It was, said second baseman Tommy Herr, anticlimactic.
The St. Louis Cardinals finished their merciless dispatching of the Atlanta Braves tonight with a 6-2 victory to sweep the National League championship series, 3-0. But this game was only a formality. "Last night (Saturday) was the key," said Herr, "when we beat (Phil) Niekro. We knew we had it then."
The victory set up a beer city World Series, which begins Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. (EDT) in St. Louis, between the Cardinals, playthings of Budweiser baron August Busch, and the Milwaukee Brewers, from the city that means beer.
But there the similarities end. The Brewers' come-from-behind American League triumph was distinctly different from the Cardinals' workmanlike destruction of Atlanta's team.
The Braves were supposed to hit home runs and generally belt around the small but speedy Cardinals. Instead, the Cardinals' pitchers allowed not a single home run in the three games, yielding only 15 hits for five runs. Most significantly, they gave up only one extra-base hit, Bruce Benedict's double in the second game.
The Cardinals beat the Braves every way possible. They beat them, 7-0, in the opener as Bob Forsch pitched a complete-game shutout; they squeaked past them, 4-3, in a cliffhanger Saturday and tonight they just plain beat them, taking a 4-0 lead in the second inning and hanging on.
Joaquin Andujar was the winning pitcher. The fast ball thrower from the Dominican Republic shut out the Braves for six innings, surviving a vicious line drive that hit him on the shin in the second inning, then giving up both Atlanta runs in the seventh.
With two out, Manager Whitey Herzog called on his weapon of finality, relief pitcher Bruce Sutter, winner of Game 2 and saver of 36 games during the season.
Sutter's job is to pitch to the last seven batters in a game. That is what he did. He got them all out, just as he's supposed to. No one was surprised.
So it was anticlimactic. Someone asked Andujar if it was his greatest thrill to date. "No, no, no," he protested. "My biggest thrill was in 1977, when I went to the All-Star game."
The Cardinals even stole home run honors. After a season in which they managed only 67 -- fewer than the Braves' Dale Murphy and Bob Horner -- they watched in delight as rookie Willie McGee sent a bases-empty drive over the right-field fence in the ninth tonight for the only home run in the three-game series.
"I was hoping for no homers at all," said Herzog. Still, the one homer beat the league championship series record for fewest by two.
McGee was a surprise hero and a near goat in this series. His triple in the four-run second was his second of the series; but supposedly fast of foot and smart of field, but he committed a horrendous, run-scoring three-base error in Game 2 and a base-running miscue in Game 1 that cost him an inside-the-park homer.
No matter, said McGee on both occasions. He's "just a rookie" and won't make those kinds of mistakes after a year or two.
Tonight the Cardinals took advantage of the Braves' patched-together pitching staff, rocking starter Rick Camp, who was a reliever when the season opened, for four hits and four runs before Pascual Perez came to the rescue in the second inning.
Influential in that rally was catcher Darrell Porter, who walked and scored a run. After the game he was named series most valuable player for his five-for-nine record at the plate, including three doubles, and his on-base total of 10 times.
"That's really neat," Porter said afterward in the Cardinals' subdued clubhouse, "but I think there were a lot of guys that contributed."
Indeed. Tonight, as in the 7-0 victory, every starter in the field got a hit. Tonight, as in that first game, the key scoring came in a rush in one inning.
And tonight, as in the 4-3 second game, the victory was assured by Sutter, off whom the Braves managed nothing but outs in his two appearances.
Herzog said he would pitch right-hander Forsch against the Brewers in the opening game of the World Series. Forsch was 15-9 in the regular season, before his shutout in the championship series.
Rookie John Stuper (9-7) will pitch the second game; Dave LaPoint (4-5) will pitch Saturday and Andujar will return to the mound Sunday, Herzog said.
Herzog was upset that his team failed to "blow it apart" tonight. The Cardinals left three men on base in both the seventh and eighth innings. "We don't hit well," Herzog said, laughing, "but we sure can run. That we held them to no homers is a credit to our pitching staff. When you can play in Atlanta without giving up a homer, you've done the job."
And what does he think of Milwaukee.
"I don't think they can hit," Herzog said, laughing again. "They only had about 230 homers, four guys with over 100 RBI, so I'm not worried about their hitting."
His voice, like others in the clubhouse, was not exultant. There's work yet to do.
"We knew we could come down and put the hammer on the Braves and get out of here," said Herr. "We're a consistent team. We never lost more than three games in a row all year, until we had the pennant clinched.
"We have a lot of ways we can win."
And seven more days to show it.