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Stewart completes the task

Dave Stewart's complete-game victory for Oakland on Monday was the first in the American League playoffs since Bruce Hurst of the Red Sox beat California 9-2 in Game 2 in 1986.

The following year, Jack Morris, then with Detroit, pitched a complete-game loss in Game 2 as Minnesota beat the Tigers 6-3.

Good luck _ later

Stewart and Cito Gaston crossed paths outside the post-game interview room, and the Oakland pitcher whispered into the Toronto manager's ear.

"I was just telling him that this is the best ballclub he's ever put out on the field and that he's done an outstanding job managing those guys," Stewart said. "And I wished him luck." Presumably not until after Wednesday.

Stewart also said he gave a couple of pregame pep talks to rookie outfielder Eric Fox, who took off for home on an infield grounder Sunday and was easily tagged out, and to Dennis Eckersley, Oakland's relief ace burned by Roberto Alomar's game-tying homer in the Athletics' 11-inning 7-6 loss.

"I think Eric took a beating yesterday for making a mistake," Stewart said. "I wanted to let him know his major-league career is going to be a long one and he's going to make mistakes, not to get down on himself."

As for Eckersley: "I wanted to make sure he was doing okay," Stewart said, "because yesterday was a very emotional day for him."

La Russa ties Earl of Baltimore

The playoff victory was the 15th of A's manager Tony La Russa's career, tying him with Earl Weaver of Baltimore for the most in the American League. Tommy Lasorda of the Dodgers leads the National League with 16 wins. Sparky Anderson has 18 playoff wins and Whitey Herzog has 16, but they came in both leagues _ Anderson with Cincinnati (NL) and Detroit (AL), Herzog with Kansas City (AL) and St. Louis (NL).

Eckersley tugs on mark

Eckersley's next playoff appearance will tie him at 15 with Tug McGraw, of the Mets and Phillies.

Browne has new highlight

Jerry Browne sat out the first four playoff games, then went 4-for-4 Monday. Paul Blair of Baltimore holds the AL playoff record for hits in a game with five in 1969.

Until Monday, Browne said, the highlight of his career had been a home run he hit off Eckersley when Browne played for Cleveland. "This one goes right at the top now," Browne said.

It's more than a Giants game

Monday's attendance was 44,955, the poorest of the three games at the Oakland Coliseum. There were nearly 4,000 empty seats in the upper deck.

Stewart could return

La Russa said he wouldn't hesitate to use Stewart in relief if Oakland pushes the playoff to seven games.

"I'm a baseball fan," La Russa said. "(Dodgers manager Walter) Alston used (Sandy) Koufax in '65 with two days' rest. So everybody's available. I hope we get to Thursday." If they get that far, Ron Darling will start Game 7 against Toronto's Morris.