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The Athletics can boast of great power and speed and pitching, but they and their manager, Tony La Russa, are actually proudest of their ability to do the little things in baseball, and they did them in the eighth. Jose Canseco singled up the middle to lead off the inning and chase Andersen. Enter reliever Tom Bolton to face Baines, the cleanup hitter, who laid down a beautiful sacrifice bunt—his first in six years. Enter Jeff Gray. Canseco immediately stole third, and then Carney Lansford singled to right to put Oakland ahead. Two batters later, with the bases loaded for Willie Randolph, Henderson stood again in the on-deck circle and told the Red Sox fans, "It's time." By then, they didn't need to be told. They got a reprieve when Jody Reed made a nice play on a hard ground ball to second by Randolph to end the inning, but it was only temporary.
The ninth inning was a horror story worthy of Stephen King, who happened to be at Fenway that night to root the Red Sox on. (The ultimate scenario, King says, would be "one out away from winning for the first time since 1918, and nuclear war is declared.") Henderson singled and then Gray botched Willie McGee's sacrifice bunt. Enter Dennis Lamp. Five batters, two stolen bases, two hits, one passed ball and two walks later, the score was 6-1 and Fenway was funereal. Enter Rob Murphy (0-6, 6.32 ERA). Walk, single, single. By the time the inning was over, the A's had scored seven runs and increased their lead to 9-1. The CITGO sign seemed to be telling the Fenway faithful, C IT GO.
As if the top of the ninth weren't enough to demoralize Boston, Eckersley, who needed the work, pitched the bottom of the ninth. A former Red Sox hurler, Eckersley had 48 saves, an 0.61 ERA, 73 strikeouts and four walks in 73? innings this year, and he had retired all 10 Red Sox he faced in '90. He actually revealed his mortality by giving up a two-out double to Ellis Burks, but Mike Greenwell grounded out, and the game was over at last. The time of the torture: three hours, 26 minutes.
"A beautiful game turned into a horrible evening, didn't it?" said Morgan afterward to gathered reporters. "You all must be half asleep. What is it, 3:30 in the morning?"
Indeed, the original duel between Stewart and Clemens seemed a nearly forgotten dream. In Boston, the matchup had been compared to Bill Russell versus Wilt Chamberlain. Chamberlain, like Clemens, got the individual awards. Russell, like Stewart, got the championship trophies. When asked about the comparison, Stewart said, "That was a little before my time. But yes, Roger gets the publicity. My team gets the titles. Anytime I pitch, they know they're going to win."
The outlook wasn't brilliant for Boston in Game 2, not with 27-game winner and probable Cy Young Award recipient Bob Welch going against eight-game winner and United Parcel Service driver Dana Kiecker. But wait. Morgan revealed before Sunday's game that he was going with a new lucky chestnut in his back pocket. "This one is six and three," he said. Earlier this season, Morgan had picked up a chestnut on the White House lawn, but he released it with a record of 0-2.
Welch versus Kiecker didn't have the hype of Stewart versus Clemens, but it turned out to be every bit as good a matchup. Sadly for the Red Sox, the game turned out to be eerily similar to the first. Again Boston took an early 1-0 lead—this time on Carlos Quintana's sacrifice fly in the third—and Oakland came back to tie the score in the top of the fourth as McGee doubled and his fellow late-season acquisition Baines singled.
The Red Sox kept stepping out of the batter's box on the fast-working Welch, sometimes in the middle of his windup, to disrupt his rhythm, but all they were really doing was prolonging the game and galvanizing the A's. "I understand why they were doing it," said Lansford, a former Red Sox third baseman who had six hits in the two games. "But if anything, it just made us dig in a little more."
Kiecker, who did drive a UPS truck last winter, delivered the goods with 5? innings of solid work. He left to a standing ovation, and the first teammate to greet him in the dugout was Clemens. Said Kiecker later, "I was upset I didn't get out of the inning. I was looking to go seven or eight. I was surprised he [Morgan] took me out."