The San Diego Padres are coming right back with Kevin Brown to pitch the pivotal third game of their NL division series against the Houston Astros on Saturday night.
Brown will pitch on three days' rest for the third time since Aug. 20 and he'll have plenty of support from the fans. The Padres expect a sellout crowd of between 64,000 and 65,000, which will be the largest ever to see a baseball game in San Diego.
Brown struck out 16, the second-most ever in postseason history, and allowed just two hits in eight shutout innings Tuesday as the Padres beat Randy Johnson and the Astros 2-1 at the Astrodome.
The Astros tied the series with Thursday's wild 5-4 victory, the fifth consecutive one-run game these teams have played against each other and the seventh overall in the season series.
"I don't think any of us want to go back to Houston, so we want to win tomorrow and take our chances on Sunday and see what happens," pitching coach Dave Stewart said before the Padres' off-day workout Friday.
"Brownie recovers very well," Stewart added. "He's got a golden arm. We just decided to go with him because he gives us the best chance to win."
The Astros intend to stick with left-hander Mike Hampton for Saturday's game. Manager Larry Dierker said Thursday he considered using Johnson on Saturday, but wanted to wait and use him on his normal schedule, which would mean Sunday.
"Or should we win the third game, even wait until the last game here (in Houston) in the event that we can win the series without him and he could start the next series," Dierker said. "We're certainly not going to let it get to the point where if we lose a game, we're finished without using Randy."
Left-hander Sterling Hithcock had been scheduled to start for the Padres on Saturday night. He'll now be pushed back to Sunday.
"The best-case scenario is Kevin Brown pitches as good as he did the first game," Stewart said. "If he does as well as he did the first game, then we win. If we win, we're up 2-1. And so did we play our trump card too soon? I'd say no. I think that we're here to try to win as many games as we can, as quick as we can."
If Game 5 is needed, it would be played at the Astrodome on Monday night.
Brown pitched on three days' rest on Tuesday, having thrown 66 pitches in five innings of a tuneup start the previous Friday in Arizona. On Aug. 20 at Atlanta, manager Bruce Bochy used Brown on three days' rest as a test for the playoffs. He allowed eight hits in 6 1-3 shutout innings and struck out nine in a 2-0 win.
"I think both clubs feel the urgency to try to win Game 3, which is why I think Kevin is throwing," Padres star Tony Gwynn said.
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