Reds, Pirates hope snoozing bats awaken Both clubs averaging only 2.5 runs a game


PITTSBURGH -- There will be plenty of hitting today at Three Rivers Stadium, where the Pittsburgh Steelers play the San Diego Chargers.

The question is, will it continue tomorrow when the National League Championship Series resumes with the Pirates and Cincinnati Reds tied at one victory apiece?

So far, the baseball teams have been about as effective on

offense as the Steelers, the lowest-scoring team in the National Football League.

As is usually the case in a short series, pitching has dominated, with both sides averaging 2.5 runs a game at a time of the year when pitching arms are tired and more vulnerable.

"We've got to start hitting the ball better, turning things up offensively to win this thing," Reds third baseman Chris Sabo said.

"Our offense is due. We haven't hit anything the first two games. Myself, Eric [Davis] and a couple of other guys, we're due to get some hits, and I think it's going to happen in Pittsburgh."

The Reds, who led the league with a .265 average, are batting .175 in the playoffs, without a home run. At least three of their 10 hits were fluky.

That is a continuation of their slump during the waning days of the regular season. Counting the two NLCS games, they are at .194 in their past 11 starts.

"We're trying to do too much, and that's a lot of the reason," said second baseman Mariano Duncan, in a 4-for-28 slump. "You try to do too much and you don't do anything."

Only Paul O'Neill, hero of Game 2 with his bat and his arm, has three hits, and he has driven in three of the team's five runs.

"A lot of it was regular-season games that didn't matter," Davis said. "And in the playoffs, everything's more intense. They're not going to throw the ball down the middle for you.

"You're not going to get 15 or 16 hits off a guy who won 22 games [Doug Drabek]."

The Pirates are not exactly slamming down the walls, either, with a .210 team average.

Their only two home runs have come from Sid Bream and Jose Lind, who has six homers in 1,851 career at-bats. Bream and Lind have driven in four of the team's five runs.

The "Killer B's," Barry Bonds and Bobby Bonilla, plus Andy Van Slyke, one of the most potent outfields in the game, are 5-for-23 with one RBI.

"You'll see some productive games," Bonilla said. "Pitching on their side is going to be the key. If they are pitching like [Friday], you might not see too much production. They were dealing."

That's why the Reds say they think they have an advantage with the unusual two-day layoff caused by television scheduling.

It gives their powerful bullpen additional rest, and manager Lou Piniella will have a full arsenal of "Nasty Boys" behind Danny Jackson when the series resumes.

"It works to our advantage," Piniella said. "If we get a lead in Game 3, you're going to see [Norm] Charlton, [Rob] Dibble and [Randy] Myers. They're our ace in the hole."

Both teams worked out at their own parks yesterday, but neither will drill today because of the Steelers game.

"You live by the rules," Pirates manager Jim Leyland said. "This is the way it's set up. You go with the program. We're home with the weekend off. That's how you have to look at it."

* Pittsburgh third baseman Jeff King may be ready to play tomorrow after leaving Game 2 with a back injury.

"He has muscle spasms of the back," Pirates trainer Kent Bickerstaff said. "If the game were today, he couldn't play, but with treatment we are hoping to get him ready for Monday."

Leyland said "the two off days now might be a blessing."

King was hurt when he was picked off by Tom Browning. There seems little chance he will be replaced on the postseason roster.

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