OAKLAND, OCT. 20 -- The lost art of bunting won the World Series for the Cincinnati Reds.
Two bunts set up a two-run eighth inning that gave the Reds a 2-1 victory over Oakland and a shocking sweep of the seemingly mighty Athletics.
The Reds, who led the National League in batting, had 88 sacrifices this season, second in the majors behind the Pittsburgh Pirates. And when the key moment came in the eighth inning, Herm Winningham and Paul O'Neill executed their bunts to perfection.
"When you have speed and lay down a bunt, a lot of funny things can happen over the course of a ballgame," Reds Manager Lou Piniella said. "And it's been very advantageous to use the bunt a lot this year."
Oakland led, 1-0, and although the Reds were getting hits, Dave Stewart was shutting them down with runners in scoring position. Barry Larkin's leadoff single in the eighth was Cincinnati's sixth hit of the game, yet there were no runs.
Winningham, who had two sacrifices in 177 plate appearances this year, fell behind in the count, 0-2. He then put down a perfect bunt, which rolled midway between the mound and the plate, and beat catcher Jamie Quirk's throw to first.
"No question. He just plain beat it," A's first baseman Mark McGwire said.
Piniella said he knew he could count on his players to execute when it mattered most.
"We stressed all our fundamentals," he said. "We've had our players out at numerous times over the summer working on bunting. It's part of the fundamental work we've done since the start of spring training and on into the season. When a club can execute well enough, the bunt is a great offensive weapon that's sometime put aside and not used too much."
On the very next pitch, O'Neill bunted back to Stewart. He had sacrificed only once in 564 times up during the season.
"It's something you work on every day," O'Neill said. "You just don't do it very often."
The ball rolled back to Stewart, who fired to first in plenty of time. But the throw was wild to the foul side, pulling Wille Randolph just a tiny bit off the bag in the opinion of umpire Randy Marsh.
"I didn't have a good grip on it," Stewart said. "I believe I made the play. The umpire saw it differently. Randy did what he saw and that's his job."
O'Neill had trouble getting up the line. He stumbled at first.
"I just I started to come out of the batter's box, I threw down my bat and stepped on it," he said.
But O'Neill made it and that loaded the bases for Glenn Braggs, whose bouncer to shortstop scored the tying run. The A's had been playing their infield back.
"When we're playing at home, I'll gladly give up the tying run in that situation," A's Manager Tony La Russa said. "It's not good baseball to protect a one-run lead at home with nobody out."