ST. LOUIS, OCT. 14 -- They play the theme from "Batman" whenever Jose Oquendo comes to bat at Busch Stadium. Tonight, Oquendo indeed proved to be a caped crusader, virtually running the villainous San Francisco Giants out of town with one swing.

Oquendo's three-run, second-inning homer provided Danny Cox a 4-0 cushion and was the big blow in St. Louis' 6-0 win propelling the Cardinals into the World Series against the Minnesota Twins.

"Jose has played great all year," Manager Whitey Herzog said. "No matter where we stuck him, whether it was for {Tom} Herr at second base or for {Willie} McGee in center, he has always done the job."

Oquendo is the very model of a modern utility baseball player. He's played every position but catcher with the Cardinals. Yes, catcher. He pitched an inning Aug. 7 at Philadelphia, giving up three runs on four hits.

But he hadn't been much of a power hitter. Before tonight, it had been the Giants who were thought of as the home run guys. The Cardinals could only manage one in six games, while San Francisco had knocked out nine. But just as Jim Lindeman's Game 3 homer got St. Louis going toward a victory, so did Oquendo's.

With one out, Terry Pendleton, Tony Pena and Willie McGee hit singles off San Francisco starter and loser Atlee Hammaker, driving in a run. Up came Oquendo, who was hitting .100 for the series, .125 as a right-handed batter (one for eight).

With Pena at third and McGee at second, Hammaker tried to pitch Oquendo inside, and had just missed inside to make the count 3-2.

"I was trying to hit the ball hard," Oquendo said. "I was looking for them to pitch inside. He threw a slider that was hanging. I knew I hit it pretty good, so I ran hard."

In doing so, he relieved a great burden from Herzog's mind. "The only thing I didn't know was if we were going to score," Herzog said. "I knew we would get a pretty good effort from Cox, but I didn't know if we would get any runs."

Hitting home runs is not Oquendo's forte. Hitting home runs against the Giants is. Since coming from the Mets in 1985, Oquendo has hit three major league homers, all of them coming against San Francisco. In 1983, he took Gary Lavelle deep in Candlestick Park. This season, he had the Cardinals' only pinch-hit homer of the season, against Craig Lefferts July 25.

"No one expected Jose to hit a home run," winning pitcher Cox said, "so we weren't expecting that. We seem to have a different hero every night and today was Jose's night. We seem to find a different way to win each time we play."

Oquendo thinks himself more a line-drive hitter, like say, Rod Carew, than a muscle guy. And it was Carew who inadvertently helped Oquendo's hitting. When Doug DeCinces came to St. Louis during the final week of the season, he mentioned to Oquendo that Oquendo reminded him a lot of Carew.

And while watching ESPN, Oquendo saw a video of Carew in action. He ordered the instruction video, and watched it frequently, including Wednesday night, to his wife's dismay.

"My wife got a little mad at me because I stayed up overnight watching films," he said. "It made me concentrate more. Carew's the hitting role model for doing everything right. So when you get to the plate, you have in your mind an idea of what to do."

So, emulating the smooth stroke of the great singles hitter, Oquendo went deep in the biggest game of his life.

"I just feel great," Oquendo said. "I don't want to be compared with {Carew}, but it's nice to know I can do the things he can."

"He's been doing great," Tony Pena said. "One thing about this ball club is that you never know what anyone on this club can do."

Holding his daughter, who celebrated her third birthday Thursday, Oquendo was asked how it felt to be talking about his new exploits. "Strange, but good," he said.