BOSTON -- The Boston Red Sox succeeded in keeping the Bash Brothers from baring their forearms at Fenway Park over the weekend, but the alternative was not much of an improvement.
The Oakland Athletics can play the little game, too, and that's why the American League Championship Series has been placed on two games' notice. The A's came from behind to score a 4-1 victory in Game 2 last night and headed back to California with a seemingly insurmountable two-game advantage in the best-of-seven playoff.
The apparent mismatch between 27-game-winner Bob Welch and sometime United Parcel Service deliveryman Dana Kiecker didn't go quite as expected, but the battle of the bullpens went to the A's for the second night in a row. Welch gave up a run on six hits in 7 1/3 innings, then turned the game over to Rick Honeycutt and Dennis Eckersley. Any questions?
The Red Sox bullpen didn't take the kind of beating that made Game 1 such an embarrassment, but the A's scored three times off Boston relievers in the late innings, including two more damaging ninth-inning runs to put the game away.
Right-hander Greg Harris gave up the go-ahead run in the seventh inning, and stopper Jeff Reardon gave up both runs in the ninth, as the Red Sox missed an opportunity to even the series.
"We stayed in the game again," Boston manager Joe Morgan said. "One clout and we could have done it, but we didn't."
The Red Sox got another solid performance from the starting rotation -- for all the good it did them. Kiecker gave up a run on six hits in 5 2/3 innings, but left with the game tied and was not involved in the decision.
He has come a long way from the UPS route he was running last winter, but no one really expected him to deliver the way he did in his postseason debut, retiring nine of the first 10 batters he faced and giving up just three hits through the first five innings.
Welch was not so efficient, working with runners on base in each of the first four innings and giving up a run in the third on a leadoff double by Luis Rivera and a sacrifice fly by Carlos Quintana.
The Red Sox did everything they could to disrupt Welch's rhythm, at one point prompting La Russa to complain to home plate umpire John Hirschbeck about the number of hitters stepping out of the batters box to interrupt his pitcher's windup. No doubt, they were trying to play mind games with the excitable Welch, but they succeeded only in angering his manager and turning Game 2 into the longest nine-inning game in ALCS history 3 hours, 42 minutes.
"That's what I spoke to [Hirschbeck] about," La Russa said. "I don't think there's anything wrong with stepping out if you're not ready, but I don't like it when it becomes a tactic. There comes a time when gamesmanship becomes ----."
The A's came back -- everybody knew they would -- scoring a run in the fourth on an RBI single by Harold Baines and then waiting around for that inevitable moment when Morgan could no longer resist the impulse to call for a relief pitcher.
It came in the sixth, after Kiecker bunched three singles around a double- play ball, but the A's did not break through until the seventh, when reliever Greg Harris gave up back-to-back hits to open the inning and turned the game over to Larry Andersen.
Willie McGee grounded into a force at second before Andersen walked Jose Canseco on four pitches and got Baines to bounce a run-scoring grounder to first.
Baines ended up with three RBI, driving home another run in the ninth with his second hit of the game. The A's outscored the Red Sox, 13-2, at Fenway, without the benefit of a single home run. They had 25 hits, and 22 of them were singles, which led someone to ask La Russa if the club is undergoing a change of philosophy.
"All I know it that after both games, we had the most runs," he said. "Sometimes, having a lot of guys on base makes it look like you're hustling. A home run clears the bases, and then it looks like nothing's happening.
"I'm just proud of this club. These were two hard-earned wins. They were close games. We had to do a lot to win. They [the Red Sox] played great defense, so I thought we earned every bit of it."
The A's didn't exactly bomb the Boston bullpen this time, but they didn't have to. Welch was in trouble in almost every inning, but the Red Sox did little to take advantage of a string of opportunities.
Though both games were one-run games until the ninth inning, at least one vocal member of A's starting lineup said he thinks that the outcome of the series is no longer in doubt.
"We're not coming back here," Rickey Henderson said. "If they can beat us two out of three in Oakland, then there's something wrong with us."