OAKLAND, OCT. 9 -- The Oakland Athletics' swaggering ways stem from a showy array of stars that's unmatched in baseball, but it was their display of smoothly functioning interchangeable parts that took center stage today in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series.

Out of the lineup went Willie McGee, and in his place came the game's newest version of Mr. October, Dave Henderson. Out went Walt Weiss, and in came Willie Randolph -- a starter for the last team to win back-to-back World Series, the New York Yankees of 1977 and '78.

The A's certainly did not suffer from the switches. Henderson had one of Oakland's six hits off Boston Red Sox starter Mike Boddicker, drove in a run with a sacrifice fly and was in the middle of another rally by taking a fastball off his arm. Randolph had two hits and two RBI and the duo sparked a 4-1 A's triumph that gave Oakland a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

"We know this team is so good that no one person is needed, really," said Henderson, who raised his career postseason average to .317. "You hear people saying all the time, 'We have guys on our bench who would be starting for other teams.' With most people, that's just hot air. With us, it's really true."

Indeed, Henderson's playing time has been limited since Oakland acquired McGee in an Aug. 29 trade with the St. Louis Cardinals. A's Manager Tony La Russa reneged on plans to start Henderson -- whose knee injury prompted the McGee deal -- in Game 2 at Boston when the 32-year-old center fielder aggravated the injury during practice before Game 1.

So while McGee terrorized the Red Sox by scoring three runs in the first two games, Henderson sat -- and fidgeted. "I was more nervous sitting around in Boston," he said. "When you're out there playing, at least you're occupied."

Henderson always has been a productive player -- he finished this season with 20 home runs and 63 RBI in 127 games -- but his level of output rises considerably as the stakes mount. He has seven postseason home runs (including a dramatic, ninth-inning blast for Boston in Game 5 of the 1986 playoffs against the California Angels) and has hit .345 in 16 World Series games.

Henderson, while conceding his knee still ached today, insists he's ready for another fall run of prosperity. "That's me," he said. "This is my time of the year. Me and October get along well."

Randolph is also well-versed in the demands of the postseason, having played in four league championship series with the Yankees.

He hasn't fared as well as Henderson -- having upped his postseason average to .239 with today's two-for-four performance -- but the A's seem content that they've gotten the steadying influence they were seeking when they acquired the 36-year-old second baseman in a mid-May swap with Los Angeles.

Following a slow start with Oakland, Randolph batted .303 over the season's final 35 games while sharing time with Mike Gallego. La Russa elected to start Gallego at second in Games 1 and 2, but Weiss's knee injury shifted Gallego to shortstop -- where he made a pair of sparkling plays today -- and got Randolph into the lineup. He fought off a tough breaking pitch to dump a base hit into right field in the fourth inning for Oakland's second run, then produced the third with a chopper over the mound in the sixth.

"Willie got a little lucky with the results off the kinds of balls he hit," Boddicker said. "But give him credit for the tough sorts of at-bats you expect from a pro like him."

And as the A's try to become the first club to win consecutive World Series since his Yankees, Randolph allowed that he sees "many similarities" between the teams.

"The attitude is the key, and this ballclub has it," he said. "These guys love to come out here and play every day. They're motivated. {And} this team has more depth. Look at who they -- I mean we -- can bring off the bench: a couple of graybeards like me and Dave Henderson. That has to be worth something."