The Budweiser Clydesdales ran out of control before this World Series game tonight, almost barreling into the right field wall of Busch Stadium with 86-year-old Cardinals owner Augie Busch aboard the beer wagon they were pulling.
Then, Busch's St. Louis Cardinals took an old-fashioned 6-1 licking from the desperate Kansas City Royals in Game 3 of a World Series that could suddenly shift direction if the Cardinals aren't wary.
The Royals got a six-hit victory from 21-year-old expectant father Bret Saberhagen, a two-run ice-breaking double from Lonnie Smith and three RBI from Frank White on a 425-foot home run and a double. George Brett also tied a Series record by reaching base five times in a row.
The Cardinals had to swallow another brutal shelling of 21-game winner Joaquin Andujar, whose arm seems dead. He's now allowed 30 base runners and 23 hits in 14 post-season innings. St. Louis Manager Whitey Herzog indicated Andujar probably would not start again.
The visiting West Side contingent in this Show Me Showdown still trails, two games to one. But the Royals sure changed their outlook tonight. St. Louis has managed only 19 hits in three games -- a .198 batting average -- against three pitchers they will see again if this Series goes seven games.
"They've pretty well put the kibosh on us," said Herzog. "The way we've hit, we could be down, 3-0. Yes, I am concerned about my hitting." With 110-base thief Vince Coleman out for the year, the Cardinals' running game is on idle. Now, their bats are in neutral, too.
If this game was mandatory for the Royals, then Wednesday's 8:25 affair is almost equally vital to the Cardinals. It's their one remaining mismatch-on-paper with John Tudor, on a 22-2 streak, facing entirely mortal Bud Black (10-15). If the Cardinals win, they'd have their hammerlock back in place. Should Tudor lose, however, the Royals might find themselves favored to win the Series.
Beating Tudor might be as tough as hanging an "L" on Saberhagen. Except for consecutive singles in the sixth by Ozzie Smith, Tommy Herr and Jack Clark, the Cardinals barely dented the 20-game winner, who had 12 wins in his last 13 decisions. Saberhagen had his 90-mph fast ball, his nasty slider, his changeup, his control and a level of poise usually associated with greats.
The right-hander, who pitches more like his number (31) than his age, may, in his own way, be almost as remarkable as the more acclaimed Dwight Gooden.
What kind of preternatural composure does this slim kid with the high-pitched voice, the sparse mustache and the sly smile possess? His pregnant wife is overdue for their first child. His team, behind two games to none, was dead meat if he lost. And he was facing the best-hitting team in the National League in its own park.
So what did Saberhagen do? Strike out eight, including slugger Jack Clark three times. "For his age, I've never seen a pitcher do the things he did with the baseball," said Herzog. "He struck out Clark and (Andy) Van Slyke in the ninth on changeups."
"What Saberhagen's got, I can't explain," said Royals Manager Dick Howser, "but he's had it from the first time I saw him in the minors."
The shy, quiet Saberhagen ("Squeak up, Bret," say teammates) barely noticed the Cardinals' existence. Wife Janeane was his real concern. "I heard she might be on the way to the hospital right now," he said. "Gotta get outta here and give her a call and see if it's true."
The Royals had several good omens. Obviously, Saberhagen is entirely recovered from the thumb and ankle bruises Toronto laid on him in two shaky starts in the American League playoffs. Slumping Steve Balboni (.120 career average in the postseason) had two very loud outs. And White, a .249 hitter asked to do unaccustomed heavy lifting in the No. 4 spot, has a single, three doubles and a titanic homer in his last two games.
"If we'd lost tonight, it would have been a long, long road ahead," said Brett, who had two singles, three walks and two runs scored. "After the way we lost Sunday, I thought we came back and played a great game. A lot of teams can't do that, but ours, for some reason, can . . . We had our hearts games, our pinochle game. The clubhouse atmosphere was very, very loose.
"After Game 1, we said, 'Hey, we can beat these guys.' We still feel we can beat 'em, if we play well."
No team has ever lost a World Series after winning the first two games on the road, as the Cardinals did in Kansas City. But the ominous portents began early for St. Louis tonight. During pregame ceremonies, Busch was wheeled around the field like a Caesar on a huge beer wagon drawn by eight Clydesdales.
However, after careening over the mound, the full-speed Clydesdales headed toward the right field wall, scattering a dozen marching band members who dove for cover on the warning track. At the last instant, the horses cut right and barely made it through the narrow gap in the fence.
One Cardinal who didn't escape was Andujar. The only back-to-back 20-game winner in baseball the past two seasons left six Royals stranded in the first three innings. His luck was superb.
White banged a two-on grounder through the box in the first, but because both runners were going, second baseman Tommy Herr was near the bag and started a double play. In the second, what looked like a Balboni homer was caught by Tito Landrum near the top of the left field fence. And, in the third, Pat Sheridan fanned with the bases loaded.
Then the roof caved in.
"I had everything working for me tonight except the umpire," said Andujar, who has one win in two months and an ERA around 7.00 in that span. "The first few innings, I was very tough to hit. Then he stopped giving me the pitches on the corners and everything changed."
Oh, those umpires.
Andujar walked .245 hitter Jim Sundberg to start the fourth, then forgot to cover first base on a chop by Buddy Biancalana, producing an infield hit. With two out, Lonnie Smith sliced a liner to right-center that went for a two-run double when Van Slyke dove and played the ball off his wrist, above his glove. It was a tough play, but Ron Swoboda would have had it.
The Royals smelled the kill. Brett lashed the first strike of the next inning into right field and White hit the first pitch -- either a very slow fast ball or a very straight slider -- far over the 383-foot sign in left.
Insurance runs were supplied in the seventh off Ricky Horton. Brett walked and White drove him home with a double to the left-field corner. Biancalana then singled home the final run.
St. Louis ended the night properly respectful. Herr stressed that the Cardinals might have been distracted by "sweep" talk and needed to get serious. Landrum was dazzled that a 21-year-old would battle with his recalcitrant changeup inning after inning until he finally got it back under control.
Perhaps Wednesday's key man will be Royals left-hander Black, a star in '84 but a weak link in '85 until recently. "Maybe now I can go out and make up for it," he said.
If this Series goes to a seventh game, Tudor and Saberhagen would be scheduled to face each other. If that happens, and if Saberhagen's wife still has not delivered, the Cardinals might have to resort to dire tactics to rattle the implacable mound master.
Has a bench jockey ever yelled, "Congratulations, Bret. It's quints."