CINCINNATI — Tonight, Bob Welch finally gets a World Series start for the Oakland Athletics.
Exactly one year ago--Oct. 17, 1989--Welch was preparing to start Game 3 of the World Series against the Giants when an earthquake hit San Francisco at 5:04 p.m.
Players from both teams scrambled to find their families and friends scattered throughout Candlestick Park. For Welch, it was even harder because his children were home with a baby-sitter.
"It's something you still think about now and then," Welch said last week. But he doesn't want to talk about it now.
The World Series was delayed 11 days while the Bay Area recovered and Welch never got a chance to make his start. When play resumed, Dave Stewart and Mike Moore made quick work of the Giants to complete a four-game sweep.
This time, against Cincinnati, Stewart failed in Game 1 Tuesday night as the Reds routed Oakland, 7-0. Welch will face Cincinnati's Danny Jackson.
When the rumbling finally stopped, life and baseball went on. The A's won their World Series and are now in a position to win another if they can recover from Tuesday's blowout.
Welch, who had a home heavily damaged in the Marina District, came back to have the best season of his career.
He finished 27-6 with a 2.95 earned-run average and will probably win the Cy Young Award at the age of 33. It was the first time in Welch's 12-year career that he won 20 games.
"You can see the confidence growing in him," Oakland Manager Tony La Russa said. "He put all his pitches together this year. You can see by the look in his face that he's in command."
Welch's 27 victories were the most for a pitcher since Steve Carlton won 27 for Philadelphia in 1972.
"I think the addition of the forkball has made a difference," said Ron Hassey, who has been the starting catcher in 64 of Welch's last 66 regular-season starts. "It's gotten us out of a lot of jams this year. It has become a real good double-play pitch for Bobby."
Welch first appeared in a World Series in 1978 when he struck out Reggie Jackson to end Game 2. But later in the series, Mr. October got even with a home run off Welch.
Welch's focus in Game 2 will be on how to beat Danny Jackson, who also seems to thrive on postseason pressure. Jackson had his career year in 1988 when he finished 23-8 with a 2.73 ERA for the Reds after being acquired from Kansas City for shortstop Kurt Stillwell in a four-player deal.
The last two seasons, Jackson has been bothered by recurring shoulder injuries and had a combined record of 12-17. He was sharp in September, however, and gave up only one hit in six innings against Pittsburgh to help the Reds win the NL pennant last Friday.
Manager Lou Piniella bumped Tom Browning to Game 3 at Oakland on Friday so Jackson could pitch with his usual five days' rest.
The A's power is mostly from the right side, and that could be a problem. Right-handers hit .271 with nine homers against Jackson; left-handed hitters batted .241 with only two homers.