ST. LOUIS — The St. Louis Cardinals, semi-traditionalists when it comes to ballpark architecture, are feeling more comfortable and confident. They will be back in the great outdoors, but still on a carpet, at Busch Stadium tonight against the Minnesota Twins in Game 3 of the World Series.
Having staggered out of the Teflon-coated jungle known as the Metrodome with an 0-2 deficit, Manager Whitey Herzog at least feels confident enough to take a few verbal shots at the team that has thoroughly dominated his in the first two games.
Late Sunday night, after the Twins' 8-4 win over St. Louis in Game 2, and again at a Monday press conference, the irascible Herzog delivered criticisms of the Twins and the postseason system that enables teams lacking in depth to use travel days and short series to maximum their opportunities.
"Why didn't they win more . . . games if they're so . . . good," Herzog said after Sunday's game. "Why'd they win only nine on the road after the All-Star break if they're so . . . good."
Herzog didn't wait for reporters to supply any answers.
"With this . . . Series and the off days, you don't really see their team," he said. "That's the truth. That's why they shouldn't have off days in the playoffs.
"How do you win a pennant? With (pitching) depth. Then, you get to the playoffs and you don't use your depth."
Herzog softened his stance, and language, somewhat, during Monday's press conference. But he basically said the same things, that days off allow Twin Manager Tom Kelly to rest Frank Viola and Bert Blyleven, whom Herzog believes are Minnesota's only two reliable starting pitchers.
Rookie Les Straker, the third pitcher in Minnesota's starting rotation and held in even lower esteem by Herzog, will get a chance to change Herzog's opinion when he opposes the Cardinals' John Tudor tonight at 5:30 (PDT) in Game 3.
But Monday, Herzog's beliefs were unwavering.
"I don't think (the Twins) could've won the AL East, as they are presently constituted, and with the type of situation when you play every day," Herzog said. "And I don't think they could have won the NL East, as they are presently constituted. But that's the way it is. In the playoffs, you can get away with using 5 of 9 pitchers."
During the Twins' workout on a drizzly and cold afternoon at Busch Stadium, accounts of Herzog's oratory eventually reached Twin players and Kelly.
"It's hot air," Minnesota first baseman Kent Hrbek said. "Look at what happened to Jeffrey Leonard when he was popping off. (Herzog) can talk all he wants. They got beat. He's just trying to scare us with words.
"But sticks and stone will break my bones, but birds will never hurt me."
The luxury of a 2-0 series lead enables the Twins to inject a little levity into a budding controversy. Kelly, however, refused to be drawn into the argument.
Truth be told, Kelly sort of agreed with Herzog, at least about the days off benefiting his team. He said that if the Twins lose tonight's game, Viola will return on three days' rest to pitch Game 4, and that Blyleven will start Game 5.
"That's probably true," Kelly said of the playoff structure. "I don't care to try to figure it out. The World Series is set up that way.
"I'm just worrying about winning tomorrow's game. We're going to be on TV again and we want to give them a good show again."
Even though the Twins dominated the Cardinals in Minneapolis, averaging a run an inning over two games and limiting the Cardinals to five runs, there are several factors that favor a Cardinal revival tonight.
The Cardinals are back at Busch Stadium, where they can keep track of fly balls without losing them in the off-white roof and pale orange lighting. They also don't need earplugs to keep the crowd noise down to a dull roar.
But perhaps the biggest factor is the pitching matchup, which seems to favor the Cardinals.
Tudor is coming off a 1-0 shutout of the San Francisco Giants in Game 6 of the National League playoffs, a game the Cardinals needed to win to stay alive.
Although Tudor was successful in holding off a previously potent Giant attack led by Leonard and Will Clark, the Twins figure to be a bigger challenge.
In Game 1 Saturday night, the Twins scored seven runs in the fourth inning off Joe Magrane and Bob Forsch on the way to a 10-1 win. In Game 2 Sunday night, they produced a six-run fourth inning outburst off Danny Cox in an 8-4 win.
In a rare attempt at humor, the usually dour Tudor said: "Eighteen runs in two games? Maybe we should just go from the third to the fifth inning, just skip the fourth."
Tudor, however, seems better suited to handle Minnesota than other Cardinal starters, even though the Twins have had more success against left-handers this season. Tudor, a calming influence at a time when the Cardinals need one, is at his strongest now, after recovering from his freakish broken leg early in the season.