CINCINNATI -- A bizarre, last-minute pitching change by the Pittsburgh Pirates last night turned Game 6 of the National League Championship Series in a chess match between Jim Leyland and Lou Piniella. There were moves, counter-moves and even some hint that the Pirates' maneuvers were unethical.
Leyland decided to start righty Ted Power against the Cincinnati Reds, even though he had indicated after Game 5 that lefty Zane Smith would pitch. The Pirates went so far as to send Smith to Thursday's off-day press conference, and had him answer questions and otherwise misrepresent himself as the Game 6 starter.
It wasn't until late yesterday that Leyland unveiled his true plan: to start Power, whose 40 appearances in 1990 were all in relief. Leyland said, "I apologize if what I did seems unethical" but, "I didn't want to be bothered by a million questions," about the pitching change.
There were rumblings in the Pirates' camp that Leyland had decided on this plan: Force the Reds to use up lefties like Paul O'Neill, Jeff Reed and Hal Morris. Let Power throw a few pitches, then summon Smith. That way, the outwitted Piniella would have to choose between two ugly options: leaving his lefties in the game to face Smith, or else pinch hit for the lefties and lose them for the last seven or eight innings.
Such a game plan would turn "the second inning into the ninth," said Pirates pitching coach Ray Miller. But Piniella was suspicious from the beginning. He started the switch-hitting Todd Benzinger at first base, used righty Joe Oliver behind the plate and kept O'Neill in right only because, "He's swinging the bat so well," Piniella said.
In other words, Leyland may have outsmarted himself. The Reds still had a right-handed hitting lineup to face Smith, and there were plenty of lefties available if Power somehow lasted past the fifth inning.
* Pirates general manager Larry Doughty, who feared being fired after a late-season roster mix-up, and manager Leyland reached terms on new two-year contracts last night.
Leyland's current contract, which he signed last year, was a two-year deal worth $500,000. The Pirates' manager since 1986, Leyland is now signed through 1993.
Doughty, whose contract was to expire Oct. 31, wanted a three-year deal but agreed to a two-year extension plus an option year and is signed through the 1992 season.
* Rob Dibble has given an almost-daily oration about how he is underpaid ($200,000), how he wants the chance to be a closer, that he wants to be traded.
Owner Marge Schott was quoted as saying: "Rob's a good boy, he really is. But he's like a little baby sometimes. I'll have to smack him one. I'll have to talk to him and say, 'Shut up.' "
But Dibble is not backing off.
"Nobody can tell me what not to say," he said after he criticized Pittsburgh pitcher Doug Drabek loudly after Drabek shut down the Reds in Game 5.
"I'm doing my job on the field and I can say anything I want. And I will."
Dibble called Drabek "a sissy' for throwing breaking balls and questioned after a galling loss whether the Pirates ace deserved the Cy Young Award.
But he later toned down his remarks, insisting he wa "frustrated. I didn't mean what I said about Drabek. I could have been yelling at anybody on their team. I felt we should have won the game.
"Drabek's a great pitcher. He stuck it to us and he deserves th Cy Young."
last night's game.
* Reds officials were confident their fans would behave and di not plan to inundate the field with guard dogs as Philadelphia did during its world-title clinching 10 years ago.
Schott said the problems were "marginal" when the Reds clinched the NL West Sept. 29. "It was nothing out of the ordinary from a regular game. Everything was pretty much under control."
The only dog allowed in the park will be Schottzie.
Sun wire services contributed to this article.