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Brown feels fortunate to have a hand in series

Thirty-two pitches. That's a couple innings for most pitchers -- or two lengthy Johnny Damon at-bats. It amounted to Kevin Brown's entire body of work against the Red Sox Sept. 26. It was not a pretty sight.

There were five straight hits, including consecutive doubles by Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, and Trot Nixon. There were bookend singles by Mark Bellhorn and Jason Varitek. There was Joe Torre with the hook after eight batters, six hits, and only two outs.

Hey, at least Brown didn't walk anyone or give up a triple or home run.

And if you want to see that Kevin Brown on the hill tonight in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series (weather permitting), you had better bring your video playback machine because all indications are that that Kevin Brown is not walking through the clubhouse door any time soon. Brown may not replicate the strong stints of Mike Mussina and Jon Lieber, who combined to allow one hit and two base runners in the first six innings of Games 1 and 2, both Yankee wins. But Brown has shown in his last two starts that he is much closer to the form of yore, the form that earned him a $15 million-per-year salary, than to the human batting machine he was on the 26th.

"His last outing [against the Red Sox] wasn't very good," Torre said. "But he pitched in the Division Series, pitched outstanding, a very important game for us. I'm confident by the way he's been since that start, and the throwing session he had before that start, that he's going to be OK to go out there and compete."

Brown's start against the Red Sox Sept. 26 carried all kinds of red flags and caution starts. It had been 23 days since, after an unsatisfying effort against the Orioles, Brown smashed a concrete wall and broke his left hand. There was doubt at the time if he'd return in time for the playoffs, as well as doubt as to whether he'd pitch again this season. The Boston outing showcased decent "stuff," as the baseball guys like to say, but Brown's location was awful.

Six days later, he went five innings against the Blue Jays and allowed one hit. Much better. Then came the biggie -- Oct. 8 at the Metrodome. The Twins and Yankees were tied, 1-1, in their Division Series. Brown gave up a first-inning homer to Jacque Jones and then settled down. He went six innings, giving up eight hits and just the one run. The Yankees won the game and the series.

After that victory, Brown was asked if he now felt more a part of the team, given the significance of the game.

"In a short series, it's all or nothing and, obviously, to have an opportunity to be a part [of it] and to be able to walk out on the field, I don't take that for granted," he said. "When I was younger, I probably, like most guys, felt a lot like Superman, like nothing can hurt you. I definitely don't take that for granted these days. And, 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 a lot of the same things Wednesday night before Game 2. Brown hates talking about his health almost as much as he hates concrete walls. He has a legendarily cranky back. He was struck down by the Yankee-invading mysterious intestinal parasite. Then there was the broken hand. From June 10 until July 29, he was on the disabled list.

"Emotionally," he said Wednesday, "it's been tough. I think the whole season has been difficult. Having an opportunity to again be here in this situation, in postseason with a great group of guys who have played their hearts out all year, and to have comeback after comeback after comeback all season long, it's an honor and a privilege."

His start in Game 3 will be the 12th postseason start of his career. In league championship play with the Marlins and Padres, he had a 3-1 record and, overall in the postseason, he is 5-4. However, he is 2-5 in 11 career starts at Fenway Park with a 6.14 ERA. (That first inning Sept. 26 didn't help.)

This will be his fourth start this season against the Red Sox. New York lost the previous three -- 5-4 on April 19, 3-2 on April 24, and the implosion on Sept. 26. Torre said he wouldn't guarantee a win, but did feel Brown was ready. Brown agreed.

"The only thing I can guarantee is that I'm going to go out there and give it my all," Brown said. "Lord willing, it will be enough to give the team a chance to win." 

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