OAKLAND, OCT. 9 -- The Oakland Athletics again were without the bash but had still more reason to be brash. Baseball's most destructively versatile team continued its methodical dismantling of the Boston Red Sox in the American League Championship Series today, grinding out a 4-1 victory in Game 3 before 49,026 at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. The A's are within one victory of a sweep and their third consecutive World Series appearance.

Rarely has a testament to greatness appeared so mundane. There has been little flash and almost no flex to Oakland's resolute march through the playoffs thus far, but that's what makes its 3-0 lead in this best-of-seven affair all the more striking.

"I'm more pleased by games like this than ones when we hit three home runs and score 10 runs," A's Manager Tony La Russa said. "These are the kinds of games when you show what you're really made of. . . . I think we're made of some pretty good stuff."

Hardly a peep was heard from Oakland's glamorous trio of Rickey Henderson, Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire, and shortstop Walt Weiss was sidelined with sprained ligaments in his left knee. The A's managed just six hits off Boston starter Mike Boddicker -- all of them singles -- and Red Sox left fielder Mike Greenwell robbed McGwire of Oakland's first postseason homer with a sixth-inning, above-the-fence grab of a towering fly ball.

But the A's didn't miss a beat, as the center fielder who hadn't made an appearance in this series (Dave Henderson) and the second baseman who took Weiss's place in the lineup (Willie Randolph) combined to drive in three of their four runs.

Their least effective starting pitcher during the season, Mike Moore, held the unraveling Red Sox to one run over six innings, and the Oakland bullpen efficiently closed out another routine triumph. Boston Manager Joe Morgan was so overwhelmed that he had to abandon his stream of grousing about Oakland's good fortune to pronounce: "They're the best team in the world."

La Russa agreed: "There's no doubt about it. We look good on paper and we take it onto the field."

They didn't look particularly good on the field today, but they found a way to win their ninth straight postseason game. For the third game in a row, the Red Sox grabbed a 1-0 lead, this time on Tom Brunansky's sacrifice fly in the second inning.

But that was the offense for Boston, which is hitting .198 in the playoffs and went zero for four today with runners in scoring position to bring its failings in such situations to an excruciating zilch for 17. The Red Sox have been outscored by 17-3.

The A's fought back slowly today, getting two runs in the fourth on Dave Henderson's sacrifice fly and Randolph's run-scoring single on a homely looper that just eluded the grasp of second baseman Jody Reed in short right field.

Oakland added a pair of unearned runs in the sixth on Randolph's RBI bouncer through the middle and a botched double-steal attempt that nonetheless ended with Terry Steinbach crashing into Red Sox catcher Tony Pena to dislodge the ball.

Moore settled into a middle-inning groove before turning matters over to Gene Nelson, Rick Honeycutt and Dennis Eckersley, who combined for three innings of shutout relief. Eckersley worked the ninth for his second save of the series and the 10th of his career in postseason, moving him ahead of Rollie Fingers atop the all-time list.

"We just find ways to beat you," Canseco said. "It's no big thing to us because we expect it. We're going to close this thing out {in Wednesday's Game 4}, then we're probably going to sweep the World Series too.

"We're one of the best teams ever put together. Period. We don't need to hit homers or have Rickey steal four bases to win. We pitch, we play defense and we execute. And everyone in this clubhouse can beat you. I don't think we can lose a series to anyone."

There are few dissenters at this point. The A's postseason streak is the third longest in history and they have won 11 of their last 12 ALCS games (including five in a row). They swept the Red Sox in 1988. They set championship series records today for games (35), victories (20) and home wins (10), and each day they move a step closer to a reincarnation of their dynasty of the early 1970s.

The Red Sox, meanwhile, bring the flip side, as they set an ALCS mark today with their seventh straight loss. Roger Clemens will duel Dave Stewart Wednesday in an attempt to avoid a sweep. None of the 18 teams in major league history that has faced 0-3 deficits in seven-game series escaped defeat.

"We just can't seem to make any headway," said Boddicker, who struck out seven, walked three and hit two batters in eight innings. "The A's are a few steps ahead of everyone else. . . . We're going to fight them to the end, and some of our biggest moments this year have come when we've been backed to the wall, but you can feel the resignation creeping in."

If the Red Sox were going to steal a win in this series, this was to be the day. Boddicker went 6-0 over his final nine starts of the season, while Moore struggled through a discouraging year in which he finished 13-15 and lasted but 3 1/3 innings against the California Angels in his final start.

Moore fell behind in the second when he issued Greenwell a one-out walk, then yielded Dwight Evans's single and Brunansky's run-scoring fly ball to Canseco in deep right. But he toughened from there, retiring 12 of the final 14 batters he faced and surviving Wade Boggs's one-out double in the sixth by getting Ellis Burks to pop out and Greenwell to line to Dave Henderson in center.

"I got progressively better from the third inning on," said Moore, who improved to 4-0 over the past two postseasons by beating the Red Sox for the first time since 1986. "I had a little bit of extra adrenaline in the early going that I didn't channel in the right direction, but I settled down and did the job from there."

The A's claimed the lead when Boddicker walked Canseco leading off the fourth, then yielded Harold Baines's ground-ball single to right. After McGwire struck out, Dave Henderson brought Canseco home with a liner to deep right. And after Steinbach walked, Randolph blooped his hit over Reed to score Baines from third.

Boston shortstop Luis Rivera's error on Baines's sharp grounder started Oakland's sixth-inning uprising. Boddicker hit Dave Henderson with a pitch, Steinbach's grounder forced Henderson and Randolph's two-out hopper over the mound brought home Baines.

La Russa then called for a set play in which Randolph was supposed to get caught in a rundown between first and second while Steinbach, after delaying, scored from third. The Red Sox, though, defensed the play perfectly -- until Steinbach barreled shoulder-first into Pena, who had taken Reed's throw with plenty of time to spare.

"We kind of blew the play, but it worked out well," Steinbach said. "That's how things have been going for us lately. . . . For the last couple of years, actually."