SAN FRANCISCO, OCT. 11 -- The authentic San Francisco Giants arrived in the National League playoffs today, moving within one win of this town's first pennant in a quarter of a century by thumping St. Louis, 6-3, in Game 5 of this championship series.

The Giants had won twice before, but not the way they wanted to do it -- with all the facets of their varied and cerebral game on national display.

"I think we've made a statement to everybody, not just the Cardinals. This team can flat out play. It's about time people realized it," said slugger Will Clark. "We did it again. New heroes every day."

And what heroes. Left-hander Joe Price got the decision with five innings of one-hit shutout relief. Tiny Jose Uribe poked the game-winning, two-run single in a four-run fourth off Bob Forsch. Kevin Mitchell drove in two runs off Cardinals starter Greg Mathews with a single and a 410-foot home run. Robby Thompson walked, stole a base and scored, then tripled home an insurance run. Mike Aldrete pinch-hit a sacrifice fly.

Not a marquee name in the bunch. The 10-year-old with the complete set of baseball cards doesn't even know these guys.

This was a win the way the Giants like it -- one that gives foes food for thought. With Manager Roger Craig calling hit-and-runs and pitchouts and with Giants runners stealing bases by doping out the pitcher's pickoff move. The Giants don't just want to win. They want to do some of everything and show you who they are.

"There are so many ways we can beat you. And it ain't over yet," said Clark, who has a sign above his locker that reads, "We'll get along fine as soon as you realize I'm God."

So many ways. The Giants can turn the double play; they set a playoff record with their 10th this beautiful afternoon, escaping a bases-loaded, none-out jam with just one run scoring, thanks to some Thompson-to-Uribe fancy footwork. And they can hit the ball out of the park; Mitchell's blast made the Giants the first team to homer in five straight playoff games. They've outhomered St. Louis, 9-1.

And they can beat you at your own game. They outstole the Cardinals, 3-0, today. The Giants had Mathews' pickoff move down so pat that, twice, a throw by Tony Pena was pointless. Uribe grabbed third while Ken Dayley napped. Who's the speed team here, anyway? Clark chipped in a crucial hit-and-run single in the four-run Forsch farce.

As for the Cardinals, Bob Brenly threw out Willie McGee by so much on a Craig-called pitchout that McGee tried to return to first and was run down. "We gotta worry about their rabbits," said the Giants catcher. "But they gotta worry about me."

And the Cardinals' miserable luck continues.

If they pull this thing out back home in Busch Stadium Tuesday and Wednesday, they deserve Purple Hearts across the board. Until this afternoon, the best St. Louis Cardinals replacement team was not in the NFL, but the NL playoffs. This time, however, the injuries were too much.

Mathews had to leave, with a 3-2 lead, because a strained quadriceps in his right leg was making him pitch stiff-legged. Some Giants might say they were already rocking the left-hander who beat them in Game 1. But old-hand Don Zimmer, their third base coach, was more generous.

"I was glad to see that left-hander out of there. He's got that change-up. We had two runs off him, but we only had two hits {by Mitchell}. He's exactly the type we don't hit," said Zimmer. "I hope he gets better. But I hope we don't see him no more this series."

Until Mathews left, the Cardinals were scrappy. Three times they took one-run leads off starter Rick Reuschel. A double by Vince Coleman, a sacrifice by Ozzie Smith and a sacrifice fly by Tom Herr put them on the board in the first. Three singles (one of them a fake-bunt bloop liner by Mathews) loaded the bases in the third and set up Smith's sacrifice fly. And a Reuschel error covering first base scored Terry Pendleton after a third-inning triple.

Still, St. Louis was wondering what might have been. McGee was gunned down just before Pendleton's triple. Big threats. Little innings. As soon as Forsch appeared, the Cardinals wished they'd capitalized far more, because the 37-year-old right-hander had nothing.

The first four Giants to face him scored. By the time Chili Davis and Clark had singled (on Forsch's first three pitches) and Brenly had walked to fill the bases, Candlestick Park was a caldron at full boil. When Uribe cracked Forsch's first pitch -- a lazy high change-up -- into right field, this game was as good as history. "I swear I could feel the ground shake after Uribe's hit," said Brenly.

Craig gambled on a truly big inning and won, yanking Reuschel for pinch hitter Aldrete, who battled his brains out against lefty Dayley, finally getting a run home with a fly. Thompson then picked a low-in slider off his knees and somehow put it up the gap in right for an RBI triple.

With a 6-3 lead in hand, a record crowd of 59,363 wasn't going to take prisoners. Neither was Price, a 30-year-old journeyman middle reliever who started the season in the minors with a dead arm and who, according to Brenly, "couldn't break a pane of glass in spring training." He broke hearts with his six strikeouts and only two base runners in five innings. For the second game in a row, Herzog couldn't even get a sensible spot to use gimpy Jack Clark as a pinch hitter.

"Price's first six warmup pitches, I questioned if he even knew where he was," said Brenly. "Then, from the first hitter, if there were a Cy Young for postseason, he might have won it. Tremendous fastball, great control and his curveball just defied physics."

"Price didn't shut the door," chortled Will Clark. "He slammed it."

As you can see, the Giants are a mite pumped up. Price is another of General Manager Al Rosen's eye-opening acquisitions. "I always liked him with Cincinnati," said Rosen. "Great stomach. Big heart."

The Cardinals were left as silent as their bats.

"We're just not hitting," said Herzog. "Our third, fifth and sixth hitters {Herr, McGee and Pendleton} just aren't hitting. {Jack} Clark or no Clark, that's our problem."

And the Giants' four left-handed pitchers, who have allowed three runs in 22 innings, are creating the problem.

"I've always loved lefties," said Rosen.

When this series returns to Busch Stadium on Tuesday (8:25 p.m. EST), the Cardinals will have their ace, southpaw John Tudor, rested to face Dave Dravecky, the man who beat him, 5-0, with a two-hitter in Game 2. They'll need him.

"The momentum is our way now," said Craig. "We're hitting. We're forcing the issue."

The Giants will require considerable deflating now. The Cardinals might not be a healthy enough team to do it. The San Franciscans left here "with the cheers of 59,000 loonies in our ears," according to Clark. If one man speaks for all the Giants, it's the rock-hard, sharp-witted Brenly and his mind is made up: "We're on a mission."