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Providence was colored Red this time

Prior to Game 4, somebody asked Mark McGwire what it'd take to get the Athletics (0-3) back into the World Series, and Oakland's first baseman pleaded, "An earthquake, please." Talk about desperate.

Unlike a year ago, the Northern California terrain wouldn't rumble. The A's began finding alternate ways to create casualties among the runaway Cincinnati Reds.

Billy Hatcher, a 9-for-12 World Series hitting hero, was cracked on the left hand by a Dave Stewart fastball in the first inning and soon boarded a hospital wagon with a deep bruise.

His ambulance got crowded.

Reds power hitter Eric Davis, his should unhealed from a fence-ramming incident four weeks ago, made a diving try to catch a bottom-of-the-first line drive by Willie McGee and crumbled with rib cage and kidney injuries.

Davis too was gone.

No earthquake, but it was becoming a night for the infirmed. A's rightfielder Jose Canseco, limping with assorted ailments and flunking both offensively and defensively, was reassigned to the Game 4 bench by manager Tony La Russa.

Immediately, the move paid off. McGee's double not only sent Davis to the hospital, it led to a 1-0 Oakland lead when Carney Lansford singled.

An inning later, McGee provided further dividends as Canseco's stand-in, making a heroic back-handed catch of a Todd Benzinger liner to save a run. Jose would've never made the play.

But it was attrition that caused Cincinnati manager Lou Piniella to nervously blow gum bubbles in the dugout. Instead of putting the Series away, his Reds were yelling for the Red Cross.

Joe Oliver bunny-hopped in pain when a Willie Randolph foul tip smacked the Reds catcher's right foot in the second inning. Cincinnati starter Jose Rijo worked with a blister on his pitching hand, but brilliantly so.

Like a good M+A+S+H doctor, Tampa native Piniella kept his boat afloat. It'd become the Reds' survivors nose-to-nose with Stewart, the grim-faced and gritty Oakland right-hander who lost Game 1.

All the while, Reds pitcher Rijo was blistering Oakland. After the McGee-Lansford run, the A's went blank. Jose was untouchable. But every inning now, Stewart was being severely tested. His lead of 1-0 in repeated jeopardy.

Then came the eighth. This time there'd be no Oakland escape. No Bay Area earthquake.

Barry Larkin popped Stewart for another single. Then, a bunt attack. Herm Winningham and Paul O'Neill tried to sacrifice but got bonuses by beating throws to first base.

No more magic. No saving double plays. Cincinnati tied it 1-1 when Braggs hit into a force play, then bounded ahead 2-1 on a sacrifice fly by O'Neill.

It was plenty.

On a night when neither the Oakland A's nor the California earth would do much shaking, the Reds rode the remarkable labors of former A's pitcher Rijo to a celebrating tremor felt from here to Ohio and well beyond.

Randy Myers relieved Rijo in the ninth, and with one away faced the limping Canseco as a pinch-hitter. He grounded out. Then Lansford fouled out to end it.

In an astounding upset, the Oakland sweepers from the quake-ripped 1989 World Series were this time swept by the "Little Red Machine."

Juan Marichal, an extraordinary former San Francisco Giants pitcher, grabbed Rijo for a hug and a Spanish-language radio interview. It was more than a media-source thing. Marichal, never a winner of a World Series game, is Rijo's father-in-law.

Rijo was named MVP.

Somewhere in a hospital, Eric Davis smiled. Billy Hatcher made it back to the ballpark for the sweet Series ending, and felt no pain as he celebrated. Before a disbelieving Oakland Coliseum crowd, a world of Reds were rejoicing.

There was Sabo, the former hockey goalie who slap shot the A's for a .600 World Series batting average. Larkin, too, who is the Cincinnati equal of Oakland's bedazzling Rickey Henderson.

Also the "Nasty Boys," the Reds' killer relief pitchers Myers, Rob Dibble and Norm Charlton. Maybe the happiest of them all, that 2-0 World Series demon, Jose Rijo.

Red October, indeed.

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