Brown, Padres KO Johnson S.D. pitcher strikes out 16 tTC Astros in 2-1 triumph

September 30, 1998|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

HOUSTON -- All the attention, all the focus, all the hype before the game belonged to Randy Johnson. But the 16 strikeouts were Kevin Brown's. And now, after their 2-1 loss yesterday to the San Diego Padres, Johnson's Houston Astros are down one game to none in their National League Division Series.

Johnson is generally regarded as the most fearsome pitcher in the majors. But Brown has something Johnson doesn't: a World Series ring. And now Brown has the most strikeouts ever recorded in a playoff game -- division or championship series.

And the only reason he did not challenge Bob Gibson's postseason record of 17 is because San Diego manager Bruce Bochy turned to his closer, Trevor Hoffman, to pitch the ninth.

"It was funny," Houston manager Larry Dierker said, referring to a conversation he had with bench coach Matt Galante just before the ninth. "We talked about that in the eighth inning. Matt asked if they would bring Hoffman in and I said, 'I hope he does.' "

Which was funny in its own right. Hoffman, who had 53 saves, was the most dominating closer in the majors this season.

In pitching eight scoreless innings against the best lineup in the league, Brown allowed just two singles (both to Houston's No. 8 hitter Brad Ausmus). Brown had at least one strikeout in each inning he pitched, and he struck out the side in the third and the eighth.

Brown struck out every Astro in the starting lineup except Bill Spiers. He struck out Derek Bell and Ricky Gutierrez three times each; Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Moises Alou, Carl Everett and Johnson twice apiece.

And, all of a sudden, after the Padres had gotten their first postseason victory in 14 years, the Astros were in the early hole.

Not because Johnson pitched badly by any means. It was just that Brown, who was 18-7 with a 2.38 earned run average, pitched a Randy Johnson-type game.

L "We just got out-pitched today," said Johnson. "That's all."

After being obtained from the Seattle Mariners minutes before the July 31 trading deadline, Johnson was 5-0 at the Astrodome with a 0.42 ERA and four shutouts in his first four home starts. In all, Johnson was 10-1 with Houston with a 1.28 ERA.

Yesterday, Johnson allowed nine hits and two runs in eight innings, walking one and striking out nine.

"Randy had good stuff, but not his best stuff," Dierker said. "And Kevin was as dominating as you can be. Other than pitching a no-hitter, I don't know what more he could have done."

Through five innings, Brown had allowed just one hit: an Ausmus single with one out in the third. Ausmus would eventually make it to third on back-to-back passed balls by Carlos Hernandez, who was screened by Johnson as he attempted to bunt. But Brown fanned Johnson and Biggio to end the threat. And the game was still scoreless entering the sixth, when Gwynn led off the top of the inning by slapping a 1-2 Johnson slider for a line-drive double over third.

Greg Vaughn followed by beating out an infield single, after Spiers had nearly robbed him with a great backhand play at third. And now the Padres had runners on first and second. Ken Caminiti was next, and he blooped a single over second and just out of Biggio's reach. Jim Leyritz followed with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly to center.

Brown made it stand up, stranding runners on second and third himself by striking out Derek Bell to end the Houston sixth. And then Vaughn -- who had hit his 50th homer in his final at-bat of the regular season -- belted a Johnson slider over the left-field scoreboard to open the eighth with an insurance run to give San Diego a 2-0 lead.

Spiers led off the ninth by doubling over third. After Bell flew out and Bagwell struck out, Ken Caminiti nearly robbed Alou with a Graig Nettles-like diving stop at third. But Caminiti threw the ball away, Alou scampered home, and the Astros were down by a run. But Everett flew to center to end the game. And the Padres had made sure the day belonged to Brown.

NL Division Series

Houston vs. San Diego

(San Diego leads 1-0)

Yesterday: Game 1

San Diego 2, Houston 1

Tomorrow: Game 2

San Diego (Ashby 17-9, 3.34) at Houston (Reynolds 19-8, 3.51), 4: 07 p.m., ESPN

Saturday: Game 3

Houston (Hampton 11-7, 3.36) at San Diego (Hitchcock 9-7, 3.93), TBA

Sunday: Game 4*

Houston at San Diego, TBA

Monday: Game 5*

San Diego at Houston, TBA

*-If necessary

United vs. 'Unit'

Despite pitching to a 3.47 ERA, Randy Johnson has lost his last four postseason decisions, having run into some pretty good opposing pitchers. A look:

'98 NLDS Game 1: S.D. at Hou.

Pitcher .. .. .IP .. .. H .. .. ER .. .. SO .. .. Res

Brown .. .. ... 8 ... . 2 .. ... 0 .. .. 16 ... W 2-1

Johnson .. .. . 8 .. .. 9 .. ... 2 .. ... 9 .. .. . L

'97 ALDS Game 1: O's at Sea.

Pitcher .. .. .IP .. .. H .. .. ER .. .. SO .. .. Res

Mussina .. .. . 7 .. .. 5 .. ... 2 .. ... 9 ... W 9-3

Johnson .. .. . 5 .. .. 7 .. ... 5 .. ... 3 .. .. . L

'97 ALDS Game 4: Sea. at O's

Mussina .. .. . 7 .. .. 2 .. ... 1 .. ... 7 ... W 3-1

Johnson .. .. . 8 .. .. 7 .. ... 3 .. .. 13 .. .. . L

'

95 ALCS Game 3: Sea. at Cle.

Pitcher .. .. .IP .. .. H .. .. ER .. .. SO .. .. Res

Nagy .. .. .. . 8 .. .. 5 .. ... 1 .. ... 6 .. .. ND*

Johnson .. .. . 8 .. .. 4 .. ... 1 .. ... 6 .. .. ND

'95 ALCS Game 6: Cle. at Sea.

Martinez .. ... 7 .. .. 4 .. ... 0 .. ... 3 ... W 4-0

Johnson .. .. . 7 1/3 .. . 8 .. ... 3 .. ... 7 .. .. . L

* Seattle wins 5-2 in 11 inn.

Pub Date: 9/30/98

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