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THE WORLD SERIES : MINNESOTA TWINS vs. ST. LOUIS CARDINALS : GOING HOME : For the Struggling Twins, It's Now Dome, Sweet Dome

October 23, 1987|ROSS NEWHAN | Times Staff Writer

ST. LOUIS — The Minnesota Twins' two most recognizable names, faces and bodies seem to be among the missing.

Kirby Puckett and Kent Hrbek have proved to be no threat to Mr. October.

Neither have they been a threat to the postseason pitching staffs of the St. Louis Cardinals and Detroit Tigers.

The heart of the Minnesota lineup was in need of resuscitation again Thursday night as the Cardinals took a 3-2 World Series lead with a 4-2 victory in the final game at Busch Stadium.

Puckett and Hrbek were a combined 1 for 8 and are now batting .205 and .189, respectively, in 10 postseason games.

The Twins were equally unproductive in St. Louis, losing each of the three games while compiling a batting average of .184, scoring 5 runs on 18 hits, after routing the Cardinals, 10-1 and 8-4, on 21 hits in Minneapolis.

The Series returns to the Metrodome Saturday, and Tom Brunansky predicted it will be different for all the Twins, as it has been all year.

The Twins are 60-25 at home and 31-56 on the road.

"I give the Cardinals credit for pitching their game here," Brunansky said, "but they can't pitch the same way in the dome.

"They pitched us away here. They said, 'If you're going to beat us, you're going to have to hit it to the opposite field,' and we didn't do that.

"It's a whole different situation in the dome. They have to pitch inside; they have to pitch to our strength. They can't pitch away as they did here all the time because the right-field fence is too short. If they throw it out there and we get even part of the bat on the ball, it's off the tarp or over it.

"Here (where it's 383 feet to right compared to 360 in the dome), if you get a piece of the pitch that's away, all you've done is flied out. Like I said, they have to change their style now, and we handled it pretty well in the first two games."

Gary Gaetti agreed. The "Fab Four" of Gaetti, Brunansky, Hrbek and Puckett were 8 for 46 in the three games here.

"I didn't feel good in the batter's box the entire Series," Gaetti said. "Maybe I didn't adjust to the way they were pitching me, but I expect that to change Saturday. I expect the day off to help us. We'll be overpowering when we go back to the dome, and that's a fact, Jack."

Will having a roof over their heads prove to be the answer for Puckett and Hrbek?

It hasn't yet in the postseason.

Consider:

--After batting .332 with 28 homers and 99 runs batted in during the regular season, Puckett is 9 for 44 in the postseason with 1 homer and 4 RBIs. He is 4 for 20 in the Series with no homers and 1 RBI.

--After batting .285 with 34 homers and 90 RBIs during the regular season, Hrbek is 7 for 37 in the postseason with 1 homer and 3 RBIs. He is 4 for 17 in the Series with no homers and 2 RBIs.

Neither seems burdened by his slump.

"I'm having fun, I'm doing the best I can," Puckett said. "They pitched me tough the whole Series, and you've got to give them credit.

"I mean, I feel OK at the plate, it's just not happening for me.

"I'm not going to panic, press or change anything. All I can do is go out and play good defense and hope that I step up to the plate one time and break out of it.

"I'm swinging the way I usually do, so I'm sure it will happen for me. The only thing is that now I can be certain of having only one more day to find it. We've got to win Saturday. It's that simple.

"Going home? I'm sure we'll be just as excited as our fans will be."

Said Hrbek: "I haven't been swinging like I can, and neither have Puckett or Brunansky. That's three guys in the heart of the lineup. It's frustrating, especially when I'm hitting fourth and there are guys on base ahead of me, but I feel like I'm going to break out of it each time I go up.

"I just can't overswing or start pressing. Sure, I'd like to hit a home run every time up, but it's not going to happen.

"I feel like I swung the bat better tonight than I have in a long time, and I feel that we swung the bats better here than it looked . . . we just couldn't find the holes."

The first baseman paused, then said: "Our goal was to win at least one game here, but they had good pitching and a lot of big, two-out hits. We didn't get any except for Gaetti (who doubled in two runs) tonight.

"We have to understand that they played their game here, and we played our game at home. We're confident that it'll be a different game for us again in the dome.

"The thing is, it takes 24 guys; it doesn't all fall on Kirby or myself. It just doesn't work that way."

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