In their latest disappointment, the Dodgers gave Tomko a 3-0 lead after two innings. He allowed a pair of runs in the third, a two-run homer to Aaron Rowand in the fourth and didn't retire a batter in the fifth, although the Dodgers' infield defense bungled a routine sacrifice bunt that inning, leading to the eventual decisive (and unearned) run, which was walked in by Tomko.
"Right now, we don't have a lot of choices, but we'll see," Little said when asked if Tomko (2-11) would pitch against the Mets. "He's got good stuff. Sometimes it amazes me he gets hit. He'll have one bad inning, then come back with four or five good ones. It makes it a little confusing."
When pressed whether Tomko would remain in the rotation, Little gave one of those answers that seem ripe for an update.
"Right now," he said, "he's one of five starters."
Mark Hendrickson inherited a bases-loaded mess from Tomko and neatly stopped the bleeding, three up and three down. But he's already been bounced into and out of the rotation twice and Little said he wants Hendrickson to continue pitching in relief, where he is clearly more effective. Rudy Seanez and Jonathan Broxton followed Hendrickson with a scoreless inning apiece.
So, if not Tomko, whom? Brad Penny can't pitch every game.
McDonald is the 22-year-old who was a pitcher, then an outfielder, then reincarnated as an unhittable pitcher who has dominated at both Class A and Double-A this year. He's 6-1 with a 1.65 ERA and he struck out seven in five innings Tuesday night, when club owner Frank McCourt and general manager Ned Colletti were expected to be in attendance. The night before, Clayton Kershaw was lights-out for Jacksonville, but a 19-year-old debuting at Shea Stadium on national television? Not likely. At Triple-A, there's D.J. Houlton, as usual waiting for a chance.
Not that Tomko was solely to blame for this loss. The same offense that staked Tomko to a lead ran itself out of three innings -- Luis Gonzalez short-circuiting a two-run first inning when he was caught on a delayed steal with Martin at the plate; Juan Pierre unable to stretch a double into a triple in the third inning, followed by a walk to Andre Ethier; and Martin making the final out of the fourth inning, trying to go first to third on Shea Hillenbrand's single and getting gunned down by right fielder Jayson Werth.
"I was trying to make something happen, but that's probably not the right aggressive move," said Martin. "It didn't work out too good."
Said Little: "That's why they're kids. They play aggressively and every once in a while, they run into some outs. That happens when you lose. When you win, you play aggressively and you're safe."
Werth's a familiar name, except to a lot of the Dodgers who never really played with him. He missed most of the last two seasons with a complicated wrist injury that needed two operations and led to his being non-tendered by a Dodgers management for which he never played. Werth not only threw out Martin, but he got an assist on Pierre, singled twice, walked and scored a run.
The Dodgers came into this game having won four of five and needing to keep that momentum. They moved Ethier into the third spot in the order and he had a first-inning RBI double.
But ultimately, the postgame analysis focused on Tomko. Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said it's all about execution.
"Every game you look at, there's two or three innings where key pitches have got to be made," he said. "When you make those pitches, you get through that and if you don't, it's when you give up runs."
Tomko faced the music, saying he hadn't lost confidence in his ability, explaining that he disagreed with plate umpire Fieldin Culbreth on a couple of pitches during the bases-loaded walk to Pat Burrell, but couldn't argue with the ultimate bottom line.
"I'm not saying it's bad luck and I'm not blaming anybody else," Tomko said. "For some reason, I'm not getting the results I want to get. It's not fun. It's not a good feeling."