The Plan That Stopped Gwynn
By Jack Curry
Brett Tomko, who tossed three scoreless innings in his longest stint as a Yankee on Wednesday night, had an interesting strategy when he faced Tony Gwynn from 1997 to 2000. Tomko said he pumped fastballs right over the plate.
When Tomko was with the Cincinnati Reds in 1997, he spoke to Pete Harnisch, a teammate, about Gwynn. Gywnn, who is now in the Hall of Fame, was in the midst of winning eight batting titles.
“He told me to throw it right down the middle,” Tomko said.
Tomko questioned Harnisch’s advice, but Harnisch explained it.
“He said that Gwynn was so used to hitting pitches that were out of the strikezone that I was better off throwing it down the middle,” Tomko said. “He said Gwynn wouldn’t be expecting it, so he’d probably roll it over and hit it to the right side or pop it up.”
In Tomko’s first game against Gwynn on Aug. 7, 1997, Tomko threw fastballs over the plate. Gwynn grounded out to first and popped up twice to the infield.
“I looked into the dugout at Pete, and I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?.’ ” Tomko said.
The strategy remained successful for Tomko: He held Gywnn, a .338 career hitter, to 2 hits in 12 at-bats.