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THE WORLD SERIES : MINNESOTA TWINS vs. ST. LOUIS CARDINALS : Twins Can't Beat the Road or Runners : Ford Is Unlikely Hero as Cardinals Lead Series, 3-2

October 23, 1987|SAM McMANIS | Times Staff Writer

ST. LOUIS — Maybe they should dedicate this inauspicious World Series to Andy Warhol, not only because any player can be a celebrity for 15 minutes but because the games between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Minnesota Twins could easily be forgotten in about the same length of time.

Thursday night's disposable hero in Game 5 turned out to be Cardinal outfielder Curt Ford, whose two-run single in the sixth inning helped end innings of offensive ineptitude by his club. The Twins, conversely, could not quite overcome all of their transgressions, despite late rallies, and the Cardinals held on for a 4-2 win before 55,347 fans at Busch Stadium.

The state-of-the-art of baseball's championship series may not be aesthetically pleasing, but it may not have to be endured much longer. The Cardinals, big losers in the first two games in Minnesota, won all three games at home and now are one victory away from winning the Series.

To do so, St. Louis will have to win one of two games at the Metrodome, the claustrophobic torture chamber that demoralized the Cardinals almost as much as the Twins' explosive offense did in those games.

But the Twins, who after Thursday night's game are 31-56 on the road this season, played equally as poorly at Busch Stadium. Still, for a team that has lost three straight after early domination, the Twins seem overly confident. And the Cardinals seem strangely wary.

"I feel better now than if we were down 2-3," Cardinal Manager Whitey Herzog said. "It's a tough place to play, up there."

Judging by Game 5, both the Twins and the Cardinals seemingly found the rudimentary elements of the sport difficult to grasp.

The Cardinals had advanced runners to third in both the third and fifth innings against Twin starter Bert Blyleven with fewer than two outs but failed to score each time. One failure came at the top of the Cardinal order, the other on a bungled squeeze play.

"That one was a stupid play, and the other was bad," Herzog said.

But the Twins also failed to get to Cardinal starter Danny Cox early, despite moving runners into scoring position three times. Cox eventually worked out of the predicaments and eventually earned his first World Series win.

The Cardinal running game was effective, however, as they stole five bases, tying a World Series record set in 1907 by the Chicago Cubs.

"We got outpitched and outplayed," Twin Manager Tom Kelly said. "We had that one bad inning tonight."

It was enough to cost the Twins any chance of taking a 3-2 Series lead back to Minnesota. The decisive inning was the sixth, made possible by quirky bounces of balls on the infield, bobbles by Twin infielders, one booted ground ball and the two-run single by Ford, the Cardinals' designated unlikely contributor.

"Everybody realizes we don't have our real, real ballclub out there right now (because of injuries)," said Cardinal catcher Tony Pena, who had three hits. "We all have to do whatever we can. Tonight, it was Ford."

Ozzie Smith, the outspoken Cardinal shortstop, recently had been highly critical of the media for belittling the unimpressive way St. Louis has scored runs without having Jack Clark and Terry Pendleton in the lineup.

"I don't care how you get a run," Smith said. "A run is a run."

Cox and Blyleven no doubt would have appreciated any run, no matter how it was conceived. The pitchers were locked in a scoreless tie through 5 1/2 innings, though neither seemed overly dominating.

Blyleven had forced nine St. Louis ground-ball outs going into the sixth and figured to have his 10th when leadoff hitter Vince Coleman bounced to first baseman Kent Hrbek.

Coleman's grounder hit a hard-packed section of dirt in front of first base and took a nose dive that made Hrbek go to his knees for the stop. The speedy Coleman beat Hrbek's toss to Blyleven covering first, and another potential Cardinal rally was born.

"It either hit the soft dirt or right on the edge of the dirt," Hrbek said. "Wherever it hit, it stayed down."

Twin third baseman Gary Gaetti blamed the Busch Stadium conditions, not fate or Hrbek.

"I'm surprised at the conditions of the field," Gaetti said. "The dirt is really subpar. It's too hard. When you step on it, big clumps break off. Very rarely do you see conditions affect the winner or loser of a World Series game."

Hard dirt, however, does not explain the Twins' faux pas in the rest of the inning. You can't blame the grounds crew for poor fielding or shaky pitching.

Blyleven, after making five throws to first base to hold Coleman close, mishandled a well-placed bunt down the third-base line by Smith. Blyleven had no play, Coleman easily making it to second. After slumping Tommy Herr flied to left, Coleman went to third and Smith to second on a double steal. Cleanup hitter Dan Driessen was then intentionally walked.

That loaded the bases for Willie McGee, the hottest Cardinal hitter in the series. But Blyleven struck him out on three curveballs for the second out.

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