OAKLAND,CALIF. — OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Cincinnati Reds were running short of pitching in the latter stages of Wednesday night's extra-inning victory in Game 3 or manager Lou Piniella never would have noticed that left-hander Tom Browning had left the stadium.
Browning left in the seventh inning after he was notified that his wife had gone into labor while watching the game from the stands.
Debbie Browning gave birth to a 6-pound, 10-ounce boy [Tucker Thomas] a couple of hours later and her husband was there in his Reds uniform to witness the birth, but not before his manager made an unusual attempt to coax him back to the ballpark.
With the game heading into extra innings, Piniella enlisted broadcaster Marty Brennaman to put out a call over the radio to Browning, informing him that he might be needed to pitch. But Browning wasn't listening to the radio broadcast, so he remained by his wife's side until the couple's third child was born.
"I apologized to Lou for not telling him I was leaving," Browning said. "I told him the circumstances. I didn't know what to do. I did the best thing I thought possible."
Browning rejoined the club in time for yesterday's team flight to Oakland and will be the Reds' starting pitcher in Game 3 tonight. The past couple of days have been hectic, but he said his performance might be better for it.
"I'm a lot more relaxed now," he said. I won't have that thought in the back of my mind. I'll be able to concentrate on pitching."
* The availability of Cincinnati's starter, Jose Rijo, has come into question. He has developed a blood blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand, but still is scheduled to start for the Reds.
"The blister is not normal," he said. "I don't know what to expect from it at this point. There's nothing I can do for it that I know of -- just take it like a man."
* Nobody has to remind the Oakland A's that the last time they found themselves down and almost out in the World Series, the major player was also named Hatcher.
Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Mickey Hatcher went 7-for-19 with two home runs and five RBI to help drop the A's in five games.
But Billy Hatcher has been much harder on them. He already has seven hits and has scored five runs -- one more than the entire Oakland lineup -- in the first two games.
* The Reds have a lot of history on their side. Three of every four teams that have taken a 2-0 advantage in the World Series have gone on to win it.
"Being up two games means they have to win four and we have to win two," said Reds utility man Ron Oester. "We still have to stay humble. We're surprising everyone but ourselves. We're not even thinking about a sweep. That would be a miracle.
"They're still the best team in baseball right now. I wanted to play them instead of Boston because Oakland is the best and you want to beat the best. If you beat the best, you get more respect."
* Relief pitcher Norm Charlton has been taking CBS to task for the way it handled the introductions of the starting lineups. He criticized the network for not introducing non-starters before Game 1 and scoffed when a network spokesman explained that the introductions were held to a minimum so schoolchildren wouldn't have to stay up so late to watch the game.
"That's ridiculous," Charlton said. "Think about what you say before you say it. If they really cared about kids watching these games, they wouldn't start them an hour later than normal games."
* The A's are not comfortable in their new underdog role, and they apparently aren't willing to concede anything just yet.
"We're the defending world champions," third baseman Carney Lansford said. "I'm not going to give anybody anything. If I'm going to go down, I'm going down fighting."
Teammate Dave Henderson had no excuses for the club's back-to-back losses in Cincinnati.
"If we don't play good baseball, we shouldn't expect to win," he said. "It's simple. You usually lose when you don't play well."
* Outfielder Jose Canseco and manager Tony La Russa held a lengthy closed-door meeting late yesterday afternoon, presumably to discuss the criticism directed at Canseco by La Russa and at least one A's player after Wednesday night's game.
La Russa questioned Canseco's effort on the long fly ball by Hatcher that glanced off Canseco's glove for a damaging triple in the eighth inning of Game 2. Hatcher eventually scored the tying run, and the Reds went on to win.
Both La Russa and pitching ace Dave Stewart said Canseco did not seem to be completely focused on the game. Canseco denied that and complained that he was being made a scapegoat for a tough loss.
After yesterday's meeting, Canseco downplayed the incident, though his insistence that he and La Russa are "the best of friends" seemed tinged with sarcasm.
"I don't want this thing to get blown out of proportion," Canseco said, "because it's not that big of a deal."