Sweeney, whose Gold Glove-caliber defensive skills were moved to right field when Rajai Davis blossomed into the everyday center fielder, continued his own late-season bloom on Monday night with a spectacular all-around performance.

Having already opened the eyes of Texas by robbing Kinsler of home runs with wall-scaling grabs earlier in the season, Sweeney stole at least two bases from Marlon Byrd with a diving catch of a sinking liner in the second inning.

"He's a pretty good outfielder," understated Rangers manager Ron Washington. "When it was I hit, I was hoping he dove to soon. ... He had him played perfectly. He needed to be playing that one perfectly."

Sweeney didn't do much wrong with the bat, either. In the sixth, he doubled in a run off 16-game winner Scott Feldman. In the seventh, he cleared the bases with a three-run double to turn the game into a classroom frog dissection. And just for the heck of it, he drilled another double to open the ninth.

Still just 24 years old despite having played in parts of four big league seasons, Sweeney, who has been endorsed as a future All-Star by likely Hall of Famer Frank Thomas, is batting .336 with 18 extra-base hits -- 13 doubles, two triples and three home runs -- over his past 33 games.

"He's splitting the gap against some pretty good fastball pitchers," Geren said. "He's been very consistent."

Feldman was pretty consistent himself in the early going, retiring 15 of the first 16 batters he faced. But the A's sent 17 men to the plate over the next two frames to break the game open.

Daric Barton opened the sixth with a double and scored on Adam Kennedy's infield single, after which Sweeney and Kurt Suzuki spanked RBI doubles.

In the seventh, Feldman hit two batters and gave up a single to load the bases before Davis greeted reliever Jason Grilli with an RBI single to right before Sweeney cleared the bases.

Kennedy added a two-run single in the eighth for the final margin.

"It's nice to have a bunch of runs, but I wanted [the shutout]," Tomko said. "Sometimes all of the stars line up right."

Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.