Ace's illness scrambles Leyland's rotation Marlins manager says 'common sense' prompted decision to rest Brown; NLCS notebook


MIAMI -- Jim Leyland's vacillation about his pitching plans took another abrupt turn yesterday when he scratched ace Kevin Brown from the Game 5 start in the National League Championship Series.

The Florida Marlins' manager called it a "common-sense move" in the wake of Brown's recent problems with a virus that has sapped the pitcher's strength.

It turned out to be a brilliant move when rookie Livan Hernandez equaled Mike Mussina's day-old playoff record with 15 strikeouts and shut down the Atlanta Braves, 2-1.

The switch to Hernandez further scrambled the Marlins' pitching sequence, which was already affected by the loss of Alex Fernandez to a career-threatening torn rotator cuff.

"There will come a point when you have to pitch him, I guess," said Leyland, whose original idea to start Brown three times in the series was wrecked by the illness.

"If he's only 80 percent [tomorrow], he's probably not going to be 100 percent Wednesday," an indication that Brown will probably go in Game 6 in any event.

Brown has been bedridden for three days and has spent little time at the ballpark. The fact that yesterday was a day game in hot weather also played into Leyland's decision.

"What we're trying to do now is get him out there and get the blood flowing and get him ready for Tuesday," said the manager.

Brown accompanied the team on the return trip to Atlanta, but there was a question about whether he would participate in today's workout.

Braves down, not out

The Braves were somber after the defeat, but they remained optimistic.

"We have confidence because we know we are a good club," said pitcher Denny Neagle, who attended Arundel High. "But this is a tough club with a pretty good pitching staff.

"Definitely, we're going to be pretty challenged. I don't think we're likely to roll over these guys like we did St. Louis last year."

Greg Maddux, now 0-2 in this series despite a 1.38 ERA, said, "Obviously, we've got to win two games, but to do that we have to win the first one first."

Gregg widens zone

Much of the post-game questioning centered on plate umpire Eric Gregg's rather wide strike zone, so much that Gregg defended himself in the interview room.

The pitchers obviously had little trouble with it.

"It seemed all right, consistent," said Maddux. "I thought a strike was a strike and a ball was a ball."

The hitters were less forgiving.

"You can't do anything about it," said Braves outfielder Michael Tucker. "The only thing you can do is go out and play and try to make an adjustment. But when you're used to swinging at certain pitches "

Atlanta's Chipper Jones said: "I know I swung at some pitches a foot outside and I asked if they were strikes. He said, 'Yes.' I kind of chuckled. Right now, I'm so mad I can't see."

Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said "a lot of those pitches they [his hitters] didn't have a chance at them."

Gregg said "as long as I'm consistent, they don't have a problem with me. I give the same pitch to both guys and nobody says a word to me."

He added that he was surprised and disappointed that he was called on in his own defense and that nobody complained to him.

"One time in the bottom of the eighth, the center fielder for the Braves [Kenny Lofton] said 'E, E' and I said 'same pitch I've been calling all day.' He said, 'You're right.' "

Gregg said the evidence that things went well included (a) no ejections and (b) no objects being thrown.

Klesko returns

The Braves' Ryan Klesko, who jammed his left wrist and shoulder when he tumbled to the warning track Friday night trying to make a catch, was back in the Atlanta lineup.

"It feels a little bit better," Klesko said. "The shoulder's sore. The wrist is sore. But at least I can hit the cutoff man."

Klesko went 0-for-3 and struck out twice against Hernandez.

Around the horn

The complete games thrown Saturday and Sunday by Neagle and Hernandez are the first consecutively since Pittsburgh's Bob Walk and Tim Wakefield did it against the Braves in 1992. The crowd of 51,982 was easily the smallest for the three games in Florida. The Marlins had the best home record in baseball this season and now are 4-1 in the postseason.

Looking ahead

Potential pitching matchups for the Marlins-Braves series:

Game 6, at Atlanta, 8: 07 p.m. tomorrow

Atl.: Tom Glavine (*1-0, 1.17)

Fla.: Kevin Brown (*1-0, 4.50)

Game 7#, at Atl., 8: 07 p.m. Wednesday

Atl.: John Smoltz (*0-1, 7.50)

Fla.: Tony Saunders (*0-0, 3.38)

* NLCS stats; # -- if necessary

Pub Date: 10/13/97

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