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Usually Steady Brown Encounters Some Turbulence

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Kevin Brown hasn’t had many bad days recently, but he experienced one of his worst of the season Wednesday afternoon during the Milwaukee Brewers’ 9-7 victory over the Dodgers at County Stadium.

The Dodger ace appeared out of sync from the outset in his six-inning outing. He squandered a three-run lead in the sixth by giving up five runs, the key blow a grand slam by Jose Valentin.

Brown was removed with the Dodgers trailing, 7-5, but his teammates got him off the hook by scoring twice in the seventh to tie the score, 7-7. However, they couldn’t overcome struggling reliever Pedro Borbon.

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Borbon’s nightmarish second half continued when he relieved Brown in the seventh and gave up the go-ahead runs on a walk and two doubles before a crowd of 14,956. Borbon (3-2) was the Dodgers’ most effective reliever in the first half, but he has been pounded since the All-Star break.

The left-hander’s earned-run average has increased from 1.64 to 4.00 during that span. The Dodgers (58-69) finished 4-2 on the trip, dropping games in Philadelphia and Milwaukee in which they had late leads.

Against the Brewers, Brown gave up seven hits and seven runs. He had eight strikeouts and two walks while throwing 80 strikes in 115 pitches, but something simply didn’t seem right with Brown, who wasn’t in the mood to speak with reporters.

Brown’s shaky performance was the most perplexing development of the trip for Dodger Manager Davey Johnson.

“With Brownie pitching, that was one I thought we would put away,” Johnson said. “You just don’t expect those things to happen when Brownie is out there.”

And with good reason.

Brown, who had two no-decisions on the trip, had been almost unhittable in August.

Before Wednesday’s game, Brown had a major league-leading 0.90 ERA this month.

The right-hander went 4-0 with a 0.99 ERA in his previous six starts, holding opponents to a .161 batting average. He had struck out 36 and walked only 12.

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Moreover, Brown had not given up a home run in 48 1/3 innings. In this homer-friendly era, that’s getting the job done.

Brown’s streak ended at 53 2/3 innings in the sixth when Valentin hit the Brewers’ second grand slam of the season and fourth of his career. Brown, whose overall ERA went from 3.12 to 3.34, forced in the first run in the inning with a bases-loaded walk.

The rough outing notwithstanding, Johnson remains very pleased with the way Brown works for him. He has been everything the manager expected and more on the field, and a bigger presence than the public realizes off it.

“People look at our record and they see that some guys have struggled, and they think that Brownie hasn’t done what was expected of him, but that’s not the way it is,” Johnson said. “The truth is that Brownie has done everything he can think of to try to help. I think part of his problem, a big part of his problem, was that he was trying to take on too much early on.

“People write things out there about what this guy supposedly does, or what this guy doesn’t do, and they don’t know what they’re talking about. Brownie has been fantastic.”

Brown isn’t one to seek praise for his good deeds in the clubhouse. He downplays the mentoring role he has initiated with young pitchers Chan Ho Park and Darren Dreifort, dissuading reporters from pursuing the topic.

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He was among the first players to attempt to allay disgruntled right fielder Raul Mondesi after his recent expletive-filled diatribe.

But ask Brown about his impromptu counseling session with Mondesi, and he steers the conversation in another direction. Quickly.

“That’s just the way Brownie is,” catcher Todd Hundley said. “He’s not looking for people to tell him, ‘Hey, that’s great what you did,’ or stuff like that.

“Brownie’s attitude is that stuff should just stay in the clubhouse. But he talks to Dreif and Chan Ho and a lot of guys about learning how to pitch, and he’s there to help everybody. That’s what [the public] doesn’t know.”

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