Brown primed for 3 starts Marlins hitch hopes to pitching workhorse

October 07, 1997|By KENT BAKER | KENT BAKER,SUN STAFF

ATLANTA -- When the National League's beasts of the Southeast begin their best-of-seven quest for the league title tonight at Turner Field, a former Oriole will be on center stage.

And if the League Championship Series goes the distance, that man will be striving to send the upstart Florida Marlins catapulting past the Atlanta Braves, titans of the league in the 1990s.

Marlins manager Jim Leyland announced yesterday that right-hander Kevin Brown will be on the mound at the start and the finish if the teams split the first six games.

Brown, 10-9 for the 1995 Orioles before going south via free agency, welcomed the tough assignment.

"I appreciate it, and it is an honor," he said, noting that the idea was broached on the return flight from the Division Series clinching in San Francisco. "I told them I'll do whatever they want me to."

He added that it was "no big deal" to come back on three days' rest twice. "I know I have done it in the past and done it a lot. There should be no physical problem."

"He's had seven days' rest, and he's ready to go," Leyland said.

There was certainly no problem with short rest for Mike Mussina or Randy Johnson at Camden Yards on Sunday, when Mussina won a tough, 3-1 duel to advance the Orioles into the American League title series.

In the opener, Brown will be opposed by the league's premier pitcher, the seemingly imperturbable Greg Maddux, who bounced back from what was an off-year for him to go 19-4 with a 2.20 ERA.

Maddux conceded that Brown (16-8, 2.69) has an advantage in speed, but otherwise thought they are similar.

"We both rely on movement, and he has an edge there. I think we both try to pitch to both sides of the plate, try to pitch down, try to locate our fastball and try to change speeds. He just does it at a higher velocity than I do," Maddux said.

Brown disagreed somewhat.

"We are very different," he said. "Greg relies more on placement and location. I'm over the plate a lot more."

In Game 4, Brown's mound opponent will be Denny Neagle (Arundel High), the league's only 20-game winner, who did not appear in Atlanta's three-game division sweep of the Houston Astros.

That underscores the depth of the Braves' glossy rotation, the major reason they are favored to win this series despite eight of 12 regular-season losses to the Marlins.

Braves manager Bobby Cox has Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz available with six days' rest each and said that "will allow us to use Neagle if we want to in Game 1 or 2 or Game 6 or 7 out of the bullpen. It's a little bit of an advantage that way."

Meanwhile, Leyland, whose Pittsburgh powerhouse of the early '90s never won an NLCS, has been forced to juggle.

Alex Fernandez gets Game 2 for Florida, followed by left-hander Tony Saunders (Glen Burnie), who was 3-0 vs. the Braves. Al Leiter will not start until Game 5 in Pro Player Stadium.

Leyland said those decisions were made because of Saunders' success in the series and Leiter's home record (6-2 with a 2.28 ERA).

Both sides are discounting any advantage the Marlins may have by virtue of their regular-season dominance.

"If we had beaten the Marlins 12 in a row, it wouldn't make any difference to me," Cox said. "It's an entirely brand new ballgame."

Cox said his club was "pretty cold with the lumber" the last time it faced Florida, the league's wild-card entry, in August.

Leyland equated the Marlins' record against Atlanta with the ability to "keep them off the board. You know they're going to keep your team down and the only way you have a chance against them is if you limit their scoring."

Brown said the regular-season games "don't matter now, except for giving us reassurance that we can play them well."

Because Atlanta's rotation doesn't figure to yield much offense, Leyland has chosen Brown for three assignments. With his nasty stuff, Brown seems to have a better chance than anyone else of putting zeros on Atlanta's scoring line.

"Our guys have all the confidence in the world in Kevin," Leyland said. "But don't forget the other side has Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz and Neagle. That's not too bad, either."

NLCS tonight

Series: Game 1, best of seven

Opponents: Florida Marlins and Atlanta Braves

Site: Turner Field, Atlanta

Time: 8: 07 TV/Radio: Ch. 11/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Marlins' Kevin Brown (16-8, 2.69) vs. Braves' Greg Maddux (19-4, 2.20)

NLCS schedule

Probable pitching matchups for the best-of-seven National League Championship Series between the Atlanta Braves and Florida Marlins:

Game 1, at Atlanta, 8: 07 p.m. today

Atl: Greg Maddux (19-4, 2.20)

Fla.: Kevin Brown (16-8, 2.69)

Game 2, at Atlanta, 4: 07 p.m. tomorrow

Atl.: Tom Glavine (14-7, 2.96)

Fla.: Alex Fernandez (17-12, 3.59)

Game 3, at Florida, 8: 07 p.m. Friday

Atl.: John Smoltz (15-12, 3.02)

Fla.: Tony Saunders (4-6, 4.61)

Game 4, at Florida, 7: 37 p.m. Saturday

Atl.: Denny Neagle (20-5, 2.97)

Fla.: Brown

Game 5, at Florida, 4: 07 p.m. Sunday *

Atl: Maddux

Fla.: Al Leiter (11-9, 4.34)

Game 6, at Atlanta, 8: 07 p.m. Oct. 14 *

Atl.: Glavine. Fla.: Fernandez

Game 7, at Atlanta, 8: 07 p.m. Oct. 15 *

Atl.: Smoltz. Fla.: Brown

* if necessary

Pub Date: 10/07/97

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