CINCINNATI, OCT. 17 -- The Cincinnati Reds tonight sent the baseball cosmos into disarray once more. The Oakland Athletics showed their flash and dash early in Game 2 of the World Series, but Billy Hatcher just kept hitting and the Reds just kept battling to a 5-4 victory in 10 innings before 55,832 at Riverfront Stadium.

Cincinnati thus heads west with a stunning two-games-to-none advantage in this already-dramatic showdown. The Reds beat baseball's best high-stakes pitcher, Dave Stewart, in Game 1, and tonight -- on an evening when Hatcher went four for four to set a World Series record with seven straight hits -- they bested the game's most reliable reliever.

Joe Oliver's sharply struck ground ball over third base with one out and two runners on base provided the game-winning run as Cincinnati undid Oakland bullpen ace Dennis Eckersley with a three-hit 10th inning.

"What this says is that our ballclub can play this game," Reds Manager Lou Piniella said. "We dominated one game, and we came back against a darn good team and some darn good pitching tonight. We feel good about ourselves right now, but then we felt good about ourselves before this series began. . . . We didn't come into this World Series just to be opponents."

Billy Bates began the final uprising with an infield single, his first hit in a Reds uniform. Chris Sabo followed with a solid single to left field, and Oliver brought Bates home from second -- and touched off a wild celebration -- with a hopper on an 0-1 slider. It bounded past third baseman Carney Lansford and into the left field corner for what officially was a single.

"I had never even seen Eckersley throw before, but you know going up there that you're going to see a lot of pitches that are around the plate," Oliver said. "I wanted to look at a pitch first, then I got something I could pull with a little thump to it. Fortunately for us, {Lansford} was off the line and it got through."

A's Manager Tony La Russa defended his third baseman's positioning -- "you try to play the percentages and take the single away in that situation," he said -- and his decision not to use Eckersley as Oakland clung to a 4-3 lead in the eighth. But if the aura of A's invincibility hadn't been dispelled Tuesday, it was demolished tonight.

"We just don't lose games like this, never ever," outfielder Jose Canseco said. "Except tonight. . . . When Eck's in there, you don't expect to lose. Of course, it never should have been tied up, anyway."

The A's used Rickey Henderson's legs to sprint to a first-inning lead they quicky surrendered to a two-run Reds response. Canseco ignited a three-run Oakland third with a mammoth home run, but Cincinnati slowly marched back.

The Reds closed the deficit to one run on pinch hitter Ron Oester's run-scoring single in the fourth, then got even on Hatcher's triple -- which Canseco probably should have caught -- and pinch hitter Glenn Braggs's RBI grounder against reliever Rick Honeycutt in the eighth that was milliseconds from being an inning-ending double play.

Meanwhile, Cincinnati's Jack Armstrong, Scott Scudder, Norm Charlton and Rob Dibble combined for 7 1/3 innings of four-hit, scoreless relief to keep the Reds in contention.

A's starter Bob Welch tired from battling his way through one predicament after another. And by the time Eckersley came onto the scene, there was no lead to protect.

"You could debate this one all night," Eckersley said. "Maybe I should have been in there in the eighth, maybe I shouldn't. But how can you second-guess the best manager in baseball? I don't. . . . The bottom line is, I blew it when I got in there. Their bullpen did the job and ours didn't."

The series will resume with Friday's Game 3 at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. The Reds' scheduled starter for that game, Tom Browning, left the ballpark in the frantic late innings tonight to accompany his wife, who was in labor, to a local hospital. Piniella was down to two pitchers and tried unsuccessfully to contact Browning to bring him back.

"Lucky for us this thing ended when it did," Piniella said. "I'd have had to drive over to that hospital myself to get Tom. . . . I guess this was enough excitement for one night, huh?"

Indeed it was, but the game began as if the A's would coast to a series-tying triumph. Oakland grabbed a 1-0 lead off Reds starter Danny Jackson in the first inning when Rickey Henderson led off with a single, stole second and scored on Canseco's grounder that first baseman Hal Morris mishandled briefly to lose any chance of a play at the plate.

The Reds took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the inning against Welch -- whose first start in 10 days came on the one-year anniversary of the Bay Area earthquake, when he was scheduled to start Game 3 of that Series.

Barry Larkin led off by tomahawking a shoulder-high fastball from Welch into the right field corner for a ground-rule double. Hatcher followed by poking a grounder between first baseman Mark McGwire and the right field line for a double that tied the game at 1. Hatcher went to third on a Paul O'Neill flyout and scored on Eric Davis's grounder.

But Cincinnati's lead was brief, lasting only until Canseco returned the bash to the Oakland attack to start a three-run third that finished Jackson.

After Lansford flied out to start the inning, Canseco connected on a 2-0 delivery and deposited the ball into the second deck in right field for his first homer since Sept. 16. McGwire yanked a single to left and Dave Henderson and Willie Randolph drew walks to load the bases.

Ron Hassey's sacrifice fly scored McGwire for a 3-2 A's lead, and -- after catcher Oliver's error on an attempted pickoff throw that bounced off first base sent Henderson to third -- Mike Gallego's single up the middle put Oakland on top, 4-2, and prompted Piniella to remove Jackson.

Cincinnati wasted a second-and-third, no-out opportunity in the third, but pulled to 4-3 an inning later on Oliver's one-out double and Oester's two-out single. The A's might have had the plodding Oliver at the plate, but catcher Hassey allowed Dave Henderson's throw from center field to skip past him.

Welch battled through the middle innings but obviously was fading as he began the eighth. La Russa said he considered going to Eckersley, but decided against it; by the time he reconsidered later in the inning, the game was tied "and I don't want to go to Eck in a tie game on the road," he said.

Hatcher began the rally with a drive toward deep right that Canseco got his glove on but couldn't pull in as Hatcher hustled into third base. "That's a play you have to make if you expect to win the game," La Russa said.

Welch walked O'Neill but got Davis on a fly to medium-deep right, with Hatcher standing his ground despite an off-line throw.

La Russa went to left-hander Honeycutt with left-hander Morris due, but Piniella countered with Braggs. Shortstop Gallego acrobatically tagged O'Neill after stabbing Braggs's bouncer toward the middle, but Braggs beat the relay throw with a head-first dive while Hatcher scored.

"We're just making the plays and getting the breaks too," Hatcher said. "It really hasn't sunk in yet, what I and the rest of us have accomplished in thse two days."