San Francisco Giants

Trevor Brown’s first big-league homer is pivotal in Giants’ 3-2 win over Dodgers

San Francisco’s Trevor Brown (14) is congratulated by teammate Angel Pagan (16) after his two-run home run against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the eighth inning at AT&T Park in San Francisco on Friday, April 8, 2016.
San Francisco’s Trevor Brown (14) is congratulated by teammate Angel Pagan (16) after his two-run home run against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the eighth inning at AT&T Park in San Francisco on Friday, April 8, 2016. Bay Area News Group

Afterward, Trevor Brown remembered rounding third.

"There’s forty thousand people out there screaming for you," he said. "It was my first home run in the big leagues, in a raining game, against the Dodgers, it ties the score. It was crazy."

Brown, the Giants’ backup catcher, was at the center of all that Friday night. He was at the center of so much more.

The Giants’ 3-2, 10-inning win over the Dodgers on a rain-soaked night at AT&T Park ended on Brandon Crawford’s second career walk-off home run but pivoted on a bizarre eighth-inning sequence that later left players marveling at what they had just witnessed. Starting pitcher Matt Cain called the game "one for the storybooks." Brown deemed it "something I’m never going to forget."

The Giants had sent 25 men to the plate without a hit against a 26-year-old right-hander, Ross Stripling, who was making his major-league debut. But after the 25th, Angel Pagan, drew a one-out walk in the eighth, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts promptly walked to the mound and took Stripling, who had just thrown his 100th pitch, out of the game.

The move drew a chorus of boos from fans at Third and King and shocked response from those following Stripling’s pursuit of history on social media. Only one player has ever thrown a no-hitter in his major-league debut: Bumpus Jones, pitching for Cincinnati on Oct. 15, 1892. Stripling had been five outs away.

Yet Stripling is also two years removed from Tommy John surgery and Friday night was working under a pitch count. "No-brainer," Roberts called the decision afterward, adding: “I want to keep his future and health in mind.” Stripling told reporters that he thought the move "was the right call."

Standing in the on-deck circle, though, Brown was surprised. Making his first start of the season, Brown had struck out in his first two at-bats against Stripling -- and not appeared especially comfortable in either one.

"I hadn’t even fouled a ball off him yet," Brown said. "It was just kind of a sigh of relief to get a different pitcher out there."

The new pitcher was right-hander Chris Hatcher, and his fifth pitch was a 95 mph fastball that Brown drove through the rain several rows deep into the left-field bleachers, evening the game at 2-2 and touching off a frenzy in both the stands and the Giants’ dugout.

"We’re only five games in, but obviously the most fired-up we’ve had our dugout," said Crawford, who would elicit his own reaction two innings later. "First to break up a no-hitter, and then to tie the game in the same swing is a huge momentum swing for us. We were pretty fired up for him. It was a great at-bat."

Brown, who stumbled a bit out of the batter’s box, said he was willing the ball to carry.

"I was just saying, ‘Go ball, come on!’" Brown said. "I’m not necessarily a power hitter. I felt like I got it pretty good. To be honest, the first thing that went through my head is, ‘Aw man, it’s raining. That might’ve had a shot without the rain.

"When I saw it land up in the stands, that was one of the most memorable experience I’ve had with baseball."

The inning got wilder when, two batters later, Hatcher took exception to a ball called by home plate umpire Jeff Kellogg and came off the mound gesturing angrily. Kellogg came out from behind the plate in response, Roberts sprinted from the dugout to intervene, and the Dodgers’ first-year skipper earned the first ejection of his managerial career.

Brown said he hardly knew what was happening on the field at that point. He was "still kind of coming down from that whole experience. A lot of the guys were congratulating me. I ran up and did the little curtain-call thing."

After appearing in 13 games as a late-September call-up at the end of last season, Brown made the opening-day roster this spring partly because of an injury to Andrew Susac. Moments like Friday ought to make it easy for Giants fans to warm to Brown. After all, he warmed to them. Brown grew up in Southern California, admittedly as a Dodgers fan.

"But when I got drafted by the Giants, I became a Giants fan," he said. "And I’ve been all Giants since that day."

Many of Brown’s friends back home, though, remain Dodgers fans, and he said plenty of them were watching Friday night for that reason. He had about 60 texts on his phone when he got back to the clubhouse, he said. Most of them were actually positive.

"That was pretty neat, too," he said.

Other players had key roles in the Giants’ win. Cain received no offensive support at all, yet kept the Giants within striking distance, allowing two runs over six innings. Crawford provided the decisive swing, driving a 1-0 pitch from right-hander Joe Blanton over the left-field wall leading off the bottom of the 10th. His reaction differed from Brown’s off the bat.

"If that one wasn’t going out I’m not hitting an oppo homer this year," said Crawford, who had received his 2015 Silver Slugger Award before the game. "I knew I hit it well."

It was just the Giants’ second hit, a night after they’d recorded 17 in a 12-run barrage in their home opener. According to baseball-reference.com, they became only the sixth team in the last 100 years and first since the 1986 Seattle Mariners to win a game in which they collected just two hits that were both home runs.

"You get two hits and win a ballgame," manager Bruce Bochy mused, "I don’t know if I’ve seen two bigger homers in that kind of situation."

Brown had hit just seven home runs in 1,114 minor-league at-bats and none in his first 42 at-bats in the majors. It would have been hard to pick a more critical time for his first.

"I think if (Giants teammates) were going to say who’s the most unlikely person to hit a home run in that situation, I think 24 other guys would’ve picked me to be the guy not to do it," Brown said.

"Just to be in the center of all that going on, it was memorable. It was cool."

The first home game of the 2016 major-league baseball season for the San Francisco Giants was party-as-usual for the full house of fans that made AT&T Park throb with anticipation, activity and, ultimately, fairly unbridled happiness when the Gian

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