ST. LOUIS, OCT. 21 -- Minnesota's Joe Niekro pitched the fifth and six innings tonight, thus making his first World Series appearance after 19 years, 138 days in the majors. He breaks Walter Johnson's record for having played the most seasons before getting into a Series. It took Johnson 18 seasons, from 1907 to 1924.

Niekro had been scheduled to start tonight for the Twins, but only if they took a 3-0 lead Tuesday. When they lost, Manager Tom Kelly reverted to his three-man rotation of Frank Viola, Bert Blyleven and Les Straker.

"I'd like to get in," Niekro had said before the game. "The first thing you want is just to be part of something like this, even if you're on the bench. But then you get here and that's not really enough. It's not a life or death situation, but I think everybody wants to play."Cox to Start

After the game, Cardinals Manager Whitey Herzog announced that Danny Cox will start Game 5 and John Tudor Game 6. That leaves him with a tough decision for Game 7, although rookie Joe Magrane is the most likely candidate.

Herzog said Greg Mathews, tonight's starter, probably won't pitch again because of a strained right quadricep . . .

The Twins/Senators franchise has 10 straight road losses in World Series play. Their last victory was when Walter Johnson won Game 1 in 1925 at Pittsburgh. The franchise is 0-5 since moving to Minnesota and 2-12 overall . . .

Before tonight, the Cardinals had homered in only one of their last 11 World Series games . . . Pitching update: AL pitchers are hitless in their last 62 at-bats, and one for their last 84. In this Series, they're zero for three -- all strikeouts. Mathews hadn't hit a batter in 209 innings this season before he got Gary Gaetti with a pitch in the second inning . . .

Minnesota shortstop Greg Gagne hadn't homered in 128 at-bats off left-handers during the regular season. Two of his three postseason homers have been off lefties: Detroit's Frank Tanana and Minnesota's Frank Viola. Viola's ERA in four postseason starts is 5.02 . . .

In the first four games, the home team is hitting .600 in its half of the fourth inning. There have been 19 runs scored . . . The last player to homer in the World Series after not homering in the regular season was Oakland pitcher Ken Holtzman on Oct. 16, 1974 . . . St. Louis center fielder Willie McGee is hitting .366 in postseason play, and rookie Jim Lindeman is hitting .381 . . .

Herzog said he saw Bert Blyleven balk about 11 times during Game 2. He argues that, when Blyleven goes into his stretch and doesn't bring his glove to a stop, that's a balk. Blyleven said he did stop and hasn't had a balk called all year.

"Whitey seems to be complaining a lot," said Blyleven, who'll start Thursday's Game 5 for the Twins. "I feel I've been pitching this way for 17-plus years. No one called a balk in that game. I think his complaining is a ploy to put something in my mind . . . Whitey really doesn't know me, because I have no mind."

Herzog responded: "Tell Bert I know that. He's 36, and I've known him since he was 18. I've known him since he was the talk of the Instructional League. We almost traded for him two years ago. We had a trade done, and Cleveland backed out.". . .

Cardinals shortstop Ozzie Smith said he's getting tired of having to defend his team because they don't hit homers. Yes, they rely on slapping the ball around, stealing bases and getting great pitching and defense. But they were also leading the majors in runs until Jack Clark was hurt and are appearing in their third World Series in six years.

"I find myself apologizing for the way we've played the last six years," Smith said. "Is that fair? I see someone said the Twins scored a Cardinals-like run. What's that? What we do isn't new. The Dodgers used to win with pitching and defense. That's just good baseball."

Most people may be unable to sympathize with Herzog's complaints about his offense.

But the way they planned to get here and the way they actually got here are two different courses, and even as the final touches are put on 1987 Herzog is planning toward 1988.

He hopes it'll be like 1987 was supposed to be, that is, that the Cardinals will have their five switch-hitters in a lineup with Lindeman, Clark and Tony Pena. Lindeman, Clark and Pena were supposed to supply the power and a lot of the RBI, but because of injuries they only played 10 games together.

Pena broke a thumb early in the season and batted .214. Lindeman was the Cardinals' No. 1 farm prospect last spring, but had a variety of injuries. He did finish with eight homers in 207 at-bats, but Herzog believes he'll eventually be a "20 to 25 homer guy."

And Clark, who still finished with 35 homers and 106 RBI, was on his way to an incredible season when he tore up his ankle.

"We'll try that setup next year," Herzog said. "Maybe we'll get lucky and keep our people healthy. I'd say Lindeman deserves a chance to play every day."No Second-Guessing?

Kelly said he wouldn't call pitches for his pitchers, but left no doubt he was upset about Juan Berenguer's selection during the Cardinals' three-run seventh-inning rally Tuesday.

"I told Juan and {catcher Tim} Laudner to use the forkball against the lefties," he said. "We've gone over that, I don't know how many times. Yesterday, all the big hits came off fastballs. But . . . I'm not going to second-guess." . . .

The general managers and scouting directors have voted Joe Branzell of the Texas Rangers one of three scouts of the year. He lives in Washington.