The Oakland A's are back on the green grass of home, and that may be their only hope in the World Series.
The Cincinnati Reds ran through, over and under the A's in the first two games of the Series, ruining Oakland's image of invincibility.The Reds took advantage of the carpet at Riverfront Stadium to take the extra base on a confused Oakland defense at every opportunity.
"I think the Astroturf is overrated," Oakland center fielder Dave Henderson said. "We didn't play well, so we deserve to lose. We'll play better at home."
That, of course, remains to be seen.
The A's are scheduled to send Mike Moore (13-15) against Tom Browning (15-9)
tonight in Game 3. Oakland's earned run average at home was 2.60 as opposed to 3.82 on the road.
Browning, however, was 7-1 on the road and only 8-8 at home.
All the signs suggest that the A's are in trouble. Some of those signs were even there before the Series started.
The A's miss Walt Weiss' steady defense at shortstop, Jose Canseco is hurting and Mark McGwire isn't hitting.
Watch Canseco at bat. His stance is different and he often steps out of the batter's box to stretch his aching back.
In Game 1, the Reds destroyed Dave Stewart's invincibility with a 7-0 rout, and on Wednesday night they took care of Dennis Eckersley with a 5-4 victory in 10 innings.
Canseco failed to catch Billy Hatcher's triple in the eighth inning in Game 2, and it turned into the tying run. Some of the A's thought Canseco wasn't hustling, but a home run or two could make it all a memory.
"It was a catch that had to be made if you want to win the game," manager Tony La Russa said.
Meanwhile, Hatcher is 7-for-7 with five extra bases, the bullpen is as nasty as ever and the Reds are running wild on the bases.
"We feel very, very confident," Hatcher said. "But we know we are playing against the world champions and they had won 10 consecutive postseason games, so we're not going to be overconfident. We're going to have to keep playing fundamentally sound baseball."
The A's swept the Boston Red Sox by hanging in there for six or seven innings and then wrecking the relievers. That strategy just won't work with Norm Charlton, Rob Dibble and Randy Myers waiting in the Cincinnati bullpen.
In the first two games, the Reds' bullpen gave up no runs and five hits with nine strikeouts in 9 1/3 innings. For eight postseason games, the pen has given up one earned run and 13 hits in 27 2/3 innings, while fanning 31.
"It's no secret they have a good bullpen," La Russa said. "We knew that coming into the Series. You have to get the early lead to keep them from using Dibble, Myers and Charlton."
No team has ever rallied from a 3-0 deficit, and it's up to Moore to make sure the A's don't have to try.
"It doesn't matter what the situation is - tied or down two games to none," Moore said. "I just have to do my job. I'm not going to put any more pressure on me."
At least Moore's postseason history suggests the A's are in good shape for Game 3. The right-hander is 4-0 in the playoffs and World Series the last two seasons, including two wins against San Francisco last year.
Moore was 19-11 for the A's last year, but dropped to 13-15 this season with a 4.65 ERA. At home he was 7-10.
"It's a confidence booster for me to get a chance in this game," Moore said. "I know there were times I struggled during the year."
The A's will have designated hitter Harold Baines back in the lineup for Game 3 with the Series moving to an AL park, and his presence should help their sagging offense.