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Brown Lives Up to His Billing

Dodger right-hander dominates matchup with Atlanta's Maddux, using a 95-mph fastball to strike out seven in seven innings of a 5-1 victory.

May 15, 2003|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

A highly anticipated pitching matchup between two of baseball's best right-handers didn't really live up to its billing Wednesday night, but that was no fault of Kevin Brown's.

The Dodger ace held up his end of the marquee, using an explosive fastball to limit baseball's hottest team to one run and five hits in seven innings, but four-time Cy Young Award winner Greg Maddux managed only a pedestrian effort -- at least, by his standards -- giving up four runs and seven hits in six innings.

The result was a 5-1 Dodger victory before 29,343 in Dodger Stadium, a win that moved the Dodgers to within five games of San Francisco in the National League West, the first time since April 10 they've been that close to the Giants, and handed the Braves only their fifth loss in 28 games.

Fred McGriff staked Brown to a lead with a two-run home run against Maddux in the first inning, and Shawn Green ended a one-for-17 skid with a two-out, two-run double in the fifth, as the Dodgers salvaged the last of a three-game series against Atlanta.

Brown was dominant, spotting his 95-mph fastball consistently on the corners and mixing it with a devastating array of breaking pitches.

"His stuff was so nasty I couldn't catch it at times," catcher Paul Lo Duca said. "His pitches were going every which way. He was just filthy tonight. He had two or three different sliders and a sweeping curve. I've been telling people the last three years that this guy is that good. I think people forgot how good he is."

Brown is providing quite a refresher course this season. Limited by major back and elbow injuries to 10 starts in 2002 and slowed by an upper-respiratory virus in April, Brown improved to 4-1 with a 2.51 earned-run average in nine starts. He struck out seven and walked two, giving him 46 strikeouts and 14 walks in 57 1/3 innings.

"His fastball was as good tonight as I've seen in a while -- the ball was coming out of his hand and jumping up there," Dodger Manager Jim Tracy said. "He looks an awful lot like the Kevin Brown I saw in 2000 and 2001."

It didn't matter that the Brave lineup featured five starters with averages of .300 or better and two players (Gary Sheffield and Andruw Jones) with nine home runs and 30 runs batted in or more. Brown trashed the Braves like he did that shelf in the Montreal clubhouse after Sunday's game against the Expos.

"He comes at you, he's an aggressive pitcher, it's no secret why he does what he does," Atlanta second baseman Marcus Giles said. "He's got no fear. He's a bulldog when he's out there."

Added Sheffield: "He does what he's paid to do, stop losing streaks."

Brown had only one blip, walking Rafael Furcal and Giles to open the sixth, but the right-hander escaped with minimal damage when Sheffield and Chipper Jones each bounced into a fielder's choice, the latter scoring a run to make it 4-1, and Andruw Jones popped to short.

The Braves stirred again in the seventh when Henry Blanco and pinch-hitter Matt Franco each singled with two out, but Brown struck out Furcal looking at a 94-mph fastball, his final pitch. Guillermo Mota retired the last six batters.

Maddux gave up only six earned runs in 27 innings of his previous four starts, but he ran into immediate trouble Wednesday night, giving up Lo Duca's one-out single to left in the first inning and McGriff's two-out home run to right, his sixth this season and 484th of his career.

"They're throwing a great lineup at you, and with Maddux pitching, you know it's going to be a tough game," Brown said. "Fred gave me some breathing room. I really appreciated that."

Green's double into the right-field corner in the fifth -- the Dodger right fielder is batting .500 (11 for 22) with three homers and eight RBIs against Maddux -- provided an even bigger cushion, and the Dodgers tacked on an unearned run in the seventh for a 5-1 lead.

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