Burnett outdueled by Tomko in Oakland
Three-run fourth dooms Yanks, who struggle vs. ex-mate
OAKLAND -- The only thing more agonizing for the Yankees than having A.J. Burnett go unrewarded for a complete-game effort was seeing an old friend walk away with the victory.
On a night when Burnett was done in by one shaky inning, recently-released Brett Tomko resurfaced in Athletics gold and yellow and got his revenge with five scoreless innings. The effort held up, as New York went quietly in a speedy 3-0 loss at the Oakland Coliseum.
"Anytime you face your old team, there's a lot of emotions there," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He's been on enough teams where he's faced his old team. He knows how to handle those emotions. He did what he had to do."
A 36-year-old right-hander who attended Spring Training with hopes of cracking the Yankees' staff, Tomko was eventually called up but relegated mostly to mop-up relief situations. After 15 appearances, he was cut July 21 to make room for fifth starter Sergio Mitre.
Informed of the decision, Tomko vowed that he would not return, stating that he never believed he was given a chance to succeed. It was an opportunity the A's didn't mind presenting, calling Tomko up from Triple-A and activating him for Monday's start.
"To be honest, I have no ill feeling toward the Yankees," Tomko said. "They have some good guys pitching over there. It worked out well. I'm somewhere where I can get back going."
While the Bombers banged on the door against Tomko through five innings, he was ultimately able to escape unscathed and help send the Yankees to their second consecutive loss and just their third in New York's past 15 contests.
"I actually talked to him this morning," Nick Swisher said. "He was like, 'Wow, it's just crazy getting that opportunity to face a team you were just with.' You've got to tip your cap some nights, and tonight was one of those nights. I know I'm going to get a text message later tonight, no doubt."
With the bases loaded and one out in the third inning, Tomko seemed to be on the ropes, but Alex Rodriguez bounced a tough slider right back to the mound. Tomko threw home for the second out and catcher Kurt Suzuki fired on to first base to complete an inning-ending 1-2-3 double play.
"I had a big opportunity there and hit into a double play," Rodriguez said. "Overall, it's very frustrating. ... I was just looking to drive the ball. You've got to get a good pitch to hit. That one wasn't."
Girardi said he hadn't even known Tomko signed with the Athletics until this past weekend, when rumors began swirling that Oakland was considering calling up the veteran to pitch against New York.
The manager tried his best to be diplomatic in discussing Tomko's outing, offering, "We're surprised when we're shut out by anyone, and I don't want to take anything away from their guy."
"It's been a long road this year," Tomko said. "It was kind of ironic that my first start here came against the Yankees. I had a lot of emotions kicking around before the game."
Owning some of his sharpest stuff of the season, including a knee-buckling curveball, Burnett could only lament one bad inning as Tomko and three Oakland relievers combined to limit the Yankees to seven hits in a brisk two-hour, 15-minute affair on the patchy, football-outlined turf.
"We have to do better than that," Rodriguez said. "[Tomko] gave us good pitches to hit and we missed them."
Oakland scored three times facing Burnett in the fourth inning, with Burnett kicking himself over what he called two "mental mistakes [that] basically cost me the whole game."
Rajai Davis started the frame with a one-out double that eluded Swisher's diving attempt in right-center field. Burnett neglected to hold Davis on, and the stirruped speedster easily stole third base before scoring on Suzuki's sharp single to center field.
While working to Mark Ellis and with runners at second and third bases, Burnett abruptly stopped his delivery and was called for a balk, forcing home Suzuki with the second run. Burnett said the issue was a cross-up with catcher Jorge Posada.
"He put the curveball down, and I did the sequence [for] fastball in," Burnett said. "When I saw him move, it just kind of messed me up. There was no way I could have thrown that ball. It rattled me."
Ellis then doubled up the gap in right-center field to pad Oakland's advantage to three runs.
Burnett also had trouble in Wednesday's start at Yankee Stadium, tying a career high with three wild pitches, but he declined to criticize Posada -- who celebrated his 38th birthday in inauspicious fashion.
"It's probably me," Burnett said. "He has been doing this behind the plate for a long time. ... I was more upset by that one inning throughout the whole game, and it never went away. I was pretty [miffed] at it for a while."
Though Burnett deserved better in going the distance for the Yankees, completing eight innings while allowing six hits and walking one with five strikeouts, he could not stave off his second loss in four winless starts.
The Bombers did hit the ball hard, including two deep drives off the bat of Johnny Damon that might have cleared fences across the country in New York, but instead went to die in the expansive Coliseum. They all looked the same in the box score.
"We didn't score enough runs, didn't get enough hits," Damon said. "We hit a lot of balls hard tonight. It went for naught and that's the unfortunate thing, especially when you have a great pitching performance from A.J."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.