Brown cites 'surrounding' team for O's woes Marlin says stuff same, '96, '97 ERAs much lower

Fernandez takes a seat

October 19, 1997|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

MIAMI -- Florida Marlins right-hander Kevin Brown, tonight's Game 2 starter, has blossomed since coming over to the National League after seven seasons in Texas and one in Baltimore. His ERAs of 1.89 last year and 2.69 this season were career lows, and his 205 strikeouts this season were a career high and club record.

Asked whether this means he has grown as a pitcher, Brown said: "I think it's a combination of things. I think I threw the ball well in '95 when I played with Baltimore [10-9, 3.60 ERA], but I didn't have the success that year. A lot of that has to do not only with myself, but with the team that's surrounding you. We've played good defense here the last two years, and I think that's helped me a lot. I've gotten better and made adjustments, but you can't quantify that."

Cleveland Indians manager Mike Hargrove said he doesn't see where Brown has changed much from his AL days. "He still throws the ball as hard as he ever did. He still has that nasty sinker," Hargrove said.

Brown apparently is recovered from the stomach virus that caused his last start in the National League Championship Series to be pushed back two games. He ended up going the distance, throwing 140 pitches, in the decisive 7-4 victory over the Atlanta Braves.

"I'm fine," he said. "I'm not worried about that."

Brown will be opposed by Chad Ogea, also making his first World Series appearance.

If Ogea is experiencing any nervousness, he's covering it well. "There are no jitters. Just go out there and have fun and trust yourself," he said.

He had a little too much fun during the American League Championship Series against the Orioles, saying teammate Orel Hershiser cheated and had taught him to do the same.

"It was a joke," he said yesterday. "There are guys out there who cheat, but I'm not one of them and I don't think Orel is. I threw with Orel a year and a half -- a throwing partner before batting practice -- and he actually has a sinker that moves that much. He's hit me in the shin quite a few times."

O's killer Fernandez sits

Hargrove didn't let the heroics of Tony Fernandez in Game 6 of the ALCS influence his lineup.

Fernandez homered in the 11th inning off Armando Benitez to give the Indians a 1-0 victory over the Orioles and a trip to the World Series, but Hargrove started Bip Roberts at second base last night. Roberts was kept out of Game 6 after bruising his left thumb on a ball hit by Fernandez in batting practice.

Fernandez gives Hargrove better defense, but Roberts is his only pure leadoff hitter. He rewarded Hargrove's faith by doubling in the first and third innings and scoring the Indians' first run.

"It wasn't an easy decision, but I'm not going to say it was very difficult," Hargrove said. "I had some things I wanted to weigh and look at and think about, and decided I would like to see Bip bat and keep Tony ready to come in if we needed him. It came down to the fact that I wanted Bip's bat and speed in the lineup."

Justice starts in left

David Justice started in left field for the first time during the postseason. He had been restricted to serving as designated hitter because of a knee injury, but didn't have that option under National League rules.

Hargrove could have started Justice in right field, his natural position, but worried about moving erratic Manny Ramirez to left.

"David's a very good athlete and has made the adjustment to left field about as well as one could expect," Hargrove said. "I will not argue with David or anybody else who says he's a better right fielder than left fielder. I think he probably is, but he's also a good left fielder for us."

Justice went 2-for-4 to raise his 1997 postseason average to .318, and Ramirez hit a bases-empty homer in the fifth.

More of same for Thome

Jim Thome again failed to deliver an RBI in the first inning, stranding two runners with a groundout. He knocked in one run in 10 postseason games before last night, and has been removed from the cleanup spot.

With the slump dating to the middle of September, Hargrove TTC said this is the longest he has seen Thome struggle at the plate.

"He's been trying to hit the ball too far and too hard," Hargrove said. "That causes a lot of bad habits. And it's taken us a long time to get him out of those habits.

"He's started swinging the bat better, though. Maybe the last eight to 10 at-bats, his swings have been more exact, more sure, more firm."

Hargrove's words proved prophetic when Thome hit a bases-empty home run in the sixth inning, his first homer in 73 at-bats.

Marlins shuffle roster

The Marlins made a couple of roster changes. They added rookie right-hander Antonio Alfonseca to take the place of injured starter Alex Fernandez, and slugger Cliff Floyd at the expense of utility player John Wehner.

Alfonseca split time this season between Florida and Triple-A Charlotte, going 1-3 with a 4.91 ERA in 17 relief appearances with the Marlins. He was chosen over another right-handed reliever, Rob Stanifer.

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