It was a credit to Cincinnati's offense that it produced in the NLCS despite a subpar series from its centerpiece Eric Davis. Instead of Davis (.174, 2 RBI), it was Paul O'Neill, Hal Morris, Billy Hatcher and Mariano Duncan who did the damage. But for the Reds to beat Oakland, they will need Davis to rebound and similar performances from his supporting cast.
The only constants in Lou Piniella's playoff lineup were leadoff man Barry Larkin and cleanup hitter Davis. Despite not possessing much of an eye, shortstop Larkin batted .301 with 67 RBI and 30 stolen bases during the season. In the NLCS, he stole three bases and hit .261. Left fielder Davis, after a red-hot September, struck out nine times in 23 NLCS at-bats. But he was bothered by a shoulder injury and it remains to be seen whether that will continue to affect his play. Despite the slump, Davis remains one of the game's most dangerous players with a splendid blend of power (24 HR) and speed (21 stolen bases).
Piniella's lineups are anyone's guess. But against right-handers -- which the A's three starters are -- his favorite lineup seems to be Larkin, center fielder Hatcher, right fielder O'Neill, Davis, first baseman Morris, third baseman Chris Sabo, catcher Joe Oliver and second baseman Duncan.
Hatcher stole 30 bases, but can't match Larkin's average or power. O'Neill had an excellent NLCS (.471, 1 HR, 4 RBI). His vulnerability to left-handers won't be a factor against Oakland's right-handed starters.
After replacing Todd Benzinger in June, Morris responded with a .340 average and 36 RBI. A good contact hitter with good power, he is the ideal fifth-place hitter. While Sabo's demeanor fluctuates, his performance was consistent, and he finished with 25 homers and 25 steals.
Oliver -- who often gives way to Jeff Reed -- drove in 52 runs but hasn't done much since August. Duncan batted .300 in the NLCS, and he puts a potentially productive bat right before the pitcher.
When the designated hitter is in use in Games 3, 4 and 5, the Reds probably will employ either Glenn Braggs or Benzinger. Braggs batted .299 after being acquired from the Brewers in June, while Benzinger batted .253 with 46 RBI.
The bench is deep, but not with long-ball power. The best of the lot is utility infielder Luis Quinones, who was 13 for 36 as a pinch hitter and drove in the pennant-clinching run in Game 6. Ron Oester is mainly a singles hitter, Terry Lee did not play in the NLCS and Billy Bates got in only as a pinch runner. Speedy Herm Winningham started two games in the NLCS, but his strengths are mostly defensive.
Game 1 starter Jose Rijo had a great last two months to become the Reds' ace, but the fireballer wasn't so dominating in the NLCS, although he did pick up the win in Game 4. Tom Browning's playoff performance -- 1-1 with a 3.27 ERA -- was promising after a disappointing second half.
Of all the question marks surrounding the Reds' starting pitching, Danny Jackson was the biggest. After three trips to the disabled list during the season, he rebounded marvelously in the NLCS with a 2.38 ERA and the pennant-clinching win.
While the A's bullpen may be among the best ever assembled, the Reds' bullpen stole some of the spotlight in the NLCS. It has fast (Norm Charlton), faster (Randy Myers) and fastest (Rob Dibble). The "Nasty Boys" allowed one run in 15 2/3 innings while striking out 20. Myers -- who saved three games in the NLCS -- is the preferred closer, but Piniella does not hesitate to go with Dibble. Charlton is strictly a setup man, while Scott Scudder and Rick Mahler do the long work. Jack Armstrong, the NL's All-Star Game starter, has had arm trouble and did not pitch in the NLCS.
It was an odd NLCS for the Cincinnati outfield. O'Neill threw out two runners, Hatcher one and Davis one, yet Davis and O'Neill both misplayed fly balls. However, Davis and O'Neill have the ability to make spectacular catches.
The infield is average, with Larkin the sole standout. He covers a lot of ground and has a good arm. Morris, Duncan and Sabo are average. Reed is the team's best defensive catcher, but the Reds combined to throw out only 31 percent of would-be base stealers.
The Reds must get ahead early for two reasons: to keep A's closer Dennis Eckersley out of games and to get the Nasty Boys in. The Reds are 74-6 when leading after six innings.
Despite all the talk about the Reds' bullpen in the NLCS, the comeback of their starting pitching was just as vital. That must continue for Cincinnati to win.
And whenever playing the A's, remember one thing: If Rickey Henderson reaches base, you're in trouble.