CINCINNATI -- Two days before the World Series began, Cincinnati manager Lou Piniella asked leftfielder Eric Davis to consider batting leadoff against Oakland.
Davis balked at the idea -- "I slept on it," he said, "but I didn't sleep too good." So last night, he hit in his usual cleanup spot. And he crushed a two-run homer off Dave Stewart in the first inning.
Rickey Henderson was among those who called the homer the turning point of the Reds' 7-0 victory at Riverfront Stadium. Depending on what happens next, it might prove the turning point of the series.
"He'll stay right in the four spot," Piniella said, smiling.
Davis continues to wear huge ice packs on his left shoulder and right knee after games. The latter injury is the one that caused him to reject Piniella's proposal, even though he stole 80 bases in 1986.
The irony is, Piniella suggested the change to reduce the pressure on Davis, who had not hit a home run since Sept. 26. His dropoff in power occurred after he injured his shoulder crashing into an outfield wall.
"I hit leadoff my whole career until 1986," Davis said. "It didn't bother me that much. But we've come this far, and I've hit fourth for four years. My role is to drive in runs. It was not a tough decision."
Davis added an RBI single in the Reds' three-run fifth, and he just missed making a spectacular diving catch on a double by Henderson. "I thought about my shoulder after that," he said. "But it was still on my neck, so I knew it was all right."
"It's hard for Eric right now," Reds centerfielder Billy Hatcher said. "He's injured and when he's not producing, people want to blame him. But like Eric says, 'I'm just not doing the job.'
"I think Lou made him a bit upset by saying he wanted to bat him leadoff. Eric wanted to bat fourth. When he hit that home run, he was just telling Lou, 'Hey, I want to bat fourth.' "
Piniella got the message, loud and clear.
* NECESSARY SWITCH: Dave Henderson is expected to replace Willie McGee as the Oakland centerfielder tonight against lefthander Danny Jackson. The change figures to help the A's considerably.
McGee, the NL batting champion, turned in a dismal performance last night as the No. 2 hitter behind Rickey Henderson, who went 3-for-5 with two doubles.
Twice in one-out situations Henderson could not even think about stealing because McGee made out on the first pitch -- first grounding out with Henderson on second, then hitting into a double play.
The first situation was especially critical, for it occurred with the A's trailing 2-0 in the third inning. By stealing third, Henderson could have put himself into position to score on either a ground ball or sacrifice fly.
Dave Henderson figured to play anyway tonight because the switch-hitting McGee (1-for-5) is not as good a hitter from the right side. Either Henderson or Carney Lansford is expected to bat second.
* BASH? WHAT BASH? The other A's goat last night was first baseman Mark McGwire, who stranded five runners with two outs, including a popup with the bases loaded and the score 3-0 in the fifth.
McGwire said he swung too soon at Jose Rijo's 2-1 slider, which Rijo admitted "was not one of my better pitches." McGwire is now 2-for-16 in the postseason. Both his hits were singles. He has stranded 18.
"It's five ballgames," McGwire said. "It's not like I haven't gotten that many hits in five ballgames before. And it's not like I'm swinging the bat badly."
The other Bash Brother, Jose Canseco, went 0-for-2 with two walks. He said his bruised right middle finger was bothersome only on throws from rightfield, and claimed he saw the ball well.
* TV BLUES: As if baseball needed any more proof of the power of television, CBS denied a request from both the A's and Reds to have all the players introduced before the game, not just the starters.
"We're learning how good another network was, how committed to baseball another network besides CBS has been," Cincinnati player representative Norm Charlton said, referring first to NBC, then ESPN.
Charlton enlisted the support of Oakland player rep Terry Steinbach before requesting a change in CBS's pre-game plans. "We talked to CBS through our media department," Charlton said. "They said, 'Tough luck.' "
CBS offered to introduce all the players before Games 2 and 3, Charlton said, but refused to budge on last night. "I think it would be pretty appropriate," Steinbach said, "but CBS thought otherwise, I guess."
* MEDIA ALL-STARS: Here's a lineup of active and former players carrying microphones or notepads at the World Series. Some are slightly out of position, but who cares?
Outfield: Ken Griffey Sr., Gary Matthews, Dave Parker.
Third base: Johnny Bench.
Shortstop: Ray Knight.
Second base: Joe Morgan.
First base: Len Matuszek.
Catcher: Tim McCarver, Joe Garagiola.
Pitchers: Jim Kaat, John Curtis.
* HOMETOWN HERO: Oakland infielder Mike Bordick has a hamburger named for him in his hometown of Winterport, Maine. It's called the "Bordi Burger," which could lead to a protest from former Oriole Rich Bordi.
Anyway, the Dry Dock Restaurant contributes 10 cents from every burger sold to the Winterport Little League. Bordick said the restaurant is keeping a running total. "Yeah," he said. "Like McDonald's."
* AROUND THE HORN: Billy Hatcher went 3-for-3 in his first Series game, but fell two hits short of the record for a series debut -- five by Milwaukee's Paul Molitor against St. Louis in 1982.