One bad pitch hangs over one great season by Dennis Eckersley.

The Oakland Athletics reliever led the major leagues with 45 saves and was named the MVP of the American League playoffs after getting four more saves against the Boston Red Sox.But he was the loser in Game 1 of the World Series when Kirk Gibson hit a 3-2 curveball into the right field bleachers for a 5-4 Los Angeles victory.

"I have no excuses," Eckersley said. "I just couldn't throw the curveball where I wanted and the guy took me deep. Geez."

Eckersley had thrown all fastballs, his best pitch, to set up Gibson. But catcher Ron Hassey called for a curveball away with the count 3-2.

"If I could throw it again, I'd throw the fastball," he said. "I was hoping I'd throw it in the dirt and he'd swing and miss, but it wasn't in the dirt."

Hassey, who replaced starting catcher Terry Steinbach in the ninth because he and Eckersley have worked well together this season, thought the call would fool Gibson.

"I felt that at 3-2 he's looking fastball, and if we make a good breaking pitch down and away, it's effective," Hassey said. "Dennis has been effective with it all year.

"It was a good pitch, but as soon as he hit it, I knew it was gone."

Eckersley said, "It was not the right pitch to throw."

"I was trying to get it down and away, but I didn't and he just flipped it out," he said.

"It's perfect for the Dodgers - he's their man. But we've got a long way to go. It's one game."

Dave Stewart, who gave up three runs on six hits in eight innings and turned over a 4-3 lead to Eckersley, shrugged off the dramatic defeat.

"It's one of those things," said Stewart, who was watching the game on TV in the clubhouse when Gibson homered. "It (the pitch) wasn't up and it wasn't down. ... It happens to the best of us."

Stewart, who won the Athletics' pennant clinching victory over the Red Sox last Sunday, said he'll be ready Wednesday night in Game 4.'

"One game isn't going to be the destruction of the Oakland A's. We've been tested all season long and we've come through with flying colors."

The A's appeared stunned at the outcome, particularly in light of Eckersley's phenomenal success with late-inning leads this year.

"When you get one pitch away, it is shocking," said Carney Lansford. "With Dennis on the mound, it's almost automatic. You just have to tip your hat to Kirk Gibson."