10/08/2004 11:45 PM ET
Brown redeems himself with gem
Game 3 performance makes up for broken hand
|Kevin Brown delivers during the first inning against the Minnesota Twins in Game 3. (Jim Mone/AP)
MINNEAPOLIS -- This was a big victory for the New York Yankees, but probably a defeat for anger management.
This may not be the message you want sent to the baseball-playing youth of America, but it turns out that you can break your left hand, slamming it into a wall in a fit of rage, and still have everything work out all right. At least through Game 3 of a Division Series.
Kevin Brown is the hand-breaker and the big-game winner in this saga. He slammed his hand into a wall on Sept. 3 and, just 35 days later, in this pivotal American League Division Series game, Brown was on top of the world again. His six very solid innings Friday night were just what the Yankees needed as they beat the Minnesota Twins, 8-4, to take a 2-1 series lead.
There was obviously a lot at stake for the Yankees, but there was plenty at stake for Brown, too. People like to trot out the polite pretense that there are no individual issues in the postseason. This start was loaded with implications for the way Kevin Brown's 2004 would be perceived. Was he going to be seen as a temperamental man-child, who cost his team dearly because he couldn't control his emotions? Or was he going to be seen as a man who had a momentary lapse of self-control, but later recovered and was there when his team needed him most?
With his performance Friday night, Brown made certain that the second perception -- the kindler, gentler one -- would be in effect, at least for a time. The Yankees haven't lost anything yet as a result of his fractured left hand. They probably lost some sleep worrying about the state of their starting rotation, but they still won the AL East Division title, even without Brown's services for more than three weeks in September.
And now, they are one game away from winning a Division Series. Had Brown lost this game, his ineffectiveness would have been blamed on his lack of work, and that would have gone right back to his temper tantrum. But the way it is now, he is in the clear. The episode with the hand still looks childish, immature, juvenile and anti-evolutionary, but if it hurt Kevin Brown's left hand, it hasn't hurt the New York Yankees. And that is the definitive measurement in these matters.
"It was huge," manager Joe Torre said of Brown's performance Friday night. "All the question marks were, 'Will he be able to take the ball and get out there?' Once he gets out there, he knows what he's doing. He had to work hard, but it was certainly a game when you consider that (Johan) Santana is pitching tomorrow. It was really an important game for us."
Brown is a genuine competitor. He is suffering from back problems, which he acknowledged in a general way after the game, although he declined to be specific about how much discomfort he had. "It's not even worth talking about, because at this time of the year, no one cares how you feel as long as you get somebody out," he said.
When he channels his emotions positively into his work on the mound, combining that with superior stuff has made him something special. If he wasn't overwhelming Friday night, he was certainly more than good enough.
He worked six innings, giving up one run on just 84 pitches, 62 for strikes. He walked nobody. He gave up a first-inning home run to Jacque Jones, but he never gave up another extra-base hit until the sixth. And his hit total -- eight -- was inflated by the Twins slapping the ball into the turf, beating out indoor, home-dome hits.
Brown's performance turned the Metrodome, a madhouse of noise when the Twins are playing in a big game, into a mausoleum. No matter how excited the crowd of 54,803 wanted to be, all those zeroes on the home side of the scoreboard didn't do much to sustain the mood.
Brown joked about the way he pitched early in the game. "The guys were probably scared enough watching me pitch that they figured they'd better score a lot of runs," he said. "It was a motivating factor for them."
This was vindication of sorts for Brown, and he knew it. "In the setting of the way things have gone this year, to be able to be on the mound and be a part of the win, it's a great honor," he said.
Brown, asked about this performance in the context of the broken hand episode, said that the incident reflected how much he cared about the team, because, "If I didn't care, I wouldn't have been upset with the way things were going.
"In baseball there's probably not too many guys who have not, you know, been angry at one moment and thrown a helmet or broken a bat, where there's a possibility they could have injured themselves," Brown said. "Unfortunately, I didn't have a bat in my hand at that point in time."
That tends to make all the difference. Brown was asked what his status would be if the Yanks were to advance in the playoffs and he replied: "Whenever (Torre) asks me to take the ball, I'll be there."
Brown, pitching with some level of pain, and pitching well enough to win a crucial game for the New York Yankees, was actually, in that way, a sympathetic figure Friday night. This was the good Kevin, the fierce and effective competitor, giving it whatever he had, finding a way.
But no matter how happily this night ended for Brown and the Yankees, as far as the hand vs. the wall, you kids out there, don't try this at home. Grown-ups aren't supposed to act that way, even if they do later manage to defeat the Minnesota Twins in Game 3 of an ALDS.
Mike Bauman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.