Maybe the Atlanta Braves should just sign Kevin Brown this winter. That way, they wouldn't have to worry about him beating them each fall.
The lifelong Georgia resident picked up exactly where he left off last October, pitching another gem at Turner Field to give the San Diego Padres a 3-0 victory Thursday night and a 2-0 lead in the NL Championship Series.
Brown, who won twice at Atlanta in the 1997 NLCS while with Florida, shut down the Braves on only three singles. Relying on his heavy sinker and a nasty fastball in the mid-90s mph, he struck out 11 and lowered his ERA this postseason to 0.38 in three starts.
"It's definitely sweet when you have success here," Brown said. "I need to find some wood to knock on. I feel pretty good right now."
"They were timely," he said. "That's one of the reasons I really enjoy the National League play. You don't always swing the bat good, but once in a blue moon, you get a chance to contribute."
| Tom Glavine surrendered a season-high six walks in the Braves' 3-0 loss to the Padres. (AP) |
The Padres traded three prospects to Florida in the off-season to get Brown, and his postseason performances against Houston and now Atlanta have been well worth it.
Brown is eligible for free agency after this season and perhaps the Braves, despite their great rotation, would be better off getting the right-hander and keeping him out of the way.
"I knew when we got him that he would make a big difference, but I didn't know he would make this kind of impact," Padres manager Bruce Bochy said. "When Kevin Brown is on, he's as tough as any pitcher in the game. Right now, he's locked in."
San Diego won without 50-homer man Greg Vaughn, out of the starting lineup for 3-4 days because of a strained left quadriceps. Game 1 star Ruben Rivera took his place, but Brown was all the Padres needed on this night.
A crowd of 43,083, about 8,000 short of a sellout, spent the last couple of innings booing the Braves' futility against Brown.
"We hit two balls good all night," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "Against us, this is the best I've seen him."
Atlanta is appearing in its seventh consecutive NLCS, but never has faced an 0-2 deficit. In fact, no team has ever lost the first two games at home and come back to win a League Championship Series since the best-of-7 format began in 1985.
Game 3 will be Saturday at San Diego, with Greg Maddux pitching for the Braves against Sterling Hitchcock. The Padres are hoping for a big weekend at home to reach the World Series for only the second time, the first since 1984.
"We can't feel good about being 0-2, but we have the type of club and pitching that we could easily reel off four in a row," Cox said.
With Brown and Glavine working on a cool and windy night, the forecast was for good pitching. And that's how it played out, with Brown throwing his hard stufand Glavine tossing his off-speed deliveries. Glavine was not particularly sharp, however, walking a season-high six.
It was 0-0 until the sixth, when Chris Gomez, Brown and Veras each singled with two outs. Brown made his only mistake of the game on Veras' hit when he slid head-first and was thrown out at third.
Glavine did his best, even hitting one of the Braves' singles. In Wednesday night's 3-2 loss in 10 innings, the 20-game winner was used as a pinch hitter and walked.
Both pitchers worked around bouts of wildness in the second.
Glavine walked the bases loaded before getting Brown to look at strike three for the final out.
Brown walked the first two batters in the bottom half. He got Javy Lopez to ground into a double play, and neatly covered the bag at first to take the relay.
A double by Veras and two walks again loaded the bases with two outs in the Padres third. Carlos Hernandez hit a fly ball that center fielder Andruw Jones glided a long way to catch, prompting Braves owner Ted Turner to playfully fan himself with an Atlanta hat in mock relief.
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