As Steve Yeager stepped to the plate, he felt it.

The crowd.

"They're saying, 'I am not strong, but let me give you my strength. I can't hit, but let me help you hit,' " Yeager related. "We pretend that we don't hear them, that we do it alone, but that's a lie."

As Yeager approached the plate from the on-deck circle, Chavez Ravine fandom was on its feet, roaring and screaming for Pedro Guerrero trotting around the bases, running his home run home.

The game was tied, 1-1. The World Series was tied, two games to two.

It would not be for long.

Guerrero's blast had landed in the heart of the left field bleachers, stunning Ron Guidry of the New York Yankees, who, until that instant, had been working on a two-hit shutout in which he had retired 15 of the last 16 men.

Four pitches later, Los Angeles catcher Yeager had crushed an even longer blast into the same stands.

And a World Series had changed.

The Dodgers, behind Jerry Reuss, beat the New York Yankees, 2-1, to take a three-games-to-two lead. Game 6 is set Tuesday night in New York and the Yankees will be trying to become the first team in Series history to win all four home games.

The Dodgers likely will have the vital services of third baseman Ron Cey, despite his beaning by a Goose Gossage fast ball in the eighth inning today. The ball struck Cey on his batting helmet, above the left ear. He was able to walk to the clubhouse. Later he was taken to a hospital, examined, found to have a mild concussion and released to spend the night at home. He is expected to join the Dodgers in New York Monday.

With their stunning back-to-back homers in the seventh inning off the left-handed Guidry by the recently slumping Guerrero and scrap-heap refugee Yeager, the Dodgers sensed how, with the years, they have changed.

Before, when they lost the Series to the Yankees in 1977 and 1978, these Dodgers were mostly in their rambunctious, rich and somewhat selfish primes.

Now, though they aren't quite graybeards yet, they know this may be the last chance for them, the last great moment to give an aftertaste to a lifetime.

"We got guts. We got battle. But nobody ever gave us credit for it. All we heard was that 'laid-back southern California' junk. We've had to live with that for years and it's a shame," said Yeager in a reflective Dodger clubhouse.

"We're all on that edge . . . gettin' too old, they say. The older we get, the more we play for each other more than anything. Maybe that's maturity. As long as the men in this room are proud of me, the world can go to blazes."

In the clubhouse, nearly two hours after they had jarred the Yankees and flipped the baseball world on its head with a three-game weekend sweep that transformed this Series, the Dodgers were trying to analyze a moment of rare drama, and, for them, sweetness.

Everyone knows that the fifth game of a tied Series is its fulcrum; history says so. And, at 20 minutes before 4 o'clock PST today, the Dodgers knew the Yankees were about to win this game, 1-0.

"Guidry was cruising," said Steve Garvey. "I wasn't expecting anything loud to happen."

Then, suddenly, California lightnin' struck Lou'siana Lightnin'.

Out of a clear blue haze, something happened that should not have. Guidry, who had been overpowering, threw two perfectly good pitches.

They both ended up in the seats.

Both drives came with Guidry ahead in the count, 0-1 and 1-2, and both were long gone over the 370-foot sign in left as soon as they left the bat.

"I'm breezing along. I haven't been in a jam all day. It's probably the best I've ever pitched in a Series game," said Guidry, "and all of a sudden, it doesn't work . . . I throw a good slider to Guerrero and he hits it out. Then I throw a pretty decent fast ball to Yeager . . . maybe it gets a little too much of the plate . . . and that's out, too.

"I've never lost a game this important. But give them credit. They're a battling ball club."

That's something the Dodgers never thought they'd hear.

The inescapable parallel now is to the '78 Series when the Dodgers won two games, then lost four in a row.

When the action resumes in Yankee Stadium at 8:20 p.m. EST Tuesday with New York's Tommy John pitching against L.A.'s Burt Hooton and his 0.32 postseason earned run average, the Yankees will face the possibility of matching that ignominious fate.

Meantime, the Yankees were left to stew in their juices. They only had two "accomplishments" all day. For one, Dave Winfield -- a center fielder again today as Jerry Mumphrey stayed benched -- broke his playoffs/Series hitless streak after 22 at bats.)

In the second inning, Reggie Jackson, now slugging a modest .797 in his Series career, place-hit a double to left field, then scored on a single by Lou Piniella. That's all the damage the Yankees could do to five-hit victor Reuss, the southpaw they chased quickly in Game 1.

As might be expected, club owner George Steinbrenner held court in the packed office of Yankee Manager Bob Lemon while Lemon was, symbolically, trapped outside smoking a cigarette.

"Their pitcher beat our pitcher, and their catcher beat our catcher," said Steinbrenner, pointedly singling out Rick Cerone, the central fizzle in three Yankee rallies.

In the second inning, men at first and second and none out, Cerone grounded into a double play. In the fourth, with second and third bases occupied and none out, Cerone grounded directly to shortstop; Bob Watson at third probably could have scored but he never tried. Finally, with one on and one out in the ninth, Cerone flied out.

"I want the Dodgers back in New York, back in the Bronx," said Steinbrenner. "People always knock New York but we come out here and a guy gets shot in the (Dodger Stadium) parking lot (after Saturday's game) . . . I say we're still going to win. I just don't think these (Yankee) guys want to be an embarrassment to New York."

Again today, Steinbrenner undermined Lemon with a blatant, blame-casting second guess. "Everybody knows that Guidry's ERA after the sixth inning this year was over 10.00," said Steinbrenner.

Does that mean Guidry should have been relieved before the disastrous seventh, despite the fact that he had looked superb?

"I'm not the manager," said Steinbrenner, a scoop if it's true.

While the Yanks cast blame, the Dodgers tossed bouquets.

"Thanks for bailing me out," said L.A. second baseman Davey Lopes to Yeager. Lopes made three comic errors this afternoon and has five for the Series.

"If we hadn't won, I'd probably have blown my brains out the way I tried to give it away," said Lopes. "This team wants to win so much. We don't have the talent of the '77 and '78 teams, not by a long shot. But we're not short on guts. We're all just basically mad as hell that we've never won a Series and we want to do it 'cause we have our doubts whether this particular group will have another chance."

Garvey, told (almost accurately) that the Yankees had been 56-1 this season in games that they led entering the seventh inning, said, "Well, they're 56-2 now . . . When we came home trailing by two games, I said, 'We've got 'em right where we want 'em.' Garvey's got to make one wild prediction. You can't be conservative all your life."

"Aw, shut up, Garvey. You're too short to talk about anything," needled Jay Johnston. "You and Lopes ought to put some pine tar on your gloves."

This afternoon, the not-as-good-as-they-used-to-be but big-enough- and better-than-ever Dodgers won one.