CINCINNATI -- The turning point, according to nearly all the National League champion Cincinnati Reds, came in Game 2.
At least that was the consensus after the Reds beat the Pittsburgh Pirates, 2-1, Friday night to win Game 6 -- and the pennant -- in a game that produced an unlikely set of heroes in Glenn Braggs, Luis Quinones and Ron Oester.
"Winning Game 2 and beating their ace [was the key]," Reds manager Lou Piniella said Friday night. "We have always been a good road team, and we played especially well at Pittsburgh because the two fields are similar."
In Game 2, the Reds weathered a complete game by Doug Drabek, the probable Cy Young Award winner, and won, 2-1, to tie the series.
"Things had shifted our way," said Rob Dibble of the "Nasty Boys." "After winning the second game, we felt great about our chances in Pittsburgh."
Said Pirates manager Jim Leyland: "After we took the first game, the next one was the biggest of the series. It was the turning point. We had a shot at Tom Browning, who obviously wasn't feeling great, but we missed it."
The Reds went on to win two of three at Three Rivers Stadium in a tight, competitive series whose outcome was determined by their superior defense and bullpen and surprisingly good performances by their starting pitchers.
Four games were decided by one run, and one game by two. Every game but one went into the ninth with the trailing team having a chance to win.
The clincher was merely a reflection of the entire series, appropriately climaxed when Braggs, a part-time outfielder, leaped above the right-field wall to snag Carmelo Martinez's bid for a two-run homer in the top of the ninth.
It was the final irony to Leyland's switch to right-handed reliever Ted Power as his starter instead of left-hander Zane Smith. Braggs would have been in the lineup against Smith and might have been out of the game by the ninth.
"I didn't know if the ball was out of the park," said Braggs, who was acquired from Milwaukee in June for pitcher Ron Robinson. "I knew where the wall was. I jumped up and then my back hit the wall. I didn't have to jump too high. It seemed like the ball went in slow motion into my glove."
Had Braggs not been playing deep in the "No Doubles" late-inning defense to prevent extra-base hits, he probably would not have gotten there.
Quinones, 20-for-48 (.417) lifetime against the Pirates, singled home the winning run in the seventh against Smith, who took the loss.
He was batting for the leading hitter in the series, Paul O'Neill, who had two of the four Reds outfield assists that repeatedly thwarted Pirates rallies.
"As a boy in Puerto Rico, I used to dream of a moment like this," he said.
Then there was Oester, the only Red who played on the 1979 West Division champions, a member of a team that finished second four straight years under Pete Rose (1985-88) and the victim of a Piniella decision to hand the second-base job to Mariano Duncan, who kept it until Bill Doran was acquired from Houston in August.
Oester scored the winning run after leading off the inning with a single.
"I had the biggest grin on my face just because I got into the game," Oester said.
Said Browning: "He's the heart and soul of this team. He lives and dies with the Cincinnati Reds. He's the one guy everybody looks up to because of what he's been through."
The predictable was that Danny Jackson would pitch well. A proven postseason commodity after rescuing the Kansas City Royals from the brink of elimination twice in 1985, Jackson continued the shutdown of the Pirates' attack with six one-hit innings that were punctuated by 4 1/3 perfect ones.
"That was his best outing by far," said catcher Joe Oliver. "He was in complete control. Not one of their guys was getting good hacks. He seemed like he could get guys out at will the whole game."
Then, Piniella, censured for a strategic move in Game 5, pulled another surprise. He brought in lefty Norm Charlton with three straight right-handers coming up, including Martinez, who had the only Pirates hit and RBI.
Dibble was also warming up, and Charlton said he was "as surprised as anyone. I thought he might have screwed up."
But Piniella assumed Martinez would be bunting with two on and none out and figured, "It's much easier for a left-hander to field it going down the third-base line and throw a runner out at third base."
Martinez fouled out trying to bunt and Piniella left Charlton in to face Don Slaught and Jose Lind, both of whom flied out. Piniella's reason: He wanted left-handed-hitters Sid Bream and Mike LaValliere to stay on the bench.
Randy Myers finished it off with the help of Braggs' gem, and the Reds qualified for their first World Series since 1976.
* The Reds were savoring, not looking ahead. The world champion Oakland Athletics could wait a few days.
"We'll be very competitive," said Piniella. "If the manager doesn't feel that way, how can he expect anyone else to?"