The Pittsburgh Pirates' no-name bullpen saw all the pre-playoff attention that Cincinnati's "Nasty Boys" relievers got and it made them - well, nasty.
All of the analysts, all of the advance scouts, many of the National League's players and managers agreed the one big advantage the Reds had over Pittsburgh was the bullpen.So why couldn't the Reds hold a 3-0 lead? Why did Nasty Boy left-hander Norm Charlton give up the winning run in the Pirates' 4-3 victory Thursday? And why did Pittsburgh's who-are-these-guys bullpen by committee pitch three scoreless innings?
"We really haven't gotten a lot of respect all year," said rookie Stan Belinda, who retired all six hitters he faced. "It really didn't bother us. But Jimmy (Leyland) rested us before the playoffs, and we're real strong."
Down the stretch, Leyland used right-hander Vicente Palacios, recalled after postseason rosters were frozen on Sept. 1, as his closer. That took the pressure off a bullpen that slumped during the dog days of August and a six-game losing streak in early September.
Until what Belinda called "that little rough spell," the bullpen of Belinda, Ted Power, Bill Landrum, Bob Kipper, Bob Patterson and, until he was traded, Scott Ruskin, led the league with a 21-7 record. They finished 28-18 with a 2.96 earned run average.
Leyland is grooming Belinda, a sidearm-throwing right-hander with a 90-mph fastball, as his closer of the future. And, like most young pitchers who rely on heat, Belinda (3-4, 3.55 ERA, eight saves) can be awesome or awful.
"A lot of managers wouldn't have used me in the situations Jimmy did," he said. "But he had enough guts to use me in tight situations. He built up a lot of confidence in me. I came in there pumped up tonight.
"Our bullpen is capable of doing this. We didn't feel like we had to prove anything to anybody. We don't feel we had to prove we're better than the Nasty Boys."
Sid Bream received most of the postgame attention for his game-tying two-run homer, but Mike LaValliere and Jay Bell said he beat the Reds with his head as much as with his homer.
With Eric Davis on second and pinch-runner Billy Bates on first with one out in the ninth, Davis broke for third. Bates hesitated for an instant before breaking for second, but LaValliere's on-line throw beat him easily.
LaValliere said Bream deked Bates at first, faking as if he were going to take a pickoff throw.
"I was going to bluff him and try to get him to go back to first," Bream said. "Spanky was going to throw to second no matter what. And it worked. The biggest thing about that is if (Bates) doesn't start to lean back to first, you have the option of a pickoff."
"Bates has played well all month and has five steals," Manager Lou Piniella said. "If he doesn't get a good jump, the coaches have told him not to go, but Bates said he had a good jump. You're darned if you do and darned if you're don't. The catcher made a good throw."
Leyland held 22-game winner Doug Drabek out of Game 1, using Bob Walk. Drabek (22-6), the first Pirate to lead the league in victories since Bob Friend (22-14) in 1958, was to pitch today's second game. He has pitched on four days' rest all season, and Leyland wasn't about to deviate. Besides, "I remember Walk taking the ball a few years ago (in 1986) when a whole lot of pitchers we had would not. I thought it would be a nice gesture to give him the ball," Leyland said.