Billy Hatcher spent a year trying to get into a lineup, any lineup. Now, the Cincinnati Reds can't get him out of theirs - and the Oakland Athletics can't get him out, period.

Of all the storied stars who have played in a World Series, none of them - Cobb, Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, Mays - ever had a better start than Hatcher. None.Hatcher is 7-for-7 with four doubles and a triple and has reached base in all nine plate appearances as the Reds have taken a 2-0 lead over the A's, the team many were calling a dynasty just two days ago.

Hatcher, obtained by the Reds in an early-April spring training deal considered minor at the time, was 3-for-3 in Tuesday's 7-0 victory, then went 4-for-4 with two doubles, a triple and two runs scored Wednesday in the Reds' 5-4, 10-inning victory in Game 2.

He's scored more runs - five - than the A's (four) have as a team. He has more extra-base hits (five) than the A's (three) have. He is the first player to get seven straight hits since the World Series started in 1903, and he's done it in his first seven Series at-bats.

Of all the off-season trades, free agent signings and million-dollar contracts, who would have thought a Hatcher-for-two minor leaguers deal with Pittsburgh might win a World Series?

"I said two months ago, the reason we were in position to win (the National League West) was because we got Billy Hatcher," Ron Oester said. "Nobody plays the game harder than him. He really wants to be in there."

That's been Hatcher's problem - finding a way to get in there. He didn't enjoy platooning in Houston, but played even less when he was traded to Pittsburgh in August 1989 because of the Pirates' All-Star outfield of Barry Bonds, Andy Van Slyke and Bobby Bonilla.

When he played little during the shortened spring training, Hatcher asked Pirates manager Jim Leyland to deal him if it all possible.

He has been Mr. October II in the postseason, hitting .333 with a homer against his former Pirates' teammates in the NL playoffs. Overall, he's hitting .545 with four RBIs and six extra-base hits in eight 1990 postseason games.

Hatcher doubled home Barry Larkin and scored in Cincinnati's two-run first against 27-game winner Bob Welch, then tripled and scored the tying run in the eighth on Glenn Braggs' forceplay grounder.

The World Series has never seen this kind of hitting, and Hatcher said it's all because he's seeing the ball amazingly well.

"I'm seeing the ball come out of the pitcher's hand. I can even see the seams," Hatcher said. "It's a great feeling. I just hope it lasts a couple of more days."

If it does, the Series might last only a couple of more days.

"Hey, I have confidence in myself," said Hatcher, a career .263 hitter before this season. "I remember one time when I went 13-for-15. I have confidence I can hit."

He hit .400 during an eight-game hitting streak in April and had a four-double game against the Cubs on Aug. 21, tying a major-league record.

He's now within reach of many other World Series records, and he's making it look oh-so-easy.