St. Louis played all its trump cards in the second game of the World Series tonight, using stolen bases, the hit-and-run, an obscure late-inning hero and overpowering relief pitching to defeat the Milwaukee Brewers, 5-4.
The winning run scored on a bases-loaded walk in the eighth inning. It was the first lead in the two games for the Cardinals, who trailed, 3-0, after three innings and tied the game in the sixth on catcher Darrell Porter's two-run, two-out double.
Just as the Brewers demonstrated why they were American League champions in their 17-hit, 10-0 victory in Tuesday's opener, so the Cardinals put all their conspicuous virtues on display in this evening's comeback, to the delight of 53,723 fans in Busch Stadium.
Steve Braun, who batted only 73 times all season, was the night's offbeat hero, driving in the winning run by doing what he did best this season: walking. It was his 12th walk and his fifth RBI, and gave relief star Bruce Sutter his second victory in postseason play this year.
With the score tied, the bases loaded and one out, Braun marched to the plate as a pinch hitter for Dave Green to face Peter Ladd, the 240-pound reliever. Ladd had just walked Lonnie Smith on a borderline 3-2 pitch.
Four times, Braun didn't move his bat. Four times, home plate umpire Bill Haller, with whom the bench-jockeying Brewers had heated words all evening, called "ball," just as he had on the final controversial pitch to Smith.
Braun trotted to first, George Hendrick walked home with the winning run and the Cardinals will travel to Milwaukee for Friday night's third game (WRC-TV-4 at 8:30) with considerably revived hopes in this 79th Series.
Said Braun: "The thought, unbelieveably, that came into my mind right as I was walking up to the plate was, 'Hell, I'm in the World Series. The bases are loaded and I can win the game.' "
That is not the prescribed line of reasoning. This time, however, thanks to Ladd's shaken condition after the walk to Smith, it sufficed.
The inning started when loser Bob McClure, who relieved starter Don Sutton in the seventh, walked Keith Hernandez on four pitches. Hendrick's grounder forced Hernandez at second. Porter, the MVP in the NL championship series, singled to center, Hendrick stopping at second. That brought on Ladd, who had retired all 10 batters he had faced in the playoffs.
After walking Smith, who said afterward he thought the 3-2 pitch was a strike, and Braun, Ladd got out of the inning when Willie McGee lined out to shortstop and Ozzie Smith's ground single hit base runner Braun in the foot for an automatic out.
In the ninth, Milwaukee's Paul Molitor led off with a bunt single, but was thrown out by Porter trying to steal second. He was the Brewers' last base runner.
St. Louis could hardly have engineered a more typical victory.
The Cardinals rallied to tie in the middle innings, then won in the late game as Doug Bair, then the inimitable Sutter, who pitched the final 2 1/3 innings, shut out the Brewers for the last four innings.
When the Cardinals' McGee, Ozzie Smith and Ken Oberkfell weren't stealing second base with impunity, then Porter was slapping the opposite-field, two-run, hit-and-run double that tied the game in the sixth or Sutter was throwing one ground ball after another.
"I had a meetin' yesterday and we got our brains beat out," said Cardinals Manager Whitey Herzog. "So, I didn't say anything to 'em today."
Perhaps the Cardinals' most central hero this cool evening was Porter. Aside from his rare opposite-field double, he also moved the winning run to second in the eighth. Then he threw out Molitor, who had 41 steals, as Robin Yount swung and missed on a hit-and-run.
Early in the evening, however, Porter was worried. "At first, I thought we were going to die," he said. "We started to lose a little of our momentum (translation: morale) on the bench."
That was when Charlie Moore hit a double off the 386-foot sign in the second to drive home Roy Howell. And a ground out by Yount scored Molitor in the third. And, finally, ex-Cardinal catcher Simmons hit his second homer in two nights in the third -- this time with a second-deck drive -- to make it 3-0.
At that juncture, the Brewers had outscored St. Louis, 13-0, outhit them, 22-3, and gotten more men on base, 29-4.
Then, the Cardinals showed up, thanks largely to Herzog's daring.
"I don't understand who the hell wrote the book that says you can't run when you're behind," he said.
Back-to-back, two-out RBI hits by Tommy Herr and Oberkfell -- a ground-rule double and a crisp line single -- in the third inning cut the lead to 3-2. From that moment on, the Cardinals were alive once more, and running.
True, the Brewers knocked out rookie starter John Stuper in the fifth as Yount doubled and scored on one of Cecil Cooper's three hits.
But after the hard-throwing Bair retired the Brewers in order in the sixth, the Cardinals came back to tie the game, 4-4, and finally bring the red-clad crowd fully into the game. With two on, two out and two strikes on Porter, Herzog had the brass to put on the hit and run.
Porte hit the ball into the left field corner. A shock to himself as well and the Brewers, who were using a version of the Williams Shift.
If Porter, who came to the Cardinals from Kansas City, is now accepted, and flourishing, then two absolutely vital plays from the Cardinals' eighth may not be accepted in Milwaukee for quite some time.
This night's hidden play came after McClure walked Hernandez on four pitches to start the eighth. Hendrick hit a grounder to Cooper that might well have been a double play. But McClure broke off the mound woefully late. Yount had his arm cocked for a relay throw he couldn't make because nobody was on first. Would Hendrick have been doubled?
No one knows. But a case can certainly be made that he would have been, instead of scoring the winning run.
Finally, right or wrong, the Brewers are never going to believe that Haller didn't squeeze the plate on them from the early innings on when he took off his mask and jawed with their dugout.
Lonnie Smith, in what may be worthy of Ripley, said: "I thought it was there. The umpire said no. Umpires are always right. If I'd fouled it off, it would have been a miracle."
That set a brutal stage for Ladd. He was steamed at the ump. The man at the plate, Braun, has been a "walking man" for years, ever since he read a magazine dissertation by Ted Williams in '76 on the virtues of pitch selection. "I was stationed in West Germany (in the service)," said Braun, who had nothing to do but peruse old magazines.
This evening, Braun's idle Army reading was the last link in the victorious Cardinals' chain of brave base running, deep bullpen pitching and repeated heroics by Porter. This evening, a World Series that was in danger of being short and one-sided was turned on its axis.