CINCINNATI -- The Cincinnati Reds surprised Dave Stewart in the opening game of the 87th World Series Tuesday night. He even surprised himself and he doesn't much care for surprises.
"I'm surprised at my wildness," said Stewart after the Reds took advantage of four walks to score four runs on the way to a 7-0 victory in Game 1. "But I'm entitled to have a day like that -- even at this time of year."
His teammates probably would agree. Stewart entered the game with a six-game postseason winning streak that included two victories over the Boston Red Sox in the American League playoffs. He has won 20 games or more in each of the past four seasons. He is not unbeatable, as the Reds proved quickly enough, but success can breed unrealistic expectations.
"Heck, I don't expect to lose," Stewart said, "but anything can happen. I'm not going to take a hot bath and slit my wrists because I didn't pitch well."
That should be comforting for manager Tony La Russa, who expects Stewart to be ready for Game 4 (and Game 7 if necessary). Stewart's postseason track record still is outstanding, as evidenced by his 7-2 record and 2.32 ERA in playoff and World Series play.
But he was not in control Tuesday night. A first-inning walk to Billy Hatcher set up a two-run homer Eric Davis. A leadoff walk to Barry Larkin in the third also turned into a run.
"We did a lot of things poorly," Stewart said. "I didn't pitch well and we had situations where we had guys on the bases and we couldn't score. We just didn't play well."
Davis and Hatcher apparently didn't realize that Stewart is unhittable in the postseason, so they hit him with everything they had. Reds starter Jose Rijo obviously didn't realize that the A's were unstoppable, so he stopped them cold.
Rijo gave up seven hits over seven innings before turning the game over to Nasty Boys Rob Dibble and Randy Myers. Enough said. Advantage Reds, who could have turned the oddsmakers on their ears last night had they been able to rattle 27-game winner Bob Welch in the early innings of Game 2.
"We'd like to get out of here with a lead," Reds manager Lou Piniella said. "It's important that we play well at home and Tuesday we did."
Davis drove in three runs with a home run and a single and Hatcher had three runs and three hits in an unexpected offensive extravaganza that served notice that the A's cannot expect to dink the Reds to death the way they disposed of the Red Sox in the playoffs.
The aura of invincibility that has surrounded Stewart in postseason play apparently wasn't visible to Davis, who only needed one swing to prove that reports of his recent power shortage have been greatly exaggerated.
Davis might have a sore left shoulder and a gimpy right knee, but he can still drive the ball out of the deepest part of the ballpark, which he illustrated with his two-run home run in the first inning.
"It was a big hit for us," Davis said. "When you face a pitcher like Stewart, it's essential that you get off to a good start and get some runs. He's one of those pitchers who gets stronger and stronger as the game goes on."
Piniella had toyed Monday with the concept of moving Davis into the leadoff role, but he resisted the suggestion and wasted little time showing why he has been one of baseball's top run producers the past four seasons.
He jumped on Stewart's first pitch. The ball landed in a camera booth high above the center-field fence, giving the Reds more runs in the first inning than the Red Sox scored against the A's in any single game during the American League Championship Series.
"Any time you can get a lead against the A's, it's important," Hatcher said, "but the big thing was we got our big gun going in Eric Davis. I think Lou made him a little upset wanting him to bat leadoff. Hitting the home run was his way of telling Lou he wants to bat cleanup."
Davis has been playing hurt since he bruised his left shoulder making a spectacular catch in late September. If he seemed powerless in the playoffs, he made up for it in a hurry. But he might have further aggravated the injury when he tried to make a diving catch on a sinking line drive by Rickey Henderson in the third.
Stewart did not look very much like the pitcher who dominated the Red Sox in two playoff starts. He walked Hatcher in the first inning -- which would come back to haunt him -- and he walked two more batters in the second. In the playoffs, he only walked two batters in 16 innings.
His leadoff walk in the third led to still another run as the Reds took advantage of a double by Hatcher and a throwing error by Mike Gallego to take a 4-0 lead. Middle reliever Todd Burns was up in the Oakland bullpen by the top of the fourth inning and in the game for the fifth.
"Stew is great almost every time he goes out there," La Russa said. "Tonight [Tuesday], he wasn't. You have to give their offensive team credit for making him pay."