The Cincinnati offense has an impressive blend of power and speed, as four starters had more than 10 home runs and 10 stolen bases. The Reds can win by grinding out a run with daring baserunning or by using the three-run homer.
The success of the Cincinnati offense seems largely dependent on the play of left fielder Eric Davis, whose tremendous power and speed enabled him to lead the Reds with 86 runs batted in despite a stint on the disabled list. In September, Davis batted .347 with seven homers and 24 RBI. But he injured his shoulder running into a wall Thursday, and his condition could decide this series.
Though Davis runs the offensive show, to be effective he needs the top of the order to get on base. Manager Lou Piniella uses a variety of lineups, but all start with either center fielder Billy Hatcher or shortstop Barry Larkin. The pair combined for only 73 walks all season, but both hit for good average and are effective base stealers. Second baseman Mariano Duncan, who likely will start every game because of Bill Doran's back injury, provides some power and speed from the second spot.
When Hatcher leads off, the heart of the Reds' lineup features Larkin, Davis, right fielder Paul O'Neill, third baseman Chris Sabo and first baseman Hal Morris. The consistent O'Neill isn't flashy, but quietly drove in 78 runs, using an effective combination of power and speed. His trouble comes against left-handed pitching, of which the Pirates have an abundance.
The feisty Sabo rebounded from a subpar 1989 to spark Cincinnati to its early season success, but he hasn't hit the ball nearly as well since the all-star break. Nonetheless, he's still dangerous.
Morris displaced Todd Benzinger at first base in June, then batted .356. The former Yankees farmhand has hit better than anyone expected, although he hasn't had much success against Pittsburgh. Catchers Joe Oliver and Jeff Reed are the Reds' weak offensive links.
Since Pittsbugh kept 11 pitchers and Cincinnati only 10, the Reds' bench is a little deeper. Glenn Braggs is a solid fourth outfielder, while Herm Winningham provides speed and good defense in center field. Despite a lack of playing time since the all-star break, Benzinger is still a potent bat and can play the outfield. In the infield, veteran Ron Oester is competent, but a 1987 knee injury severely limits his range; Luis Quinones has some power. Infielder Mark Lee had only 19 at-bats during the regular season, and likely will be used only as a pinch hitter.
Game 1 starter Jose Rijo has been the Reds' best pitcher down the stretch, staying healthy by throwing between starts. Rijo's fastball is his best pitch, and when he gets his change-up over, he's very tough.
The rest of the Reds' rotation is questionable. Tom Browning has struggled since August, Danny Jackson has bounced back and forth from the disabled list all season and Jack Armstrong has gone from All-Star Game starter to an unhealthy pitcher who almost didn't make the postseason roster.
Converted reliever Norm Charlton, who tired toward year's end, probably will return to the bullpen for the postseason, reuniting him with fellow "Nasty Boys" Randy Myers and Rob Dibble. Charlton usually is the first of the three to pitch, throwing hard. Dibble usually follows, throwing even harder and keeping runners off base. Myers, the closer, also comes in with heat, although he doesn't throw as hard as Dibble. Though Myers's fastball is effective, he has the tendency to allow big home runs. In middle relief, the Reds have Rick Mahler, Scott Scudder and Tim Layana. Mahler is the veteran of the group, but Scudder potentially has the best stuff.
The Pirates have better defense, but the Reds aren't bad. At shortstop, Larkin is one of the best. The rest of the infield is average.
In the outfield, Davis is an excellent fielder with good range and outstanding leaping ability, but his shoulder injury could limit him. Like he is at the plate, O'Neill is quiet but efficient in right. Hatcher is average in center. The catchers are solid, with Oliver probably the better receiver.
The Reds need improved starting pitching, especially from Browning, who was their most consistent starter during the season's first half. Rijo has been almost unhittable in the last month, but he's injury-prone and needs to stay sharp in case he has to go three times.
On offense, the repercussions of Davis's injury will be vital. If the injury hinders his swing, and in turn, his production, the rest of the lineup could suffer. If that's the case, one of the quieter offensive players, such as O'Neill or Morris, must step forward.
Overall, with the pitching a question mark and Davis's injury an unknown factor, the Reds are far from perfect. But there's no question the talent is there.