Jose Rijo proclaimed this World Series won long before the final out, cockily sporting a shirt bearing the boast "It's over" after just two victories.
He can wear it now with pride. He was right all along. It's over.Nothing could stop Rijo or the Cincinnati Reds. Not the blister on the middle fingertip of Rijo's pitching hand. Not the loss of Billy Hatcher and Eric Davis to injuries early in Game 4.
Certainly not his former teammates on the Oakland Athletics, who slinked away ever so gentle into the good night.
Rijo, the World Series' most valuable player, spun a masterpiece Saturday night - a two-hitter with nine strikeouts for 81/3 innings - to beat Oakland's Dave Stewart 2-1 in his own ballpark and clinch a sweep of the championship.
Rijo celebrated the magical moment of victory by hugging his father-in-law, Hall of Famer Juan Marichal, who never won a World Series game. It was Marichal's birthday, and Rijo's triumph was a fine present, even though Marichal works as a Latin American scout for the Athletics.
"I knew he was watching so my concentration was 100 percent," Rijo said.
`I'm so happy for Jose and the Cincinnati ballclub but at the same time I'm sad for my team," said Marichal, with Rijo's arm around him.
Rijo, winner of Game 1, is only the third Dominican-born player to win a game in the World Series. Joaquin Andujar won two games for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1982. Alejandro Pena beat Oakland once in the 1988 Series for Los Angeles.
Rijo fell behind early, giving up a 1-0 lead in the first inning on a double by Willie McGee and a run-scoring single by Carney Lansford.
But the right-handed Rijo struck out Jamie Quirk to end the threat, then entered a brilliant, tense duel with Stewart.
From the end of the second inning until he left in the ninth, Rijo retired 20 straight batters, baffling them with sliders and fastballs and more sliders.
The blister on his finger didn't seem to bother him, though he had to release his slider off that spot.
"If there was one thing that was unexpected it was he threw three sliders for every fastball," said Oakland manager Tony La Russa, who once had Rijo on his club. "He threw slider, slider, slider. It was working for him, so why change it?"
Rijo couldn't agree more.
"I don't think I ever had a better slider," Rijo said. "They show me they cannot hit it. So I was going to keep throwing it until they learn how to hit, until they show me they can hit it."
While Rijo cruised on the mound, the Reds squandered chances against Stewart. At the end of the seventh inning, Rijo came back to the bench shouting at his teammates.
"I was kind of mad because we had so many opportunities to score a run," he said. `I just wanted to pump them up."
It worked. The Reds scored two runs in the eighth and Rijo and reliever Randy Myers did the rest.