OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Boston Red Sox should have known that their California experience wasn't going to be very much fun. The new-wave Oakland Athletics haven't even raised a forearm yet and the American League Championship Series is almost over.
When it came time for the Red Sox to face the music at the Oakland Coliseum, everyone expected heavy metal and got M.C. Hammer instead. The A's even trotted out the master rapper himself for the first-ball ceremony and played his hit song, "U Can't Touch This." Then they danced to it, ducking and weaving to another hit-and-run, 4-1 victory that left the Sox on the eve of destruction.
The Red Sox are in sudden-death. The A's lead the best-of-seven series three games to none with noted Boston-beater Dave Stewart ready to take the mound for Game 4 this afternoon. Roger Clemens, who has been doing some bobbing and weaving himself lately, is the only thing standing between the A's and their third consecutive American League pennant.
Right-hander Mike Boddicker became the third Boston starter to pitch well and not win, giving up just two earned runs over eight innings to atone for a horrible performance here in Game 3 of the 1988 playoffs. Oakland right-hander Mike Moore pitched better, giving up a run on four hits over six innings to win for the fourth time in four career postseason starts.
There were some raised eyebrows when A's manager Tony La Russa announced last week that Moore would be the Game 3 starter. His 13-15 record and 4.65 ERA during the regular season didn't make him the obvious choice, but Moore proved one of two things when he took the mound yesterday: (1) He's a good big-game pitcher or (2) The Red Sox can't beat anyone in an Oakland uniform. Perhaps it was a little of both.
Moore came into the game with a six-game losing streak against the Red Sox, and there were indications early that he might add to it. Legendary power hitter Jody Reed lined Moore's second pitch of the game over the left-field fence, but the ball hooked foul by a few feet. Boston took the lead with a run in the second inning, but was frustrated again when the rally ended on a disputed checked-swing third strike by shortstop Luis Rivera.
"The ballgame was decided rather early," said Boston manager Joe Morgan. "The first batter hit a home run that went foul by
three feet, and we got a bad break on Rivera and that is the way the game went."
Moore retired 13 of the next 15 batters he faced and then turned the game over to an Oakland bullpen that has not been scored upon in the first three games of the series.
"I think I got progressively better from the third inning on," Moore said. "I got in trouble a little bit in the second inning, but after that, I got into a little better rhythm."
The A's have been accused of dinking their way to the World Series. They have had 51 baserunners in three games, but have only three extra-base hits -- all doubles.
Their big hitters were not heard from at all in Game 3. Thoffensive star of the game was veteran second baseman Willie Randolph, who drove in the go-ahead run in Oakland's two-run fourth inning and singled in another run in the sixth.
The A's stole their final run of the game, running a delaye double steal in the sixth that wouldn't have worked if Terry Steinbach had not barreled into Red Sox catcher Tony Pena and knocked the ball out of his glove.
Randolph was the front man on that play, too. He took off for second and pulled up just a few feet short of the bag, allowing Steinbach to break for the plate. The throw was in plenty of time, so Pena was charged with an error, the third error of the game for a normally sound Red Sox defensive team.
There was nothing left for the Sox to do but curse the fates. They hit the ball harder than the A's for the second game in a row, but they continued to fail miserably with men in scoring position (0-for-17 through three playoff games). No one was saying the A's were lucky this time, but the implication was there, prompting someone to ask Morgan why he seemed unimpressed with the Oakland attack.
"I don't seem too impressed?" he replied. "They're the best team in the world. I said that a long time ago."
La Russa continued to defend the soft contact drill that has become his team's offense. The results speak for themselves, even if the Bash Brothers don't have a single forearm bruise to show for the first three games of the series.
"Somebody was surprised that I was upset that people were shooting at our offense," he said. "I'm really proud of our offense. I think we had three great games against three good pitchers. Offensively, you try to get what you can. It sounded like people were shooting at our offense, and I think we're doing great."
Who can argue? The A's are the 18th major-league team to take a 3-0 lead in a best-of-seven postseason series, and no team ever has recovered from a three-game deficit to win either the playoffs or the World Series.
"I think it's going to be awfully tough," said Stewart, who would like to end any debate on the subject today. "I really don't think they can come back and beat us four straight games. That would really be tough."
Closer to impossible, under the circumstances. The Red Sox couldn't beat Stewart, even with Clemens pitching six shutout innings. They did not beat 27-game winner Bob Welch, even though they got a surprisingly strong performance from rookie Dana Kiecker. They couldn't even beat Moore, who had a 9.68 ERA in the four games leading up to yesterday's start.
Now Boston must defeat all three of them just to win the privilege of facing Stewart in Game 7.