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RX FOR BEATING THE A'S
Steve Wulf
October 22, 1990
There was just no stopping them. In the late innings of the fourth and final game of the American League Championship Series, a conga line of fans carrying brooms swept along the aisles of Oakland Coliseum. As it passed through the stands, the procession grew longer and longer and more mind-boggling.
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October 22, 1990

Rx For Beating The A's

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Yeah, yeah, keep Rickey Henderson off base, keep Dennis Eckersley out of the game, get to Stewart early. To get beyond the obvious, we set out, before the Series began, to gather the advice of several American Leaguers: three advance scouts, a manager, a pitching coach, a catcher, and a pitcher for the Red Sox ("You can identify me that way," said the pitcher, "even though people will know it's not Roger"). Why aren't we doing a similar report on Cincinnati? Well, baseball is not obsessed with beating the Reds.

GAME PLAN

All the experts agreed that Cincinnati would be a worthy adversary. As opposed to the Red Sox, the Reds play aggressively, which a team must do against the A's. The Reds, said our panel, would be able to run on Oakland's catchers: Steinbach has an average arm and Ron Hassey, Bob Welch's personal catcher, has a below-average arm. However, the A's pitchers are very adept at holding runners on. "They will step off more than any other club to disrupt a base runner, to confuse him," said Scout A. Another thing, said Scout B, is, "La Russa loves to pitch out. He'll even do it when the count is 2 and 0 if he thinks you're going."

The Reds can and should run on Oakland's outfielders. "Go first to third whenever you can," said the catcher on the panel. "If you play station-to-station, it's going to come down to getting a two-out hit with a man on second, and the A's don't give up many of those."

Cincinnati also has a very good advance scout, Jimmy Stewart, although no team can match the Athletics in preparation. Said Scout B, "They know exactly where to play hitters, what a pitcher's and catcher's tendencies are at certain counts, everything. You can't steal their signs because Tony gives most of them verbally. On the other hand, he gets his jollies by stealing your signs. Their base runners will give batters the location of pitches. And maybe I'm just being paranoid, but I think there's something going on in that outfield scoreboard in the Coliseum."

Perhaps the most important thing Cincinnati brought into the World Series was its swaggering attitude. The Red Sox pitcher advised the Reds to hold that feeling. "You can't be in awe of the A's or uptight and still hope to beat them," he said. "We became that way after the first game, and we lost the series right there." Said Scout C, "You can't get caught up in the David and Goliath syndrome."

PITCHING TO THEM

Despite their .299 average in the Red Sox series, the A's were not hitting very well. For one thing, they became the first team to win a postseason series without hitting a home run since the 1919 Cincinnati Reds. (The '19 Reds, amazingly enough, didn't hit a home run in their eight World Series games—it was a best-of-nine affair—against the Black Sox.) For another, Jose Canseco is clearly not himself, either because of his ailing back or because of the finger he hurt in a refrigerator-door accident. (Imaginary headline: JOSE MAYTAGGED OUT.)

The general advice to the Reds is to pitch inside—a lot. "That's what the White Sox did," said Scout B. "Pound 'cm in. Pound 'em in. For all their macho, the A's hitters like to lean out over the plate and get comfortable." Of course, said Scout C, "Tony will come running out of the dugout if you throw inside on his guys."

The Red Sox pitcher had one specific bit of advice. "The Reds should pitch Danny Jackson as often as possible. He and that nasty slider of his will give the A's the most trouble."

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