Tonight, for the second time in three days, a Missouri monsoon wiped out the National League championship series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Atlanta Braves.

Predictions of a long, hard evening rain bore out at 6:52 p.m. after a day of cloudy skies. The players, who had completed their warmups, watched with dismay as the tarpaulin was rolled out to cover the AstroTurf field. The rain fell steadily and, at 7:52 p.m., 37 minutes after the scheduled start, National League President Chub Feeney postponed the game until Saturday at 8:15 p.m. (EDT).

Wednesday's opening game was rained out in the fifth inning and replayed Thursday night, the Cardinals winning, 7-0.

So, after three days here, the best-of-five series still stands at 1-0 St. Louis, and Atlanta Manager Joe Torre quipped that he and his players are considering buying homes in St. Louis if the weather doesn't change.

Actually, the postponement appears to be working in the Braves' favor. The ace of their pitching staff, 43-year-old knuckleballer Phil Niekro (17-4), now will have another shot at the Cardinals in spacious Busch Stadium, where he would prefer to pitch. He was 14-1 on the road this year, but only 3-3 in Atlanta.

Niekro shut out the Cardinals for 4 1/3 innings in the shortened first game and wanted to pitch tonight with one day's rest. But Torre decided to give him an extra day off and go with less experienced Tommy Boggs (2-2). Now Boggs has been scratched and Niekro will pitch Game 2 on two days' rest.

The Cardinals still will start rookie John Stuper (9-7), but Manager Whitey Herzog said he now will be able to come back in Game 3 with Joaquin Andujar (15-9), who held the Braves to one run Wednesday.

The teams are to fly to Atlanta after Saturday night's game, and will try to complete the series by Monday so the World Series can be started on schedule Tuesday.

However, they will not play two games in any one day, Feeney said. So if this series goes the full five games it would not be completed until Tuesday and the start of the World Series would be delayed one day.

The Saturday forecast for St. Louis is for clearing skies and a cool, clear evening. But Atlanta has had heavy rain, so there is danger of additional delays.

Feeney acknowledged that today's game could have been played if it had been scheduled for the afternoon, but said the schedule was drawn up far in advance and could not be changed. He said the fact that today's American League championship game was played in the afternoon, and thus an NL afternoon game would have conflicted with TV scheduling, was "a factor" in the scheduling, but not "the mitigating factor."

Feeney said that if there is a delay in the start of the World Series, the off day Monday, Oct. 18, probably would be scrubbed and the lost day made up then.