Oh, so those are the St. Louis Cardinals.
The team from the banks of the Mississippi forced the 79th World Series to a seventh game by routing the Milwaukee Brewers, 13-1, before a crowd of 53,723 tonight in rain-drenched Busch Stadium.
This evening, in a 2 hour 21 minute game delayed by rain twice for a total of 2 hours and 39 minutes -- the second delay of 2 hours 13 minutes coming in the sixth -- the baseball nation finally got an unadulterated eyeful of the best of the Busch Boys. Yes, those were the same Cardinals who unraveled the National League this year, spreading nervous disorders and battlefield fatigue symptoms among opponents.
Hitting line drives off walls, and over them, in all directions. Taking extra bases on everything. Stealing with impunity. Scoring standing up on a suicide squeeze bunt. Almost stealing home plate, but for a missed call by an umpire. Forcing ridiculous infield errors. Knocking out a 258-game winner with seven runs in fewer than five innings. Turning Red-blur double plays. Getting a four-hit complete game from John Stuper, a little-known rookie with a funny name who threw his first and last pitches exactly five hours apart.
For the 28th time in history -- but only the second time in the last seven seasons -- baseball will have its ultimate attraction: a winner-take-all Series-ending game.
Appropriately, each team will pitch its regular-season ace Wednesday (WRC-TV-4, 8:20 p.m.). St. Louis' Joaquin Andujar (15-10), who won Game 3 by a score of 6-2, will face Pete Vuckovich (18-6), who lost that game.
Both pitchers might well be at less than full capacity. Vuckovich's sore shoulder has nagged him for several weeks. Andujar's right knee feels only "so-so" after being hit by a ground smash by Ted Simmons last Friday. Andujar was carried from the field that night.
For the Cardinals, this Game 7 offers the opportunity for the first world title in this storied baseball town in 15 years. For the Brewers, who never have been kings of the hill, a victory on Wednesday would make the death-wish Brew Crew the first team in history to be tied on the last day of the regular season, the last day of the playoffs and the last day of the World Series. And win them all.
The Cardinals had six extra-base hits, including two-run homers by Darrell Porter and Keith Hernandez. Meanwhile, Stuper faced only one man more than the minimum over the first eight innings. Dane Iorg became the first designated hitter to get three extra-base hits in the same Series game--two doubles and a triple, and Tommy Herr finished with a single, double and an expert squeeze bunt.
The Cardinals' Lonnie Smith even stole home on the veteran battery of pitcher Don Sutton and Simmons; unfortunately, umpire Jim Evans was caught as much by surprise as the Brewers since, replays showed, he missed a close but clear call, deciding Smith was out.
The Cardinals, who hit only 67 homers all season, hadn't hit two homers in the same game in this big park since May 5; in fact, they had only a pair of two-homer games here all season. The 11 extra bases on long hits was their second-highest of the season.
This noncontest, in which no significant rain arrived until the Cardinals had built a 7-0 lead, was as much an embarrassment to Milwaukee as the Brewers' 10-0 victory had been to St. Louis the previous Tuesday night in the opener.
Milwaukee's million-dollar acquisition -- right-hander Sutton -- failed badly for the second time in this Series. After squandering leads of 3-0 and 4-2 in Game 2, and failing again tonight, Sutton's Series statistics are 11 runs in 10 1/3 innings. Who would have thought that of two Sutton-Stuper meetings, the Cardinals would get two victories?
The Brewers' two best infielders -- shortstop Robin Yount and second baseman Jim Gantner -- each made two jittery errors and left fielder Ben Oglivie misplayed a fly ball. Gantner, with five errors, has a shot at one of those records some thought would never be broken--Davey Lopes' mark of six errors in one Series by a second baseman.
"Considering the circumstances, this is the best game of my life," said Stuper. "I was very nervous, very pumped up. I wasn't throwing with great velocity, but my ball was moving well."
Perhaps most remarkable was Stuper's ability to warm up again after such a long delay and work the final three innings, thus saving the Cardinals' bullpen.
Sutton, who was 6-3 in his dozen previous postseason starts, was perplexed by his ineffectiveness. "I was sitting in the clubhouse icing my arm trying to come up with an excuse, but there was none," said Sutton, who described his home run balls as "poorly executed good ideas."
Milwaukee owner Bud Selig, shivering after midnight, summarized the Brewers' viewpoint succinctly: "Is this ridiculous?"
Few Series have ever seemed to change hands so often and with such dramatic impact. Twice the Brewers have had one-game lead and seemed in position to win. Once, the Cardinals led by a game; once, they had a four-run lead and were within seven outs of having a two-game lead.
Now, it's back to square one.
This Series has had an undeniable ebb and flow. The Brewers outscored the Cardinals, 13-0, in the first 11 1/2 innings, but the Cardinals answered with a 16-4 stretch over the next 21 innings. That period ended when the Brewers scored six runs in the seventh inning in Game 4, starting a span in which the Brewers outscored the Cardinals, 12-2, over a 10-inning span.
That period of Brewer domination ended when St. Louis scored two runs in the ninth inning of Game 5. The Cardinals are now back in the driver's seat, having outscored Milwaukee 15-0, until the Brewers scored a run in the ninth tonight.
Who says there's no such thing as momentum?
Despite these shifts in tide, the Series could hardly be closer. The total score of all six games is: St. Louis 33, Milwaukee 30.
The Brewers' problems started early as they undid all the impact of their brilliant fielding on Sunday by kicking the ball around clownishly. With two outs in the second, Oglivie turned a sliced fly by Iorg into the left field corner into a double as he turned wall-shy, botching a play of only modest difficulty.
On the next pitch, Willie McGee's grounder went directly between Yount's legs to score Iorg. That red-faced play by the Brewers' star-of-stars seemed like a call to arms for the Cardinals. The next hitter, Herr, one for 19 in the Series at that point, doubled off the right field wall to score McGee.
Two innings later, it was Porter following George Hendrick's single with a line drive homer just over the barrier in right.
Then, in the fifth, with the Cardinals and their crowd delighted the drizzly Brewer fifth inning had gotten into the books -- after a rain delay of 26 minutes -- Hernandez celebrated the game's becoming official with a 425-foot, two-run homer that knocked out Sutton. As though this towering blow had pierced the clouds, the first of the night's heavy rains arrived, eventually delaying this game until 12:40 a.m. EDT.
When play resumed at last, the Cardinals rewarded the faithful gang of at least 20,000 who had endured plunging temperatures, rain and boredom. They scored the last five runs of a six-run sixth off Doc Medich.
For those interested in the "Momentum Theory" of this preposterous Series, the Brewers scored a run in the ninth on a wild pitch by Stuper to avoid being shut out for only the second time of the season. If the 13-0, 4-16, 12-2, 0-15 progression holds true, the Brewers have already started the next turn of the tide.
Anybody who was in Busch Stadium tonight, and who would believe that, would probably believe anything.