BOSTON -- Jose Canseco has been shooting his mouth off again, but the Oakland Athletics earned the right to talk tough Saturday night.
They survived six scoreless innings by Roger Clemens. They ran roughshod over an already battle-weary Boston Red Sox bullpen. They scored seven runs in the ninth inning to turn Game 1 of the American League playoffs into a 9-1 laugher.
For an encore, they had 27-game winner Bob Welch witing totake his turn against rookie right-hander Daba Kiecker. No wonder Canseco was willing to flirt with what could turn out to be some famous last words.
"If they can't beat Bob Welch, they might as well forget it," Canseco said. "It's over with."
That remains to be seen, of course, but the Red Sox figured to be in trouble regardless of the outcome of Game 2 last night. the loss on Saturday night represented more than just one game in the best-of-seven series. It reinforced the notion that even Boston's best -- and Clemens definitely is Boston's best -- could not stop the mighty A's.
Clemens could only hold the line, and he didn't do it long enough to get the Red Sox moving in the right direction. He pitched six shutout innings. He gave up just four hits. He tired after that, and the A's sent the Boston bullpen to sleep with the fishes.
We're on familiar ground right now," said Red Sox veteran Dwight Evans. "We know thinghs are against us. It's frustrating, but we've been in this spot before. We're going to have to come out scoring tomorrow."
The Red Sox have been in this spot before. Two years ago, they lost the opener at Fenway Park and came right back to lose three more in a row. And that year, they had a Bruce Hurst to go with Clemens.
This time, they are even more overmatched and endermanned. That much became evident as soon as Clemens and his questionable shoulder had to leave the game. The remainder of the Red Sox rotation consists of Mike Boddicker and a bunch of guys with part-time jobs off-season.
Third baseman Wade Boggs provided all the offense the Red Sox were going to get off Oakland starter Dave Stewart when he sliced an opposite-field fly ball into the screen above Fenway's famous Green Monster.He can only hope that by the time postseason tournament is over that Finley's Green and Gold monsters of the early 1970s have not been completely forgotten in Oakland.
Stewart gave up four hits over eight innings. Technically, he didn't defeat Clemens this time, but he continued to dominate the Red Sox -- defeating them for the fourth time this season.
Boggs' fourth-inning home run was the first hit he gave up all night. The rest of the Boston offensive attack consisted of three singles, evenly distributed over the next four innings. Dennis Eckersley came on to pitch the ninth, but only because he was warmed up and ready when the A's scored seven runs in the top of that inning.
Perhaps the ninth was academic anyway. Eckersley is frighteningly efficient in save situations, and the A's had taken the lead on Carney Lansford's looping RBI single to right in the eighth. But the seven-run Oakland rally -- and the ragged performance of the Red Sox bullpen -- seemed to sum up this playoff series in advance.
Left-hander Tom Bolton was the only one of five Boston relievers to escape unscored upon, but he was in the game only long enough for Harold Baines to lay down a sacrifice bunt in the eighth.
Larry Andersen came on in the seventh and walked Mark McGwire to lead off the inning. Pinch hitter Jamie Quirk delivered a one-out single to put runners at first and third, and Rickey Henderson tied the game with a sacrifice fly.
Oakland manager Tony La Russa pushed some buttons to push the A's into the lead in the eighth, using Baines' first sacrifice bunt in six years to help set up the go-ahead run. Canseco had opened the inning with a single. He would go to second on the bunt and steal third before Lansford singled off Jeff Gray to break the 1-1 tie.
It got ugly after that. The A's tied a playoff record with seven runs in the same inning. Three Red Sox relievers gave up five hits and three walks to go with a variety of other mishaps, including an error by Gray and a passed ball by Tony Pena.
"It was an unfortunate night for us because neither Gray nor Anderson had their best stuff," Red Sox manager Joe Morgan said. "I felt Anderson would come in and baffle them for two innings, Jeff Reardon would close the door and we'd win, 1-0. It didn't work out."