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BILL PLASCHKE

Brown, Dodgers Will Take This Win to the Bank

He brings the team the long-absent look of a winner.

April 11, 1999|BILL PLASCHKE

Of all the sighs of relief created by Kevin Brown Saturday, his two best moves brought gasps.

In one, he fielded a grounder by the pitching mound and sprinted with it to first base.

In the other, he charged off the mound and intercepted a grounder headed toward third base and threw it to first with Adrian Beltre riding on his back.

Now that Brown has his first Dodger win, perhaps it is time to endow him with a Dodger pitcher nickname.

How about, "Heads Up!"

"He's so wired out there," said Eric Karros. "Sometimes after he pitches, it looks like he's even ready to run to the batter."

Now that's something Dodger fans would pay $105 million to see; a pitcher charging a hitter.

As it is, we'll take everything else Kevin Brown brought Saturday; eight innings, only five balls out of the infield, only three singles allowed, a 2-0 victory over the Colorado Rockies.

Just as in Brown's first Dodger start--a rough opening-day debut--there were boos. Only this time, at the start of the ninth inning, they were heard because he wasn't on the mound.

"I worked hard this week to find out what was missing," Brown said. "The first start, I was so focused on trying to keep the adrenaline out of it, maybe I never got pumped up enough."

That was not a problem here, not judging by his dizzying array of twirling pitches that sneaked through late-afternoon shadows and into the Rockies' psyches.

Brown's most important statistic in this stomach-settling encore was not a statistic, but a statement:

During most of the last decade, the Dodgers lose this game.

Their big fastball bats stumble around home plate for seven innings against a fancy curveball pitcher like Darryl Kile, some of them finally quit, the other guys don't, the other guys score the two runs.

But maybe not this year, not behind Brown.

Of all the fun things they have learned about their marquee player--"You know, he really doesn't like to talk a lot during a game," Gary Sheffield said with a smile--the Dodgers have been most impressed to learn this:

It is difficult to quit when your best pitcher does not.

While Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens have brought their new teams visible heat, Brown gives the Dodgers something far more subtle but just as effective.

He gives them a look last seen on the hairy face of Kirk Gibson.

Where once the Dodgers swaggered, on Saturday they glared.

"You see Brown out there, and he's on, and he's working, then you don't get frustrated, you keep working," said Sheffield. "You say, you don't need to get a lot of runs, just a couple."

The Dodgers watched as Brown, with runners on second and third with none out in the fourth inning, calmly threw nine strikes in his next 10 pitches to retire three Rockies.

They watched as Brown, with a runner on second and one out in the sixth, threw six strikes in his next seven pitches to escape again.

"The game's on the line," said Brown, shrugging. "You make your best pitches."

It was no coincidence, then, that with the game on the line in the seventh, the Dodger offense calmly took its best swings.

There went another jaw-dropping drive by Mondesi. There went another disappearing fly ball by Karros.

Then Brown walked out in the eighth and hammered home the point by retiring the side on seven pitches.

It was his last inning, and before you start howling that you couldn't believe that Davey Johnson would replace him after only 91 pitches, blame it on Brown.

He just does not realize that, according to modern baseball standards, $105-million pitchers aren't supposed to hustle after every grounder like this was Tee-ball.

Brown said he felt a "pull" in his back when Beltre climbed aboard during Brown's wild throw to first in the fourth inning. By the eighth, he was growing stiff.

Good thing. Johnson said he will not try to convince Brown to stay on the mound like 99 percent of the other pitchers in creation.

"I had one guy tell me that, but I didn't think much of his opinion," Brown said. "I just do what's natural. I move to the ball."

Thirty minutes after the game, Kevin Brown was still glaring.

It was a good look. We can get used to that look.

Bill Plaschke can be reached at his e-mail address: Bill.Plaschke@latimes.com

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