Long Island native Brown relishes dream at Citi, if not the outcome

May 2nd, 2024

NEW YORK -- Cubs right-hander saw his wish come true on Thursday afternoon. The Long Island native and No. 9 prospect in the organization pitched at Citi Field for the first time in a 7-6 loss to the Mets in 11 innings.

Brown, who entered the day having thrown four of his seven outings this season from the bullpen, found himself back in the rotation because of the back injury to Kyle Hendricks.

It was a game that saw the Cubs squander two leads, as their bullpen couldn’t keep New York from scoring the winning run. Chicago had a 6-5 lead going into the bottom of the 11th, and reliever Daniel Palencia ended up taking the loss.

Brett Baty was the automatic runner to open the frame, and Palencia hit leadoff hitter Harrison Bader in the left arm with a first-pitch sinker. Francisco Lindor followed and doubled down the left-field line to score both Baty and Bader to win the game.

“There was a lot happening in the game and we just ended up short,” Cubs manager Craig Counsell said.

Brown blamed himself for the loss. He had a no-hitter going after four innings, while the Cubs had a 4-0 lead as they entered the bottom of the fifth. However, Brown lost his fastball and curveball command after getting the first two outs of the inning. With two men on, Brandon Nimmo singled on an 0-2 curveball to left-center field, scoring Baty. Starling Marte followed and singled to center field, scoring Bader.

“I thought Ben’s stuff was excellent,” Counsell said. “Even in the last inning, he was throwing very hard. That [fifth] inning sped up on him a little bit … and he let some hitters off the hook. We got out of it kind of clean.”

After walking DJ Stewart to load the bases, Brown was taken out of the game in favor of Keegan Thompson.

“That was the game right there. I take accountability for that. First and second, 0-2 count [to Nimmo], you just have to make that pitch,” Brown said. “I just couldn’t finish it off and that’s where I have to learn and grow for sure. …

“I have to do a better job of locking in each pitch. That was the issue today. Pitch adjustments. Maybe I should have been a little faster, but ultimately there are going to be games where everything goes your way and games where it’s not going your way. You got to make pitches no matter what.”

Counsell thought the turning point of the game occurred in the sixth with Thompson still on the mound. Jeff McNeil led off and hit a slow roller to Thompson, who had a tough time handling the ball and flipped it too late to first baseman Michael Busch for an error. McNeil ended up scoring on a two-run double by Lindor.

“Keegan kind of fumbled [the ball], unfortunately, and that obviously led to a big inning,” Counsell said. “He was trying to make the play and he didn’t make the play.”

Despite the outcome, the opportunity to pitch at Citi Field for the first time represented a special moment for Brown. He remembered going to plenty of games at the stadium as a kid, and he said about 50 family and friends, including his parents, were there to watch him on Thursday.

“There were a lot of familiar faces. I saw people that love me and want to be there for me,” Brown said. “After getting over today and the mistakes I made, I’ll be able to rest on the fact that it was really a cool experience to be here.”