ST. LOUIS, OCT. 20 -- It was supposed to happen to the Minnesota Twins, but not this way. Not on a night when Minnesota rookie Les Straker matched St. Louis' John Tudor pitch for pitch or when the middle of the Cardinals' batting order remained silent.

In the most unlikely of circumstances, the Cardinals picked themselves off the artificial turf at Busch Stadium and got back in the 1987 World Series, winning Game 3 by a 3-1 score tonight before 55,347 bundled-up fans.

The result narrowed the Twins' lead in the best-of-seven Series to 2-1, but in the Cardinals' frame of reference, this was the night their offense finally showed up. They produced nine hits, seven of them singles. They stole two bases. They had runners on base in every inning.

Yet it was only after Straker shut them out for six innings that they came alive, scoring three times on Juan Berenguer in the seventh.

Leadoff Cardinal Vince Coleman snapped from a one-for-11 slump by doubling in two runs to overturn a 1-0 Twins lead. He then stole third and scored on Ozzie Smith's single.

That was all the Cardinals' offense, but it was enough as the left-handed Tudor, gaining the victory after leaving for a pinch hitter in the seventh, received shutout relief from right-hander Todd Worrell. Tudor gave up four hits and Worrell one.

Coleman had two steals in the game, equaling what he'd had in the first nine postseason games combined. He bailed the Cardinals out on a cold night (temperature in the 40s) when it appeared they might fall short. They left seven runners on base the first six innings with Straker pitching the biggest game of his career.

At 28, the right-hander from Venezuela came to the big leagues this season after 10 years in the minors and had lasted just 2 2/3 innings in his only other postseason start. Tonight, he was removed after giving up four hits and two walks over six innings in which he was repeatedly in trouble but always made the pitch he needed to make.

Now in a 2-1 Series, Twins Manager Tom Kelly junked his idea of starting Joe Niekro in Game 4 and, as planned, will go back to Game 1 starter Frank Viola on three days' rest. The Cardinals will pitch left-hander Greg Mathews.

With Jack Clark and Terry Pendleton out of their lineup, the Cardinals' only realistic hope had been to get their running game going. But in the first two games, the first three hitters in their order had gone only two for 24. They were batting a combined .196 (20 for 102) in postseason play, and Coleman's only two steals had been meaningless.

But the Cardinals had several chances to score in tonight's chill -- both dugouts had heaters in use when the game started with the temperature at 49 degrees and it dropped to 44 within the first hour -- and Coleman's speed set up one of the chances.

They got one opening in the second inning when Willie McGee singled with one out and took second on Straker's seventh balk of the year. It was called by Ken Kaiser because Straker failed to come to a stop during his motion, the very thing Herzog had complained vainly to Kaiser about concerning Bert Blyleven's delivery in Game 2.

Curt Ford lined to center and, after Jose Oquendo walked, Tony Pena grounded out to end the inning.

In the third, Coleman made first on shortstop Greg Gagne's error. Coleman promptly stole second, but Smith and Tommy Herr grounded out to end the threat.

And in the fourth, McGee doubled with one out. Straker left him there, though, striking out Ford and retiring Oquendo on a fly to Kirby Puckett in center.

The Twins, who had scored 13 runs in the fourth innings of Games 1 and 2, went down one-two-three this time and that brought the loudest cheer from the relieved crowd.

The Twins had some chances, too, but Straker kept coming to bat in key situations. In the third, he came up with a runner on first and couldn't get a bunt down. He eventually struck out, and did so again in the fifth with Tim Laudner on third base.

The Cardinals got their leadoff man on base in the fifth, but Straker struck out Tudor and Coleman and set down Smith on a grounder.

It was the Twins who finally scored first, when Tudor's control left him in the sixth. With one out, he walked Gagne. He then walked Puckett on four pitches.

A good play/bad play followed. Catcher Pena sprinted near the Cardinals dugout to catch Gary Gaetti's foul pop, but his momentum carried him into the dugout. Gagne tagged up and, as Pena dropped from sight, took third base.

Tudor went to 2-2 on Tom Brunansky, who did an adroit bit of hitting, stroking a low-and-away fastball off his knees and into right-center. Gagne scored on the single for a 1-0 lead. Hrbek grounded out.

Tudor had pitched 17 consecutive postseason innings without allowing an earned run before that.

Tudor then pitched a scoreless seventh, and when Kelly went to Berenguer to start the seventh, the Cardinals offense came alive.

Oquendo lined the reliever's first pitch into center, and Pena singled to right with none out. Cardinals Manager Whitey Herzog sent Pendleton up to hit for Tudor, and Pendleton laid down a sacrifice bunt to move the runners to second and third.

Berenguer made a nice pitch to Coleman -- a low fastball on the outside corner -- but Coleman got a piece of it and grounded it inside the right field foul line for a two-run double and a 2-1 St. Louis lead. Coleman stole third and scored on Smith's single to right to make it 3-1.

After spending two weeks at Tiger Stadium and in the Metrodome, the Twins must have thought they'd walked into the Grand Canyon, looking around a stadium that has deep power alleys and is 330 feet down the lines.

Herzog apparently had the same first impression when the Cardinals hired him in 1980, because within two years he had tailored the team around pitching, speed and defense.

"Now you can understand why they have the kind of ball club they do," Twins right fielder Brunansky said. "They've got line-drive hitters and guys who can run to the gaps."

The few Twins who had played here before -- during National League careers -- said those first impressions are correct.

"There are certain ballparks where you feel comfortable pitching, and I always felt comfortable here," Niekro said.

Reliever Dan Schatzeder said: "The best way to describe it is the way {Bob} Forsch pitches: he lets the other team hit the ball good and their jack rabbits just run it down."

Herzog was eager to play here, hoping it would give his pitchers a chance to keep the ball in the park. The Twins homered twice each in Games 1 and 2, but what bothered him is that two of them were hit to the opposite field yet carried.

"I'm not saying we're going to beat them," Herzog said, "but that home run ball will be neutralized a little bit, especially to the opposite field."