ST. LOUIS — Wait. I know what happened here. The Cardinals came in through the wrong entrance. They undressed in the wrong clubhouse. They picked up the wrong script.
“Let’s see here,” they said, perusing the pages before Wednesday’s Game 4 of this World Series, “we’re supposed to go out and score a lot of runs, most of them in the fourth innings, and beat the pants out of our opponents. Well. OK. This doesn’t sound like our usual story line. Why is this cover blue, anyhow?”
Why? Here’s why. You’re in the wrong dressing room, dummies. That’s Minnesota’s script. You’d think in prime time, the players would get their parts right.
No, no, Cardinals. You don’t win, 7-2. You have no firepower. You have nobody to hit home runs. Your fans listen to organ music.
Apparently not. That was “Louie Louie” blasting over the Busch Stadium loudspeakers Wednesday. Those were towels — not hankies — waving like crazy. And those were St. Louis Cardinals circling the bases like ducks in some penny arcade, one, two, three, four, five, six, all in one inning. The fourth inning. Sound familiar?
That homer was Lawless
Cardinals win a blowout. We can all die now. This is a team missing its home run hitter, Jack Clark; missing another muscle hitter, Terry Pendleton; a team reduced to stealing every base they can and praying for a shutout by its pitching staff. Or so they said. Even Whitey Herzog was saying that.
Here is where we lost track of sanity. Fourth inning, two men on, Tom Lawless at the plate. Tom Lawless? The sub for Pendleton? A political science major from Penn State? The ultimate utility fielder? Fans here would have been happy for a bunt single. Thrilled at a double. Overjoyed at a triple.
A home run?
A home run. A three-run shot that caromed off the left field wall and started the Cardinals believing that what goes around really comes around. Wasn’t it the Twins who had blown them out in Games 1 and 2 — both times with
big fourth innings? It was. Wasn’t it the Twins who kept coming up with defensive plays that stymied the Cardinals in those two contests? It was.
But Wednesday night. Oh my. What happened to the Minnesota power? What happened to the Minnesota big inning? Where did it go? Here is where it went: Into the glove of shortstop Ozzie Smith, who dove to kill a two-on, one-out sure single in the fifth. And who lept halfway to the St. Louis arch to complete a double play in the sixth. “OZZIE! OZZIE!” the crowd here roared. How does such a little guy have such a big glove?
The Cards were playing defense like the State Department. And suddenly, what was once potent for these Twins was merely potential. They loaded the bases in the seventh inning, one out, a classic threat, right? Only Gary Gaetti struck out and Tom Brunansky fouled out. End of threat. Brunansky actually threw his bat and slammed a fist when his pop-up was caught. Whoa. What’s that? Frustration? By the Twins?
Wait. I hear you. You’re asking about Frank Viola. Wasn’t he pitching for Minnesota? Hadn’t the Twins won every post-season game he’d started? Yes. Yes. And not this time. Viola was gone from this game before the hot chocolate lines got long. Reliever Dan Schatzeder was showering alongside him 10 minutes later. Joe Niekro was on the mound by the fifth inning. Joe Niekro?
Heat’s in the kitchen
So the Cardinals even it up. It’s a two-out-of-three affair now. And a series that has lacked the national appeal of last year’s Mets-Red Sox showdown at least now has some intrigue in its numbers.
Remember that this was likely the first real blow to the tank that is the Twins in the post-season. Their sole loss to the Tigers in Game 3 of the AL playoffs was actually viewed by Twins players as something positive. “We learned we could come back against anybody,” Gary Gaetti claimed. They did not lose to the Tigers again.
But now. Well. This is another story. The Cardinals have pulled a sword out of the kitchen drawer. The teams play here again tonight, and if the Cards are suddenly as hot as they seemed Wednesday, the Twins may have to worry about double figures. And to think, many were calling the Cards’ 3-1 victory in Game 3 “The St. Louis Massacre.”
All even. Now we see who’s got what. The Twins players might be wondering this morning what to do next. Here is what I suggest. I suggest something very simple. I suggest they knock on the Cardinals’ door, and ask for their script back.