The prevailing sentiment in baseball is that no team can beat the Oakland Athletics. But according to two top Baltimore Oriole scouts, the Cincinnati Reds might stand a chance.

"The Reds are the one club that has the closest ingredients," said Goldsberry, the special assistant to Oriole General Manager Roland Hemond who served as Chicago Cub farm director from 1981 to '87."I'm referring to speed, forcing the game, using the hit-and-run. You've got to force the game with Oakland. You can't sit back and let things happen.

"Boston didn't have those kinds of attributes. They play fairly solid defense, but they don't have the speed. I think Cincinnati matches up pretty well with Oakland, as far as talent at positions."

Goldsberry, a high-level major-league scout, has seen both the Reds and A's on several occasions this season. Cox, the Orioles' West Coast supervisor, was Cincinnati scouting director in 1988-89.

"I don't think you're going to out-ability Oakland, but for me Cincinnati has an interesting ballclub," Cox said. "I think if they get in this, they've got as good a chance as anybody to do some damage."

Goldsberry and Cox envision a Series in which Oakland's opponent will try desperately to gain the lead in the early innings in order to neutralize the A's vaunted bullpen, led by Dennis Eckersley.

Such a scenario can work only if a team has enough speed to create runs on sheer aggression, and only if a team has a bullpen deep enough to thwart Oakland once its lead is secured.

Cincinnati has both, to a greater extent than the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Barry Bonds stole 52 bases for the Pirates, but Andy Van Slyke was next on the club with 14. The Reds had four players finish with 20 or more steals - Barry Larkin, Billy Hatcher, Eric Davis and Chris Sabo.

As far as bullpens, Goldsberry believes the Nasty Boys - Norm Charlton, Rob Dibble, Randy Myers - give the Reds even more depth than Oakland.

Boston relievers allowed 11 earned runs in their first 6 1-3 innings against Oakland. That matches the total allowed the active members of the Cincinnati bullpen since Sept. 9 - a span of 63 2-3 innings.

But first things first: Taking the lead.

It wouldn't be easy for the Reds, Cox said.

"Every once in a while they can go toe-to-toe," Cox said. "Eric (Davis) can hit the ball as far as (Jose) Canseco when he gets the bat head out. (Paul) O'Neill is capable of hitting balls out. Sabo is capable of hitting balls out.

"The key is, they can't play dumb and beat these guys. Oakland has shown they're capable of playing a couple of different brands of baseball. You've got to pull out all the stops and don't stand toe-to-toe.

"That's a sound way of playing the game anyway. I think they have to be as aggressive as they can be without being dumb. There is a difference. But you really have to go get 'em. If you sit back and try to do it with a three-run homer, you're going to get killed."

Goldsberry said bunting could be a key - the Reds have several players who possess that skill, and "that might take away from some of Oakland's game" by distracting its pitchers. Hit-and-runs also would be critical, as would moving runners over.

Anything, in other words, to push a run across.