MINNEAPOLIS -- After five generally desultory, inconsequential World Series games, Minnesota's Gary Gaetti sat in front of his locker and spoke dreamily of what might lie ahead. "It always seems that when the Series goes to 6 and 7 it gets better," he said hopefully. "I haven't been there myself yet, but now I'll get the chance to see."

So do we all.

In by far the best game of this Series -- a thunderous game evocative of the great Games 6 of last year and the year before -- the Twins thrashed St. Louis' best pitcher and put themselves in position to become the first team in 83 years of this thing to win all four home games. Now they have the twin advantages, so to speak, of their best pitcher, Frank Viola, and their best friend, the Metrodome. If anybody has a ranch to bet on the Cardinals with Joe Magrane starting, he'll find a crowd of eager takers in the Minnesota clubhouse.

What a stunningly contrasting Series this has been -- the Twins winning in sudden, powerful bursts here; the Cardinals winning by stealthy, crafty sorties in St. Louis. "We can't keep the ball in the ballpark; that's the problem," Whitey Herzog said of playing in the Dome. Minnesota, riding homers by seven different players and grand slams by Dan Gladden in Game 1 and Kent Hrbek in Game 6, has outscored the Cardinals here, 29-10. The Cardinals, scooting around the bases like fire ants, outscored the Twins in St. Louis, 14-5. It's reminiscent of the 1960 Series when the Yankees bludgeoned the Pirates by 35 runs in their three victories, and Pittsburgh shimmied by the Yankees by just seven in their four victories.

How quickly a Series can turn. Even with the built-in advantages of the Dome, the Cardinals were deserving favorites in Game 6. They had John Tudor, one of the best pitchers in baseball, going against Les Straker, a nondescript rookie, going on three days' rest for the first time in his life. Straker, as expected, was dispatched early. But the shock was Tudor, who often has said he doesn't enjoy pitching in pressure games, bopped around like a beanbag. Handed leads of 1-0, 4-2, and finally 5-2, he repeatedly dropped the baton. Eleven hits and six runs in less than five innings. Veal piccata should be pounded so hard.

The big blasts were by Hrbek and Don Baylor, prodigious shots by large, fearsome men. Baylor's home run, three runs worth off Tudor, tied the game at 5, the first time the Twins had come back from more than a one-run deficit the entire Series. Long admired as a leader, a player's player, 38-year-old Baylor joined the Twins on Aug. 31, just in time to be eligible for the postseason roster. This was his first home run as a Twin, and in its way it was every bit as dramatic as his ninth-inning homer against the Angels in the playoffs last year, the same kind of stroke, too, reaching low and over the plate, doing it almost one-handed. "I was somewhat more ready for {Tudor} than he was ready for me," Baylor said. The last time they met -- July 4, 1983, Dave Righetti's no-hitter, when Baylor was a Yankee and Tudor on the Red Sox -- Baylor also took him deep.

What brutal irony for George Steinbrenner, who dealt Baylor to Boston two years ago, hooting, "His bat is dead in October." And what brutal irony, too, for Red Sox Manager John McNamara, who let Baylor languish on the bench in the pivotal Game 6 of last year's Series in New York, preferring to stand by the jinxed Bill Buckner against lefties.

Hrbek's blow cut even farther and deeper than Baylor's, a first-pitch, 439-foot grand slam to put the Twins out of reach, 10-5. Herzog, who was managing like it was the seventh game of the Series -- using three pinch hitters and four pitchers in less than six innings -- brought Ken Dayley in specifically to pitch to Hrbek. The lefty-lefty move seemed to favor Herzog; Dayley hadn't given up a run in six postseason appearances, and Hrbek was 0 for 16 against lefthanders in the same period. "He threw it where I was swinging," Hrbek deadpanned. Hrbek's home run trot, both flaps out, cruising like the Concorde, was Minnesota's answer to Tom Lawless' Stagger-Lee Stroll. "I only wish I could have run around twice," Hrbek said. Hrbek, a Minneapolis native, exuberantly called the homer, "the topper of all toppers," explaining how much it means to him "to have family in the stands, to do it in my home state."

So finally the 1987 Series presented us with a game worth remembering, a game with strategy and surprise, with twists and turns, a game that can stand in line with the most recent Games 6, games you'll surely recall.

St. Louis vs. Kansas City, 1985: A 0-0 game for seven, with Brian Harper's pinch-hit giving the Cardinals a 1-0 lead after eight. Then, in the ninth, Don Denkinger's gift call gives Jorge Orta first base, and a little while later Harper is forgotten as the equally unknown Dane Iorg hits a two-run single to win it. The Royals, you'll note, sandblasted Tudor in Game 7.

Boston vs. New York, 1986: Extra innings. Dave Henderson's homer gives the Red Sox a one-run lead in the 10th, and they add another for 5-3 with three outs to get. Never happens. Three straight singles, a wild pitch and Mookie Wilson's fateful grounder to Buckner. Mets win, 6-5, and, like the Royals the year before, win Game 7 as well. It's a game and a Series Baylor remembers all too well. "Game 6 in New York was a year ago to the day," he said uncomfortably. Remembering the Boston clubhouse, he winced. "There was a lot of tension in there for Game 7. We couldn't forget Game 6."

Ahead of us lies Viola, admittedly looking for redemption, and Herzog looking for some live arms to give him a few good innings and keep the ball in the ballpark. When you've said that, Bud, you've said it all.