OAKLAND, OCT. 18 -- Tom Browning's Cincinnati Reds teammates readied their suggestions about what to name the son born to the pitcher and his wife, Debbie, late Wednesday night.

The most popular selections among the Reds were Joe Oliver Browning and Billy Hatcher Browning -- although relief pitcher Rob Dibble offered the compromise choice of Oliver Hatcher Browning and most of Cincinnati's players agreed that such a split of the tribute was the only fitting solution.

"After all, this kid kind of belongs to all of us," Dibble said. "This is the Reds' World Series miracle baby." Dibble and bullpen cohorts Randy Myers and Norm Charlton even were prepared to offer the newborn an honorary "Nasty Boys" membership.

So the Reds were understandably disappointed to learn today that the Brownings already had decided upon Tucker Thomas as the name for the 6-pound, 10-ounce boy. He was born about the time the heroics of Hatcher and Oliver were culminating a few miles away at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati's dramatic, 5-4 victory over the Oakland Athletics that forged a startling two-games-to-none lead in this already flavorful World Series.

"Tommy really let us down," Reds pitcher Jose Rijo said. "He'll have to make it up to us." Browning will get that chance quickly, for the left-hander will start Friday night's Game 3 at Oakland Coliseum against erratic Mike Moore and the suddenly testy A's.

The teams provided a telling study in contrasts today as they arrived for their off-day workouts. The Reds were loose and carefree, and justifiably so: In consecutive days they upset baseball's dynasty-in-the-making by routing the game's best high-stakes pitcher (Dave Stewart), then rallying against its most flawless reliever (Dennis Eckersley) for a 10-inning triumph.

"We're riding this huge wave of confidence and emotion right now," Cincinnati shortstop Barry Larkin said. "We know the job's not done yet, that it's only halfway done. But we feel like we've taken care of the tougher half. We beat Stewart, then we beat {27-game-winner Bob} Welch and Eckersley. What more can you ask for in two days?"

The A's, meanwhile, are struggling to retain their focus and resolve. Oakland maintained a "so what?" stance following its 7-0 defeat in Game 1, but Wednesday's contest proved more troubling. An undercurrent of internal conflict flows through the A's usually harmonious clubhouse.

Manager Tony La Russa boasts often about his club's professionalism and unity, but tensions are surfacing. There was disenchantment with Willie McGee after Game 1, when the center fielder encroached upon Rickey Henderson's free reign on the base paths by swinging at first pitches with Henderson aboard.

And now there seems to be some behind-the-scenes disgust with the approach of outfielder Jose Canseco. Several A's players privately are complaining that Canseco is using his bruised finger as an excuse for his recent offensive inefficiency and that an inexcusable lack of concentration produced his drop of Hatcher's eighth-inning fly ball that gave him his record seventh straight hit and allowed Cincinnati to pull even in Game 2.

Stewart and La Russa said that Canseco seemed "distracted," and Canseco and La Russa met at length today. Canseco emerged apparently satisfied that all was well again.

"I don't want this to get all blown out of proportion because it's not that big a deal," he said. "We're the best of friends. . . . I've never called myself a superstar. I can only do what I can."

Yet the mood swing of the A's is undeniable. Three days ago, as they prepared for their third consecutive World Series appearance, they talked about establishing themselves as a team for the ages. They had a 10-game postseason winning streak, and Canseco pledged a sweep.

A repeat of 1988 (when the Los Angeles Dodgers shocked them in five games) couldn't happen again, the A's insisted. Their lessons from two years ago led them to stage simulated games to remain sharp while the Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates completed the National League playoffs.

The A's still are determined -- "this thing certainly isn't over yet; we're too good for that," Eckersley said -- but their trademark calm confidence has dispersed. The mask of invincibility has been removed.

"This is a desperate situation," outfielder Dave Henderson said. "I don't mind saying that. Being down 2-0 doesn't make it desperate, but playing bad baseball does. And we have been playing bad baseball.

"We're usually very good at zeroing in on what we have to do and keeping all the talk on the outside. We've never listened when people said we were unbeatable. . . . Maybe this time we listened. We violated our motto."

Complacency stinks.

The A's are hitting .264 (to Cincinnati's .338) and are one for 19 with runners in scoring position.

Even Eckersley -- and perhaps La Russa -- failed in Game 2. La Russa let an obviously fatigued Welch start the eighth inning with a precarious 4-3 lead, then watched as Hatcher tripled and pinch hitter Glenn Braggs provided an RBI groundout against Rick Honeycutt to tie the game.

And when Eckersley -- who had only two losses and two blown saves in 50 regular season chances -- did come on in the 10th, he lost the game to a succession of singles by some unlikely heroes -- Billy Bates (who had three prior major league hits, none for Cincinnati) and Oliver, along with Chris Sabo.

"Give them the credit," said Eckersley. "Guys like Bates and Hatcher are doing the job. . . . We will not, however, let those kinds of guys beat us for a whole series."

Of course, Oakland's situation is far from hopeless. The A's were 52-29 at home during the regular season, and they should get an offensive boost from the addition of the designated hitter to the lineup. (La Russa said he likely will use Harold Baines, even against left-handed pitching; Cincinnati probably will use switch hitter Todd Benzinger.)

And, the A's have Stewart and Welch returning for Games 4 and 5. "I can easily see us turning this around," Stewart said. "We just feel like we're sharing the driver's seat now."

First Oakland will have to get past Browning, who was 7-1 on the road this year.

"So far, it's been fantasy for them, nightmare for us," Dave Henderson said. "Hopefully the day off woke us up. Now we have to stick a little bit of Oakland A's reality into their faces. . . . We're capable. But I have to tell you, this doesn't seem like the best time to be making any promises."