Hernandez story, already unlikely gem, adds a Series jewel Rookie rises to occasion

Brown has pennant fever

World Series

October 19, 1998|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK -- Add another chapter to the Orlando Hernandez story. Splice in a few more scenes for the made-for-TV movie. Heck, just build the shrine and get it over with.

The sixth-oldest rookie pitcher to start in a World Series at 29 years and 7 days, "El Duque" showed off his high leg kick and brought down the San Diego Padres in Game 2 at Yankee Stadium. He scattered six hits in seven innings, permitting one run and striking out seven in New York's 9-3 victory.

"He was strike one, strike two. He kept the hitters off-balance. He was impressive," catcher Jorge Posada said of the rookie, who gained experience pitching for the Cuban national team.

"He knows how to pitch. He was coming in to lefties and away to righties. He had a good plan and he followed it all the way."

Hernandez followed his own tough act. He evened the American League Championship Series at 2-2 by blanking Cleveland on three hits over seven innings, and the Yankees haven't lost since.

It wasn't the most dramatic rescue in his life.

Last October, Hernandez watched from the CNN studios in Cuba as half-brother Livan pitched in the World Series for the Florida Marlins and was named Most Valuable Player. In December, he defected with seven others on a raft, getting picked up by the U.S. Coast Guard three days after landing on the Caribbean island of Anguilla Cay. He was granted free agency in mid-January and signed a multi-year contract with the Yankees on March 7.

They've treated him well ever since, averaging 6.9 runs in his starts this season. He usually didn't require that much assistance while going 12-4 with a 3.13 ERA, and he needed very little support last night.

Hernandez retired 10 in a row until shortstop Chris Gomez tripled with two outs in the fifth inning. Gomez scored when Quilvio Veras dumped a broken-bat double into right field, only the Padres' fourth hit to that point. Hernandez escaped a bases-loaded jam in the seventh by getting Greg Vaughn to pop up.

"Every day I think of my family. Every day I think of my friends. And I also think of baseball," said Hernandez, who hasn't lost since Aug. 23.

"Believe me, I think of them with my heart."

Pennant fever ails Brown

Last October, a viral infection struck then-Florida Marlins pitcher Kevin Brown during the National League Championship Series. Now the ace of the Padres' staff, Brown again is fighting a bug at the most inopportune time.

Padres manager Bruce Bochy said Brown was running another fever yesterday, just as he did before starting Game 1 of the

World Series on Saturday. Bochy wasn't aware of Brown's illness until around the sixth inning, but said, "I knew something was up because just looking at Kevin, he didn't look well."

Brown didn't pitch all that well, either, though he left in the seventh with a 5-2 lead. He was charged with four runs and threw 106 pitches in San Diego's 9-6 loss to the New York Yankees.

Brown's not the only Padres pitcher feeling under the weather. Last night's starter, Andy Ashby, and scheduled Game 3 starter Sterling Hitchcock also have been ill, though to a lesser degree.

"I don't know how they got sick," Bochy said. "I don't know who the host is here, but somebody spread something around."

Brown, who also had a knot on his left shin after being hit in the second inning, could pitch Game 4 on short rest.

Vaughn rests leg as DH

Bochy used Vaughn as his designated hitter last night and started John Vander Wal in left field against Hernandez. Vaughn still is bothered by a sore left thigh, though it didn't affect his swing in Game 1, when he produced the 40th multi-homer game in World Series history by connecting twice off David Wells.

Vaughn said the cool weather in Game 1 caused his leg to tighten. "I still feel it," he said, "but I have all winter to rest it."

Vander Wal, making his first career postseason start, had a single and double in three at-bats.

Sterling, indeed

He was a nine-game winner and occasional starter during the regular season, not the type of pitcher who's supposed to be remembered in the playoffs. But the Padres' Hitchcock is leaving October prints all over the place.

Hitchcock, 27, is 3-0 in the postseason going into his Game 3 start tomorrow. In 16 innings, he's allowed just two runs and eight hits, and opponents are batting .151 against him. He was named MVP of the NLCS after defeating Atlanta twice, including the decisive sixth game.

If that's not enough to brighten Hitchcock's days, he'll be facing the team that brought him into the majors before trading him to Seattle for Tino Martinez.

"I think where Sterling really turned it around was out of spring training," Bochy said. "He did not make our rotation and we put him in the bullpen. Just seems like it woke him up a little bit, maybe, but more than that it just got him more aggressive. All season he did a good job for us and pitched some of our finest games, and he has carried that into the postseason."

Left field for Davis?

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