BOSTON, OCT. 7 -- It was with a certain trepidation that Boston fans approached Fenway Park tonight. After Oakland's Saturday night romp, the Red Sox faithful came quietly as if to witness another autumn agony. What they feared is what they got.
Harold Baines, a valuable late-season acquisition, drove in three runs and 27-game winner Bob Welch went 7 1/3 innings to pick up yet another victory, 4-1, as the A's took a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven American League Championship Series.
But the A's left town with two injuries. The more serious appeared to be a sprained knee that knocked shortstop Walt Weiss out of the game. Jose Canseco bruised his right hand during batting practice and played with some pain.
Manager Tony La Russa said it was too early to tell if Weiss would be ready for Game 3. But he didn't seem worried about Canseco. "He's familiar with playing in pain," La Russa said.
Welch needed help from Rick Honeycutt and Dennis Eckersley, but Oakland's record winner had the experience of an unprecedented seven championship series appearances -- four with Los Angeles and three with the A's -- behind him as he outlasted Red Sox rookie Dana Kiecker in the 3-hour 42-minute marathon, longest nine-inning game in ALCS history.
"Tough," was how Boston Manager Joe Morgan found Welch -- and the A's bullpen. "It's as tough as you've seen, and so is their team."
Welch said he used four pitches -- fastball, curve, forkball and slider -- and had control of all of them. "It couldn't have worked out better," he said.
Kiecker, 29, has achieved almost mythical status in Boston, perhaps because he comes from Sleepy Eye, Minn., and recently drove a UPS truck. In fact, it was a lot to ask of Kiecker to take on the world champions in such an important game. Kiecker, for all his news clippings, has been a losing pitcher in the minors, the majors and even college -- 59-66 in the pro hinterlands and 8-9 with Boston. In four years at St. Cloud State, his best record was 8-12.
But Kiecker did well enough, leaving after 5 2/3 innings with the score 1-1. After that, it was more of the same that Oakland administered in Game 1 -- only not quite as bad. The result, however, left the Red Sox in the worst possible shape as the series shifts to Oakland on Tuesday.
On the possibility of the series returning to Boston for Game 6, A's outfielder Rickey Henderson said: "No, we won't be back here. If they can beat us two out of three in Oakland, then there's something wrong with us."
Recently acquired outfielder Willie McGee all but agreed.
"This is a winning team," he said. "I've played on winning teams from the Little League on and there's something about them where they're all pulling together. But this is definitely the best team I've ever played on."
As they had in the series' first game, the Red Sox scored first. Luis Rivera doubled to open the third, moved to third on an infield out and scored on a line out to left by Carlos Quintana.
The newest A's combined to tie the game in the fourth. McGee opened with a double and one out later scored on a line single by Baines.
Kiecker survived some trouble in the fifth. He walked Ron Hassey and, after striking out Weiss, hit Mike Gallego. Both runners advanced on Henderson's drive to the base of the wall in center. But Kiecker got McGee on a fly to center.
As Welch took his warm-up pitches for the fifth, a woman raced from the stands and embraced Canseco in right field. She didn't let go until security men pulled her away.
A man ran out to shake hands with each Boston outfielder as the Red Sox changed pitchers in the sixth.
Talk about strange happenings. The A's came up with four singles in the inning -- but failed to score.
Kiecker gave up a single to Canseco, who was erased by Baines's double-play grounder. Mark McGwire and Carney Lansford followed with sharp singles, and Morgan went for Greg Harris. His decision was booed by those who remembered the Boston bullpen's role in Saturday's 9-1 loss.
Hassey greeted Harris with a single. But right fielder Tom Brunansky saved a run by charging the ball and throwing home, causing McGwire to make a U-turn back to third. Weiss then bounced into a force.
Weiss made an error that left Welch in a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the inning, but Boston could not break through. With one out, Wade Boggs singled. After Ellis Burks flied out, Mike Greenwell walked. Weiss bobbled Dwight Evans's grounder. But Brunansky, swinging at the first pitch, bounced into an inning-ending force, third baseman Lansford to second baseman Gallego.
An ominous sign settled over the park in the seventh after Gallego and Henderson opened with singles and Morgan called in Larry Andersen, who had provided so much relief to the A's in Game 1 and taken the loss. Silence fell.
McGee hit into a force, staying out of a double play with his speed as Gallego took third. Andersen walked Canseco on four pitches to fill the bases. Baines got Gallego home, his second RBI, as he grounded down the first-base line, Quintana spearing the ball and lobbing to Andersen for the out. With McGee at third and Canseco at second, Andersen prevented more damage by fanning McGwire.
Out of necessity, Morgan went to his closer, Jeff Reardon, in the eighth after Andersen gave up a leadoff single to Lansford -- his sixth hit of the two games, tying a playoff record for hits in two straight games. On his first pitch, Reardon hit Hassey, who was attempting to bunt. But Reardon retired the next three A's on fly balls. Oakland had stranded nine men in four innings, eight in scoring position.
One-out singles by Boggs and Burks finished Welch in the eighth. Left-hander Honeycutt got left-handed-hitting Greenwell to hit back to the mound. Honeycutt threw to Weiss for the force, but Burks sent Weiss high into the air with a hard slide, knocking Weiss out of the game. Gallego moved to short, Willie Randolph went in at second. And Eckersley strolled from the bullpen with runners at the corners, two out and Evans at the plate.
Masterfully, Eckersley struck out Evans on three pitches -- and closed out the Red Sox in the ninth.
The A's added two runs in the ninth, on a double by Baines and single by McGwire. They came after McGee had bunted his way on and stolen second and Canseco walked.
"I enjoy hitting with guys in scoring position," Baines said. "Usually, I'm home at this time of year watching. I'm just happy to be here."
Acquired on Aug. 29, Baines said he "had kind of a down feeling" because Texas let him go. "I had to prove to myself I could still play." He did. In 32 games with the A's, he drove in 21 runs, and went 10 of 22 during a 10-game stretch.
Teams have taken a 2-0 lead 14 times in ALCS with 12 going on to win. The A's have won 10 of their last 11 ALCS games beginning in 1988, while the Red Sox have lost six straight since 1986, tying a record for playoff futility.
"We've been a little tight out there and we just have to loosen up a little more," Burks said.
"The only thing that's going to help us beat them is to score runs. That's it," Brunansky said. "You can't expect to beat Oakland when you score one run a game."
Boston's Mike Boddicker, who will pitch Game 3 vs. Mike Moore, said, "It's hard coming back from a 2-0 deficit, especially against this club."
Especially when the offense scores two runs in two games. Morgan said he still didn't know if he will come back with Roger Clemens in Game 4. But with the A's momentum, the question seems almost moot.