CINCINNATI -- It is not unusual for Jose Canseco and Dennis Eckersley to be the center of attention in the Oakland A's clubhouse.
What is out of the ordinary is for those two to be central figures in an agonizing defeat that leaves chances of back-to-back World Championships in peril.
Neither Canseco nor Eckersley offered excuses after the A's 5-4 loss to the Cincinnati Reds last night. And both admitted the A's were in a difficult, though not impossible, situation.
"I haven't even had time to second-guess myself," said Eckersley, who gave up three straight singles in the 10th inning. "I didn't pitch good from the stretch at all. I was too quick."
Eckersley was asked when was the last time he walked off the mound a losing pitcher. "I haven't had to take that walk in a while," he said. "That's one of the good things about not pitching in tie games on the road. I guess the last time might be [Kirk] Gibson, but I don't want to bring that stuff up."
Eckersley was referring to the Gibson home run that beat him in the first game of the 1988 World Series (when the A's also lost the first two on the road and were eliminated at home in five games).
"You can't make mistakes, or you lose," said Eckersley, "and we made mistakes; I made mistakes. I don't think we've had our backs to the wall like this at all this year. We'll see what we're made of -- but if any team can come back from losing two straight, it's this one."
Across the clubhouse, Canseco was recounting his difficulties with the rightfield area of Riverfront Stadium, and saying much the same thing. His failure to catch Billy Hatcher's leadoff triple in the eighth inning was the game's key play.
"I thought I had that ball easy," said Canseco. "But then I kept running, running, running and it hit off the tip of my glove."
Although he said the wind to rightfield gave him trouble in both games here, Canseco admitted he might have been slightly out of position. "Under the circumstances, yeah, I might have been playing a little too shallow.
"The ball really carries to rightfield here," he said. "The ball I hit [his home run in the third inning, which went to rightfield] was out of here as soon as it left my bat. I didn't think I hit it that good, it was behind me, and you saw where it went.
"This is a very, very different park. I'm surprised Cincinnati doesn't have some 50-home run hitters. The two balls that went over my head [Barry Larkin hit a double to lead off the first inning], I thought I would catch. In Oakland those balls might have landed in front of me. I'm telling you, it's a lot different here."
Going home and playing on a natural surface should help the A's, but that alone won't be enough. "It will be a little different playing in Oakland," said Canseco. "But it's going to be tough."