By: Mike Ashmore
(Central Islip, N.Y., Sept. 29, 2017) – Long Island Ducks manager Kevin Baez hit the nail on the head when talking about John Brownell.
“In order for us to have success, it usually starts with Brownell,” he said.
It’s going to have to.
As the Ducks find themselves in a 2-0 series deficit to the York Revolution in this year’s Atlantic League Championship Series, they’ll turn to their ace, who’s had a lengthy history of postseason success, for Game 3 in York.
“He’s that type of pitcher where no type of game is too big or no moment is too big; He relishes that moment, he wants that moment and he’s proven that he pitches well in that moment,” Baez said.
“It’s nice to have a guy like that. You can have good pitchers, but all of a sudden it’s Game 1 or Game 5 and it’s a different mindset…he just knows how to slow the game down and simplify it. He’s a true competitor and he wants the ball. That’s the most important thing, he wants to be in that position and he wants the ball. It was killing him not to go in Game 1, but we just thought it was best for him and for the team that he give it a couple more days.”
Brownell sprained his ankle during his Liberty Division Series outing against the Somerset Patriots, one that went uncharacteristically poorly despite being able to gut his way through 5 1/3 innings of work.
“The way my start went this first go-around this postseason wasn’t up to the standards that I expect of myself, but you’re going to have those bad days…you hope they’re not in the postseason,” he said. “I’m looking forward to getting the ball and re-righting the ship … (the ankle is) as good as it’s going to be for the rest of the year. That little extra rest kind of helped out, and I think I’ll be good to go. I’m excited for the opportunity.”
Surely, his teammates are excited for him to have the opportunity as well. Brownell has taken the ball for some of the most significant games in franchise history over the past six years, including Game 4 of the 2012 Championship Series, both Games 1 and 5 of the 2013 Championship Series and Game 5 of the 2016 Liberty Division Series, all of which were wins.
All in all, the 34-year-old right-hander is 5-3 in 10 postseason starts, but downplays his individual success when it matters the most.
“Well, I’ve had great teams behind me,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate to be a part of this organization, and they put a good team together there year in and year out. It’s just trusting that my team is going to help me when I need it.”
Perhaps, it’s simply understanding the way the game changes this time of year.
“I think guys are a little more focused this time of year, whether it’s the pitchers or the hitters,” Brownell said.
“As a pitcher, because a hitter is dialed in a little bit more, they’re going to do the job -- maybe it’s getting the runner over – and you’ve got to be aware of that. In the regular season, they’re trying to get hits or do some damage, but small ball is more in effect during the postseason and it takes a little bit more focus to get out of those jams because you know guys aren’t just trying to swing and hit home runs or hit doubles, they’re trying to get base hits or grind out at-bats a little bit more.”