What looked at first as though it would be a mini World Series might end up a maxi back here in ``Minny.'' Instead of a four-game sweep by the Minnesota Twins, whose thunderous bats threatened to make short order of St. Louis during 10-1 and 8-4 Series-opening victories, the Cardinals have forced a returned to Minneapolis's Metrodome for a sixth game tomorrow afternoon (4 p.m. EDT), with a seventh possible Sunday night (8:25 p.m.).
St. Louis must be hoping that this fall classic is following the pattern of the last two, in which the Series went the distance and the team that once trailed two games to none ultimately won the championship. This was the scenario in '85, when the Kansas City Royals beat the Cardinals, and again last year, when the New York Mets defeated the Boston Red Sox.
Upon leaving Minneapolis five days ago, however, winning just didn't seem in the cards for the Cards.
St. Louis got an early warning sign that the Twins meant business, when pitcher Frank Viola threw out Vince Coleman on a bunt attempt that opened the Series. Coleman frequently gets aboard that way, but Viola's alert fielding gem set the tone and Minnesota's players picked up on it offensively and defensively in Games 1 and 2.
But just because Homer Hanky-waving Twins' fans were convinced that the victorious die had been cast, St. Louis manager Whitey Herzog refused to grab for the crying towel. ``Two things mean nothing in baseball: last year and yesterday,'' he said philosophically.
Herzog obviously wasn't just grasping at straws, as the Cardinals seized the momentum when the scene shifted to St. Louis's Busch Stadium for the third, fourth, and fifth games.
The Cardinal skipper hinted that his club could recover from the shell shock once St. Louis got a well-pitched game. Ace left-hander John Tudor turned the trick in Game 3, turning the Minnesota bats into mush during seven sterling innings before letting fireballing Todd Worrell close out a 3-1 win. Then on Wednesday, it was a group effort by starter Greg Mathews and relievers Bob Forsch and Ken Dayley that held the Twins in check during a 7-2 decision.
The Cardinal fans countered Minnesota's hanky craze with a lot of white towel and cloth waving of their own, prompting some to call this the Linen Closet Series. The St. Louis ball club, meanwhile, was busy countering the fielding and hitting exploits the Twins had flashed in the friendly, noise-filled Metrodome.
In both games 3 and 4, for example, it was the Cardinals who came up with the rallies to break things open and tie the Series, just as Minnesota had done with a pair of 7- and 6-run fourth-inning explosions in the first two outings.
In Game 3, the St. Louis attack continued to languish for awhile, failing to score a run during six innings off Les Straker, a 28-year-old rookie who looked like anything but the weak link he was supposed to be on the Twins' pitching staff.
Playing the managerial game, however, Minnesota's Tom Kelly made a move that was widely second-guessed, taking Straker out for a pinch-hitter even though the Twins already led 1-0 and going with relief pitcher Juan Berenguer. The Cardinals had shown they could hit Berenguer during Game 2, when he'd given up two runs late in that contest, and they roughed him up again, this time with even more damaging results. After just seventeen pitches, he had given up three runs on four hits, the game-winner coming when Vince Coleman ended some of his plate frustrations by driving a pair of teammates home with an opposite-field double.
The real fireworks occurred the next night, though, when St. Louis produced its own version of fourth-inning magic, scoring six runs during the bottom half of the frame to go ahead 7-1. The chief blow was struck by infielding sub Tom Lawless, who not only clubbed a three-run homer but did so with the flair of a seasoned slugger, which he certainly is not.
Lawless batted a microscopic .080 during the season, with just two hits in 25 at-bats. But when he caught a Viola pitch squarely, he heard violin music judging by the way he began walking and watching the ball's flight, before finally flicking the bat aside to take a home run trot.
Lawless, the first player to homer in a Series after going homerless in the season, was only the latest long-ball Cinderella to emerge in recent weeks. The Cardinals had gotten an unexpected three-run homer from Jos'e Oquendo in their pennant-clinching victory over the San Francisco Giants, and in the first Series game, Minnesota leadoff man Dan Gladden had smashed a grand slam. Twins catcher Tim Laudner had also come through with a solo shot in Game 2, which was less surprising than his suddenly consistent hitting. His fans belong to the Buck Ninety Club, a humorous reference to his .191 season batting average.