WORLD SERIES / CINCINNATI REDS VS. OAKLAND ATHLETICS : Reds Put Athletics to Sweep : Game 4: After falling behind in the first inning, Cincinnati recovers for a 2-1 victory to end the season as an improbable champion.
The droplets that spilled down his face were tears, not champagne. Chris Sabo didn’t mind letting the world see his emotions overcome him Saturday after the Cincinnati Reds overcame the Oakland Athletics to win the World Series in four impressive games.
“I may never get here again and I don’t care,” Sabo said. “In 1990, we’re the world champions.”
They earned that title with aplomb and a blend of pitching, defense and courage that rendered the three-time AL champion A’s helpless. Despite losing outfielders Eric Davis to a bruised kidney and Billy Hatcher to a bruised left hand in the early innings Saturday, the Reds rallied behind the superb pitching of Jose Rijo for a 2-1 victory at the Oakland Coliseum.
It was a stunning conclusion to an improbable season that began with a nine-game winning streak in April and ended with the World Series sweep.
On the strength of Rijo’s MVP heroics in winning Games 1 and 4 and a fearsome bullpen that shut out the A’s over 13 consecutive innings, the Reds became only the 13th team in World Series history to earn their title in a sweep. Two others won World Series in which they did not lose games, but were tied.
That they did it against the team that had swept its way to the championship last year and had been spoken of as a potential dynasty made it all the sweeter for the Reds, whose 91 regular-season victories were 12 fewer than Oakland’s major league-leading total of 103.
“We dethroned a great team,” said Herm Winningham, who scored the decisive run in the eighth inning after taking the initiative to bunt with two strikes. “Now it’s our time.”
Saturday was the A’s time to rue chances missed and their inability to capitalize on talent they still firmly believe they possess.
“Even if you lose, you feel better if you play up to your potential. It’s a little easier to swallow that way,” A’s second baseman Willie Randolph said. “This is no shame. In this game, there are times you want things so badly, but it just doesn’t kick in. You put two teams together that don’t know each other and anything can happen. You saw that in the years the Minnesota Twins won (1987) and the Dodgers (1988) won. You just roll the dice, baby, and hope at this time of year.”
Hope was not enough for the A’s, who finished the season without a championship they had been favored to win and without $23.5-million outfielder Jose Canseco in their starting lineup.
“This has been a bad, bad misconception of this ballclub,” said Oakland starter Dave Stewart, who was magnificent Saturday until the eighth inning. “We are a great ballclub. It’s like a bum in the gutter saying, ‘I used to be a millionaire.’ Nobody’s going to believe that.”
The Reds made believers of everyone Saturday because Rijo, after giving up a run in the first inning on a double by Willie McGee and a single by Carney Lansford, did not give up another hit. After retiring 20 consecutive batters, he yielded only to his own manager, exiting with one out in the ninth inning when Lou Piniella visited the mound to determine whether throwing 104 pitches on three days’ rest had exhausted the 25-year-old right-hander.
“I saw him looking to the bullpen, and I know how much he believes in Randy Myers,” said Rijo, who relied on his slider in his three-walk, nine-strikeout performance. “I would love to be there for the last out, but I told him to do what he thinks is best.
“I don’t feel invincible, but I feel real great, like my concentration was 100%.”
He was 100% sure the Reds could win Saturday, even though Dave Stewart had frustrated them through seven innings. After Rijo retired the A’s in the seventh, he shouted encouragement to his teammates as he walked off the field.
“I was kind of mad because we had so many opportunities to score runs,” Rijo said. “I wanted to make them hungrier out there and make them try a little harder. I wanted to pump them up.”
He succeeded. Barry Larkin led off the inning with a single to center, the fourth consecutive inning Cincinnati’s leadoff hitter had reached base. Larkin moved up when Winningham, who had replaced Hatcher after Hatcher was hit on the left forearm with a pitch in the first inning, beat out a two-strike bunt.
“They took the bunt off but I said, ‘I’m going to bunt anyway,’ ” Winningham said. “I was going for the sacrifice. I laid it down and just took off and started running.”
Catcher Jamie Quirk’s throw was late.
“I just beat it out,” Winningham said.
Paul O’Neill also bunted, and this time Stewart played it. His throw to Randolph covering first was wide, but appeared to be on time as Randolph stretched for it. First base umpire Randy Marsh ruled O’Neill safe, loading the bases. Glenn Braggs drove in the tying run with a bouncer to short, which Mike Gallego relayed to second to get O’Neill. Winningham, who moved to third on that fielder’s choice, scored the winning run when Hal Morris flied to deep right.
“It was a tough task against Stew, but we knew we couldn’t let up at all,” Braggs said. “For us to accomplish what we did in this Series shows how well we can play. . . . We knew we matched up pretty well against those guys and in our mind we thought we could beat them if everything went right.”
Everything went right because they executed well enough to satisfy their critics and themselves. Piniella, the Reds’ first-year manager, called this victory more gratifying than the titles he won as a player with the Yankees.
“I saw (in spring training) a club that had a lot of physical ability and could hit, run and throw and had speed,” he said. “It was just a matter of getting it all together. It was a young club. . . . I told them, ‘It’s your turn, it’s your time.’ ”
They made Saturday their time to celebrate. “Nobody believed we could do it, but we believed it,” Rob Dibble said. “Right now we’re the world champions and no one can take that away from us.”
WORLD SERIES SWEEPS
Year Teams 1914 Boston (NL) 4, Philadelphia 0 1927 New York (AL) 4, Pittsburgh 0 1928 New York (AL) 4, St. Louis 0 1932 New York (AL) 4, Chicago 0 1938 New York (AL) 4, Chicago 0 1939 New York (AL) 4, Cincinnati 0 1950 New York (AL) 4, Philadelphia 0 1954 New York (NL) 4, Cleveland 0 1963 Los Angeles (NL) 4, New York 0 1966 Baltimore (AL) 4, Los Angeles 0 1976 Cincinnati (NL) 4, New York 0 1989 Oakland (AL) 4, San Francisco 0 1990 Cincinnati (NL) 4, Oakland 0