You just can't make up a more improbable scenario than the story of Kelson Brown's career game Monday night.
The utility infielder had never hit a home run in 582 professional at-bats. Then he ripped a middle-in fastball over the wall in left in the sixth inning to put the Curve ahead to stay in a 13-8 victory over Akron before 3,374 fans at Peoples Natural Gas Field.
"It was a great moment," said Brown, who has good size at 6-foot-3 but is a skinny 168 pounds.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
The Curve’s Kelson Brown scores on a Quincy Latimore single in the third.
It took Brown three pro seasons to finally hit a homer, but his night went from great to borderline unbelievable 30 minutes later.
The string-bean 24-year-old belted another homer in his next at-bat in the seventh inning, drilling a slider over the left field wall.
Making the story even more unbelievable, Brown wasn't even supposed to play Monday. He was only in the game because shortstop Brock Holt, one of the nicest guys ever to wear a Curve uniform and whose Twitter profile even reads, "I'm nice to people," had lost his cool and gotten ejected in the third inning.
The Curve and Akron were involved in a bench-clearing situation Sunday night after players on both teams had been hit. No punches were thrown, but at one point Holt got pretty heated and yelled at the Aeros side.
Maybe it was retaliation, maybe not, but after Akron scored four runs in the top of the third Monday for a 5-3 lead, Aeros pitcher T.J. House plunked Holt on his first pitch of the bottom of the inning.
"I don't know if he hit me on purpose, but with what happened [Sunday] night, being the first pitch of the inning, he squared me up pretty good in the ribs," Holt said. "I don't know how you miss on a pitch that bad the first pitch of the inning."
Holt yelled at House as he walked to first base and got a quick hook from plate umpire Brian De Brauwere.
"Magic word probably," Holt acknowledged as the reason for his ejection.
Holt's ejection opened the door for Brown to enter the game at shortstop, and it paved the way for the well-liked and well-respected reserve to enjoy the best night of his pro career.
Brown scored running for Holt in the third, singled and scored in the fourth and finished the evening with the two home runs, so he went 3-for-3 with four runs and two RBIs.
"You feel good for the kid because of who he is and what he brings every day," Forbes said. "He never complains, he knows what his role is, and every time he gets an opportunity he makes the most of it. He's a manager's dream because of how he goes about his business, his work ethic and just an overall good kid, just a good person."
Brown played college ball at Division III Linfield in Oregon, where he hit 10 home runs, including nine as a senior. He had not hit one since his senior season, in a pro career spanning 62 games for short-season State College in 2010 and 84 games at high-A Bradenton last year.
He's hit for a good average in pro ball (.283) and has been a superb role player for the Curve this year, hitting .313 (31-for-99).
The wind was blowing out Monday at PNG Field, and Holt had even joked with Brown during batting practice about hitting home runs. That's not a common theme for either -- Holt has only nine homers in four pro seasons -- but sure enough, both hit one out of the park during batting practice.
Holt was watching the game on TV in the clubhouse when his replacement blasted his memorable first home run, which gave the Curve a 9-8 lead and ignited a four-run inning.
"It was awesome," Holt said. "I was in here watching the game, and as soon as Brownie hit that first one, I just jumped out off the couch."
Brown took nothing for granted and ran as hard as he could to first base after he hit it.
"I just got out of the box as fast as I could," he said. "I hadn't hit one, so it would look foolish for me to pimp it. But I ran hard, and I let the crowd's reaction tell me that it was gone."
All of his teammates knew it was the first homer of his career, so when he got back to the dugout, he said, "They all gave me hugs and congratulations."
Then Brown hit the second one the next inning.
"I think they were more stunned than I was," he said of his teammates. "They were giving me high-fives and hugging me and asking me if I could get those balls back, but they're probably long gone by now."
Brown knows he'll never be a power hitter -- unless he finds a way to add a lot of bulk -- but he's still been able to work his way up to Double-A and be a contributor.
"My game is putting the ball in play, hitting the ball the other way, situational hitting, and I've been working on if I get a mistake to make them pay," he said. "It worked out for me today."
The Curve's unlikely slugger helped them outslug Akron and bounce back from Sunday night's 15-4 trouncing. Altoona roped 16 hits, and along with Brown, Stefan Welch (3-for-4, three RBIs, two runs) and Charlie Cutler (3-for-5, two RBIs, two runs) also had big nights against an Aeros team that has by far the best ERA in the Eastern League (2.98).
The offensive explosion offset a poor night from Curve starter Tim Alderson, who allowed seven runs on eight hits in 5 2/3 innings. Mike Colla (3-4) won in relief despite giving up a three-run homer in the sixth that blew an 8-5 lead, and Akron reliever Kyle Landis (4-3), who was ejected from Sunday's game after hitting Welch with what appeared to be a purpose pitch, took the loss.
The Curve are just 3-9 against Akron, but they split the four-game series against the EL's best team. They even finished the game on a high note as left fielder Quincy Latimore robbed Nick Weglarz of a home run for the first out of the ninth inning.
"I loved the effort tonight," Forbes said. "I thought we played as professional a game, as focused a game as we've played all year offensively and defensively."
SUBHD: Game recap
Key player: SS Kelson Brown went 3-for-3 with two homers, four runs and two RBIs.
Key play: Brown's homer in the sixth, the first of his career, gave the Curve a 9-8 lead.
Key stat: Brown hit two homers after having none in the first 582 at-bats of his career.
SUBHD: How they scored
Bottom 1st: Grossman walked, Holt singled, both scored on Welch single (2-0).
Top 2nd: Abraham solo homer (2-1).
Bottom 2nd: Cutler doubled, scored on Chambers groundout (3-1).
Top 3rd: Henry singled, Neal walked, both scored on Diaz single (3-3); Chen singled, both scored on Tice single (3-5).
Bottom 3rd: Holt hit by pitch, pinch-runner Brown scored on Latimore single (4-5); Welch walked, scored on Cutler single (5-5).
Bottom 4th: Grossman singled, scored on Durham fielder's choice (6-5); Brown singled, scored along with Durham on Welch single (8-5).
Top 6th: Rohlinger singled, Henry singled, both scored on Neal three-run homer (8-8).
Bottom 6th: Brown solo homer (9-8); Welch singled, scored on Latimore double (10-8); Cutler single scored Latimore (11-8); Chambers double scored Cutler (12-8).
Bottom 7th: Brown solo homer (13-8).