MILWAUKEE — When the Washington Nationals summoned Corey Brown back to the big leagues for the third time in his young career on Monday, he joked that maybe in this stint he’d finally get that elusive first major league hit.
His first stay didn’t go as planned, with Brown coming off an injury-plagued year at Triple-A and getting a September call-up, only to develop a Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection in his right knee that essentially ended his year.
His second stint was brief, though a squeeze bunt gave him his first career RBI during the Nationals’ series in Miami at the end of May.
Saturday night, under a cloudless Wisconsin sky, Brown finally bumped all the zeroes from his stat line when he connected with a 1-1 slider from left-hander Randy Wolf and sent it deep to left center field. One swing, and his first hit and first home run were all taken care of.
“Definitely feels great,” Brown said. “All I want to do is be able to get the first one out of the way and get a little weight off my shoulders. I was fortunate enough for it to be a home run.
“I’m sure everyone at home is excited. I’m sure my mom’s crying still. I’ll be talking to her soon to hear about it.”
Brown’s home run was the first of three the Nationals would hit on Saturday, accounting for all of their offense against the Brewers as they moved to 20 games over .500 at the 100-game mark of the season. He became the third Nationals player to get their first home run on their first career hit, joining left-hander Tommy Milone, now pitching for the A’s, and outfielder Justin Maxwell, now playing for Houston.
Asked if he was trying to stifle a smile as he rounded the bases, Brown was blunt.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “I’m pretty sure I started smiling before I got to second base. It’s a great feeling to be able to get that first one.”
The ball sat in a plexiglass cube in his locker, the inscription signifying its significance already taken care of by Nationals’ clubhouse manager Mike Wallace. Brown said he’ll probably give the ball to his mom, who’s been saving them since he was in little league.
“It just felt great,” Brown said. “As you can see I’ve been a little antsy swinging at a lot of pitches. Just talking to guys the toughest part (about adjusting to the big leagues) is just being able to relax and accept your surroundings and just play like you have been, like it’s the minors.
“It definitely took a while to do that. That second at-bat I felt a little more calm and told myself just to see the ball down because I’d been swinging at a few fastballs at my face. I was able to connect on one that he hung for me.”
It was the first game Brown has started since being recalled from Syracuse when shortstop Ian Desmond went on the disabled list, and it actually wasn’t a game he was supposed to have started at all. Brown was a last-minute replacement for Bryce Harper when the Nationals’ rookie was scratched with a stomach virus that’s been bothering him for several days.
Brown was alerted to the possibility during batting practice and roughly 45 minutes before gametime he was told he’d be in the starting lineup. Two at-bats later, he’d gotten the monkey off his back.
As Brown was speaking with the media, teammate Tyler Moore came by his neighboring locker. Moore hit his sixth home run of the season in the fourth, his a two-run shot, and Brown joked that his fellow rookie and former Syracuse teammate had to go ahead and steal his thunder.
“Of course I tried to enjoy my day and take all the glory but then T-Mo over here had to top me with a two-run homer,” Brown said as Moore simply shook his head. “No, Tyler’s been having a great season. He’s a great power hitter. It was nice to be able to have him help out and give us a little cushion.”
“It was great (to see Brown get the hit),” said Nationals manager Davey Johnson. “He got some fastballs and then the guy throws him a (slider) and he hits it nine miles. It was always fun to see those guys have a good game and he’s been playing good.
“With all the injuries we’ve had, the young guys have really stood up and picked up a lot of slack.”