THE FIRST trans-Missouri World Series started out auspiciously enough with two taut, low-scoring games. But the Kansas City Royals, on their home grounds, lost both of them to the St. Louis Cardinals, the second in heartbreaking fashion, and by late Sunday night most of the life seemed to have been squeezed out of the series. It looked to be another short one of four or five games, just like '83's and '84's. Time to put up the storm windows -- winter's coming.

The writers headed east to witness the execution in St. Louis, filing sarcastic stories about the ambiance along Route I-70 and having a few laughs at the expense of the boys at the truck stops. (It's possible the boys at the truck stops found the writers fairly amusing too.) The idea of having the World Series in Missouri has not exactly electrified all of the media.

But in St. Louis, the young pitchers and elder batsmen of the Royals, surrounded by 50,000 or so Cardinals' fans and a herd of Clydesdale horses, showed a grim determination to survive. How grim was illustrated Thursday night when the Royals' George Brett, in pursuit of a foul ball, went rocketing into his own dugout in a hair-raising, head- bumping slide. The Royals won that game, won two out of three in all, and now the series is back in Kansas City for what could be a grand finale this weekend.

Can the vaunted Cardinals, winners of 101 games in the regular season, regain their knack for stealing bases and getting hits? Will the Royals' young arms and the old bats of Brett, White, Wilson and McRae be able to gain the championship the Royals have been approaching for a decade? Give us another game to see -- or, better, two. What we ask of the World Series is simple enough: Show us who's the better team -- but don't be too quick about it.