The Pitching Staff
The Padres’ staff was in need of an anchor, and that’s exactly what they got. Kevin Brown was brought in to help a staff consisting of Andy Ashby, Joey Hamilton, Sterling Hitchcock, and Mark Langston. He was far more than just a great pitcher, as Brown brought with him to San Diego an attitude and work ethic that couldn’t be judged by any statistic.
A type of swagger and expectation to win is what Brown brought to the Padres. Brown, in the right situation, was a perfect leader for a team eager to find an identity. He provided that for a pitching staff that needed a boost. With Kevin Brown on the mound, the Padres’ players expected to win the game. That in itself is a rare thing. Only ace pitchers bring that to the team, and there are only a handful of ace pitchers each season.
Brown started 35 games for the Padres that season, going 18-7 with a 2.38 ERA.
He pitched in 257 innings and struck out 257 batters with a whip of 1.066. His combination of two-seam, bowling ball-like sinkers and high 90’s riding fastballs was tough for hitters. That 1998 season was arguably Brown’s best season. It translated into an 7-year/$105 million contract from the Dodgers. The Padres tried to retain Brown, but could not match that outrageous offer from the Dodgers. The contract was the first $100 million contract in major league history.
Andy Ashby was the Padres’ #2 starter, in the midst of back-to-back MLB All-Star seasons for the Padres in 1998 and 1999. Ashby was 17-9 in 1998 with a 3.99 ERA . He was an absolute competitor and had eight great seasons in San Diego (70-62 with 3.59 ERA) after being acquired from the Colorado Rockies as a player to be named later. Ashby was dealt to the Padres in order to complete a previous deal involving Bruce Hurst and Greg Harris to the Rockies for Brad Ausmus and Doug Bochtler. What a steal for the Padres, as the Rockies dealt Ashby within the division as essentially a throw-in.
Joey Hamilton was the Padres’ first round pick (8th overall) in the 1991 amateur draft. Hamilton was in the end of his five-year tenure as a Padre. He went 13-13 for the Padres in 1998 with a 4.27 ERA in 34 starts. Sterling Hitchcock was the absolute bright spot in the rotation. The southpaw took a much-needed step forward during the 1998 season.
In 27 starts that season, Hitchcock was 9-7 with a 3.93 ERA, but was a stud down the stretch. He went 4-2 with a 3.28 ERA in the month of August. In game 4 of the NLDS against the Astros, Hitchcock struck out 11 in six innings. The Padres won the game and advanced to play the Braves in the NLCS. Hitchcock again delivered in beating Greg Maddux and the Braves in game 3 and then coming back on three days rest and eliminating the Braves in Atlanta. Hitchcock was named the MVP after going 2-0 with a remarkable 0.90 ERA.
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