The Cincinnati Reds, the team that would be swept, is on the verge of sweeping this World Series.
Enough of Oakland's failing A's. The Reds made an unmistakable case Friday night that they are winning, rather than the Athletics losing.With seven runs in the third inning, two home runs by Chris Sabo and enough strong pitching by Tom Browning to get to the Nasty Boys in the bullpen, the Reds took a 3-0 lead with an 8-3 victory.
"A lot of things went right for us," Reds manager Lou Piniella said. "We're here to win this thing and now we're in a very good position."
Sabo got Cincinnati going with home runs in the second and third innings off pitiful Mike Moore, and added some Sabotage in the field with three nice plays among a record-tying 10 chances for a third baseman.
"It's a game of concentration and I've learned that if I get too emotional, I don't play well," said Sabo, 6-for-12 in the Series. "I'm excited, but the object is to win four."
The Reds took advantage of an Oakland error, not the other way around, and they ran, ran, ran. They even got the breaks - Joe Oliver, who singled in the 10th to win Game 2, was safe when his check-swing roller hit the chalk on the third-base line and stayed fair.
The Athletics did finally solve Billy Hatcher, getting him to ground into a double play in his first at-bat after a streak of seven hits and two walks. But Hatcher singled during a seven-run third and finished 2-for-5.
By the end of the third, every Cincinnati batter had either scored a run or driven one in, and it was 8-2. By that time, the fans were also out of it, having gone from shouts to shock. They did save some late boos, however, for Jose Canseco, whose misplay on a fly ball set up Oakland's loss in Game 2 and set off some angry words in the Athletics' clubhouse.
"They're making the plays, making the pitches, getting the hits. They've got it going," Oakland manager Tony La Russa said. "They've been roughing us up.
"It doesn't feel good on this side. I'd rather be on the other side," he said. "Fortunately, it's a seven-game series and I like our chances tomorrow."
Tom Browning, pitching 44 hours after witnessing the birth of his son in a Cincinnati hospital, overcame Harold Baines' two-run homer in the second and stayed out of further trouble until Rob Dibble relieved in the seventh and Randy Myers took over in the eighth.
"I had a good two or three days," Browning said. "I was a little nervous at the beginning, but they gave me a big lead and I was able to settle down."
Overall, it was Oh Baby! for Browning and the boys from Cincinnati and again nasty for the Athletics. And, as it has become clearer and clearer in the last week, the story of the series is the Reds, not Oakland.
Cincinnati became the 18th team to take a 3-0 lead in the World Series. The first 17 went on to win, 14 in a sweep, the other three in five games.
Only once all season did Oakland lose three straight games to one team - in June to Chicago. Only once this year did the Athletics lose four in a row.
The Reds will try to finish off a season in which they spent every day in first place during the regular season, and were ahead for every day except one in the playoffs, when Jose Rijo faces Dave Stewart in Game 4 tonight. They met in the opener, and Rijo and the Reds blew away Stewart and the struggling A's, 7-0.
From the start, the Reds put on the pressure. Barry Larkin led off with a single and when the Athletics did get Hatcher out, they got two with a double play. Paul O'Neill and Eric Davis followed with singles, but Moore escaped, for now, by getting Morris on a hard grounder that first baseman Mark McGwire stopped with a dive.
Sabo led off the second with a home run, and the Athletics, with the designated hitter back in the lineup, countered in their half when Dave Henderson doubled and Baines, the DH, homered in his second series at-bat.
But the Reds, not the Athletics, were the team that bounced back best of all.
Hatcher singled with one out and O'Neill pulled a sharp grounder that skipped off the mitt of McGwire for an error.
Davis hit an RBI single and kept going to second on the throw home and Morris' groundout scored a run. That brought up Sabo, who became sixth player to homer in consecutive innings.
With many fans wondering why La Russa was waiting so long to make a move, the Reds made theirs. Todd Benzinger singled, chasing Moore in favor of Scott Sanderson, and scored on Oliver's double. Mariano Duncan followed with an RBI single, stole second and scored on Larkin's triple to the wall in left-center for an 8-2 lead.