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Wednesday, October 17, 1990 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Davis Cleans Up Against A's -- Reds Slugger Rediscovers Homer Stroke

CINCINNATI - Cincinnati Reds Manager Lou Piniella thought he had a brilliant idea in his strategy against the defending champion Oakland Athletics in the 87th World Series.

He finally decided against it, proving again that sometimes the best moves are the ones you don't make.

He suggested to power hitter Eric Davis Saturday that he consider moving from cleanup to leadoff in the batting order for the Series. Piniella reasoned that Davis' power production was off because of his ailing left shoulder, and he could use his great base-

running ability in the leadoff role.

No thanks, Davis said before Piniella drew up last night's lineup card. Davis, batting cleanup, hit the first pitch from A's starter Dave Stewart for a 420-foot, two-run, first-inning home run that set the tone for a 7-0 Game 1 victory.

``He'll start in the fourth spot again tonight,'' said Piniella. But the Reds manager was still justifiably concerned about Davis, who had not hit a home run since Sept. 26.

``I've been the fourth hitter for five years and didn't feel like switching for the World Series,'' said Davis, who began his career as a leadoff hitter. ``The biggest part of my game is driving in runs. It wasn't a tough decision.''

Billy Hatcher, who had two doubles, a single and a run batted in, said, ``I think Lou made Eric a little upset with the (proposed) move to leadoff. His home run was telling him, `Leave me at fourth.' ''

It was a momentum magnet for the underdog Reds, who rattled Stewart with four early runs and chased him by the fifth inning. Game 1 winners have been champions 50 times in the 86-year history of the World Series.

Stewart had a well-earned reputation as the game's best money pitcher. He was 7-1 in postseason play and was named Most Valuable Player both in last year's World Series and last week's American League playoffs.

Stewart, who allowed just 83 walks in 267 regular-season innings, had four by the third inning last night. It was his shortest outing since Aug. 25. He threw 64 pitches, including 30 balls, and gave up three hits and four runs. The other two runs came home on Hatcher's third-inning double and Paul O'Neill's run-scoring ground out.

``Psychological edge? It's still a long, long way till it's over,'' Stewart said. ``We're a very confident team. We'll come out OK. Don't take anything for granted.''

The importance of Davis' blast, however, cannot be underestimated in a short series. It invited comparisons to Kirk Gibson's ninth-inning home run that won Game 1 and started the Los Angeles Dodgers on their way to an upset of the A's in the 1988 World Series.

``In that (Dodger) game, we had the lead, then it was pulled out from under us in the last inning,'' Stewart said. ``In this one we were not in the game from the first inning on. We can live with that.''

Jose Canseco, who was hitless in two at-bats but drew two walks, added, ``It's totally different. For one thing, we scored four runs (against the Dodgers).''

Last night, they scored none and haven't hit a home run since their final regular-season game.

``Jose (Rijo) pitched intelligently,'' Canseco said. ``He did not give me a pitch to hit. I must have nine or 10 walks in the playoffs. Mark (McGwire) has a ton of walks. It's a very simple strategy: Walk the guy who can hurt you.''

Rijo, who was traded to Cincinnati by the A's in 1987, was more Stewart-like than Stewart in his seven-inning effort. He allowed seven hits and his only scare was a bases-loaded jam in the fifth. He got McGwire to pop out to second base to end the threat.

Walks to Canseco and McGwire aside, Rijo's success was centered on the strike zone. He threw 104 pitches, 67 strikes and 37 balls - just seven more balls than Stewart threw with 40 fewer pitches.

``I had great command of my slider tonight,'' Rijo said. ``That really was the big difference. I knew where every pitch was going.''

The loss ended Oakland's 10-game postseason winning streak. The Reds have not been beaten in the World Series in 15 years - a span of six games. They won the seventh game of the 1975 Series, swept the Yankees in four in 1976, and are one up going into tonight's Danny Jackson-Bob Welch matchup.

``Stewart is a great big-game pitcher. He just didn't have it tonight,'' A's Manager Tony La Russa said.

A Reds victory tonight would guarantee a return trip to Cincinnati, which might shock many who thought this Series would never leave Oakland.

``We never said we were robots. You guys (media) did,'' Canseco said. ``It (the loss) just means it might prolong the series to six games now.''

Copyright (c) 1990 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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