HITTING AGAINST THEM.
The consensus, once again, is to be aggressive. If the Reds let the A's get ahead early in the game, it's too late; and if the Reds let their pitchers get ahead in the count, it's also too late. "I tell my club to go up and look for something to hit early," said Scout A. "They'll be around the plate with the first pitch. If you get behind, they start dropping split-fingers and whatnot on you, and you're done."
The same scout noticed something else about the A's pitching staff this year. "They change their pitching patterns when runners are in scoring position. All game they'll be pitching you a certain way, then in an RBI position, you'll be looking for a split-finger and—pow!—a fastball is by you."
Dave Stewart. Of course, he's not unbeatable, yet nobody had any advice on how to beat him. He did garner a lot of praise, though. "His velocity is not outstanding," said Scout B. "But unlike 98 percent of the guys who throw the fork-ball, he can get it over for strikes. He has very quick feet for his pickoff move, and he's an excellent fielder, which nobody ever talks about."
Said the manager on our panel, "No matter what kind of stuff Stew brings to the mound, he can figure out a way to beat you."
Bob Welch. Said Scout B, "He's still got a little bit of National League in him: He'll challenge you [with the fastball]. But you can disrupt his tempo—the Red Sox tried, but didn't succeed. One way to do it is to complain to the umpire about the way he blows in his hand, especially if it's not cold. That will bother him."
Mike Moore. Said the manager, "He doesn't have the confidence in his fastball that he had last year, so he's really been nibbling this year." But, said Scout B, "The reason La Russa went with Moore instead of Scott Sanderson [in Game 3 against Boston] tells you a lot about their organization. They wanted Moore to get his confidence back, not just for the postseason, but for next year."
The Setup Men. It is widely held that no manager uses his relievers better than La Russa does. "If the starter gets into the seventh with the lead," said the pitching coach, "it all becomes academic." Of Gene Nelson, the righthanded setup man, the manager said, "The changeup is his best pitch, and if he's ahead in the count, his off-speed pitches are usually out of the strike zone. He'll throw you more fastballs early in the count, so it's best to go up there aggressive." Of Rick Honeycutt, the left-handed lead-in to Eckersley, the manager said, "He has a deceptive motion, but the thing to do is make him throw the ball over the plate. Patient hitters can work him for a walk or get a good pitch to hit."
The Eck. Four walks and 73 strikeouts in 73⅓ innings! Forty-eight saves! An 0.61 ERA! How does Eckersley do it? "Great location and a strange motion," said Scout B. "His stuff, though, is not unbelievable. I still think if you have some good lefthanded hitters on the bench in the ninth, you can beat him." The Reds don't have Kirk Gibson riding the pine but do have switch-hitters Luis Quinones, Todd Benzinger and Ron Oester and lefthanded Herm Winningham.
So maybe these Athletics will fall. Then again, maybe the conga line will dance for years to come. Said Scout C, "The A's have an inner strength throughout their organization. It's self-sustaining, and it's tough to beat."