Joaquin Andujar often boasts that the only way he'll leave the mound with an injury is to be carried off. It happened tonight. The only way the Brewers could get him out of Game 3 of the World Series was to almost literally knock him out.
"Lotta times," said third baseman Ken Oberkfell, "a ball hits him and he won't go down. So my first instinct (when Ted Simmons smashed a hit off Andujar's right shin in the seventh inning) was to go for the ball (which had bounced foul). But I could tell he was hurt."
Andujar had been smacked on the left shinbone by Chris Chambliss' liner early in Game 3 of the National League playoffs, but jumped up and kept the Braves tame until Bruce Sutter was ready to clinch the pennant.
"Funny how guys can go years without being hit once," said Cardinals pitching coach Hub Kittle, "then all of a sudden there's a streak of bad luck. I got hit twice in one game, on the knee and then right above the ankle. Joaquin's been hit three times this year. Hard."
At the hospital later, X-rays showed the bone had not been broken. And the Brewers hardly could be comforted after the 6-2 loss by Andujar's injury history. He's always been a swift healer. The other time he was kayoed during a game, hit on the right leg by the Mets, Andujar did not miss a turn.
What he did was shut out the Phillies next time.
Later tonight, the hospital quoted the Cardinals' team doctor as saying Andujar suffered "a contusion to the bone beneath the right knee. The bottom line is he can play if needed."
That was cheery enough for the Cardinals to chirp.
"Couldn't have been hurt bad," one of them joked. "The ball hit the ground once."
Mostly, this was a three-limb, two-man game. Andujar allowed just a double and single to Jim Gantner for 6 1/3 innings and Willie McGee drove in four runs with two homers and saved at least two runs with a leaping catch in left-center.
If Andujar had to get hurt, it came at a fortunate time for the Cardinals: just one out before what is known as Sutter Time. An inning earlier and it might have been close to disaster. As it was, Jim Kaat gave Doug Bair time to warm completely, although Cardinals Manager Whitey Herzog again would not give poor Bair time to warm to the task.
"What we want is to save outs for Bruce," said Kaat, rushed to the mound after two teammates had carried Andujar to the dugout prior to his being taken to the hospital.
"Over the course of the season," Kaat said, "it's especially important to get every out for him (Sutter), to save him as much as possible. Now, of course, there's only a few days left and you let it all hang out. Looking back (on tonight), it'd been nice to save another out."
Herzog saves the final seven outs for Sutter, so Kaat actually met his minimum requirements by striking out Ben Oglivie. When Gorman Thomas singled, however, Herzog hooked Kaat and went with the fellow who might be the Sutter-like stopper on some other teams, Bair.
When Bair walked pinch hitter Don Money, however, loading the bases, Herzog's patience was exhausted. Even with a 5-0 lead. If Herzog were a basketball coach, he probably would bring the first team back if a 30-point lead got whittled to 18. Why worry?
The Brewers helped the Cardinals breathe more easily.
As several teammates had done earlier against Andujar, Charlie Moore swung at the first pitch he could see, a Sutter sinker. One pitch; one popup; one out; one bit of dugout drama. Moore's pop teetered in and out of play its entire downward flight.
"Enough room and enough time," Oberkfell said of his scampering ever so close to the Cardinals' dugout to make the catch. "I was hoping it would drift back into play, and it did. All I was thinking was: 'Don't miss this one.' "
Andujar wasn't missing most of the night; he was kidding sometimes, to Gorman Thomas in particular. Thomas was his special foil, and it began before the Series officially started Tuesday night in St. Louis.
There the two could be seen, during the introductions, perhaps 30 yards apart on opposite baselines, gesturing to one another. Thomas was looking at Andujar, 8-0 since Aug. 12, and motioning for him to throw the ball between his legs or, pretty please, behind his back.
Andujar was having none of it. Fast balls, he motioned. Hard.
"That's it," he said after beating the Braves, "fast balls. If they miss, 'Thank you.' If they hit 'em, 'Bye.' "
So Thomas, in a horrific slump caused almost entirely by a knee injury, went up expecting overhand heat this nippy night. He got it the first three pitches. Then, with the count 1-2, Andujar went sidearm, stretching out toward Toledo. Strike three swinging.
Next time, Thomas worked Andujar to 2-0. Part of what has made the Brewers so successful since that managerial change June 2 is that Manager Harvey Kuenn keeps the green light on nearly the entire game. Hitters are supposed to hit, he reasons.
So Thomas swung at the first decent Andujar throw, as Moore would later against Sutter, and popped the ball to second baseman Tommy Herr.
Sutter did offer one bit of drama, Cecil Cooper's two-run homer in the eighth. He could be seen snapping his thumb and index finger in frustration almost the instant the ball left Cooper's bat. So he had to work overtime, 10 batters instead of seven. No problem.