MINNEAPOLIS — They are called the Twins, and now America needs no explanation why. Now, we all know that we are sitting in on an unprecedented piece of history--the first World Series ever with two different representatives from the same league.
They may look alike, they may walk alike and they may talk alike, but there can be no confusing these Twins anymore. The giveaway is the way they dress.
The guys in the road grays and MINNESOTA stripped across their chests are the black sheep, the evil Twins, capable of losing every game they play in a foreign park, which, in this Series numbered three.
The guys in the clean, white pinstripes with the friendly roof over their heads are the good Twins, the really good Twins, the Twins who can thrash the St. Louis Cardinals, 11-5, as they did Saturday afternoon in Game 6 of the 1987 World Series.
That victory evened, at three games apiece, one of the most uneven World Series ever played. Oh brother, take a look at the mischief these Twins have gotten themselves into:
At home in the Metrodome: Three-and-oh, the victories coming by margins of 10-1, 8-4 and 11-5. That's 29 runs in three games. "We're the best team in baseball when we're at home," said Kirby Puckett, the Minnesota center fielder.
On the road in harm's way: Oh-and-three, the losses coming by margins of 3-1, 7-2 and 4-2. The Twins were outscored, 14-5, at Busch Stadium. As a team, they batted .184. They hit one home run. They may be the worst team in baseball away from home.
"I have no idea why this happens," said Tom Kelly, the Minnesota manager. "If I did, I'd take some of it on the road."
But what matters now is today's Game 7, which will be played in the magical, mystical Metrodome. Bet the house on the Twins. Lest anyone doubted the incredible holistic power the Dome holds for its residents, Game 6 was reason enough to convert.
Puckett, foremost among the Minnesota walking wounded, came home with a .200 batting average and one run batted in through the first five games--and promptly became the first player to collect four hits in a World Series game since Milwaukee's Robin Yount in 1982.
Don Baylor, the benched designated hitter who only batted once while the Twins were beaten around in Busch, found himself back in the lineup back at home--and drove in three runs on a first-inning single and a game-tying, two-run, fifth-inning home run.
Even Kent Hrbek, the beleaguered Minnesota first baseman, found himself in the Dome. Just before his christening as the official goat of the 1987 World Series--he was batting .200 and had already been picked off second base Saturday--Hrbek delivered a Cardinal-crushing grand slam in the bottom of the sixth inning, turning a 6-5 Twin lead into a 10-5 rout.
But most of all, Minnesota's chances for its first baseball championship benefited from the return indoors. The Twins had lost three straight and were down in the fifth inning of the sixth game, 5-2, before they, and maybe the Cardinals as well, realized where they were.
"It doesn't matter if we're down by 10 runs, we know we can get back in the game if we're playing in the Dome," Puckett said. "I know it sounds silly, but we really feel that way. You get a couple chinkers, a blooper, a blast--and you're right back in it."
Seconded Hrbek: "We know that if we're coming in here, there's no way we're not going to win. The confidence factor is so great. We like to play here, we have a team suited to play here.
"It's fun to play here."
Before the sixth inning, however, Hrbek was hardly enjoying himself. He was 0 for 3 with an error and that one time on base got him into the most trouble.
The score was tied, 2-2, when Hrbek led off the bottom of the second with a high fly ball to right-center field. The Metrodome crowd of 55,293 yelled, as Metrodome crowds are want to do, and Cardinal outfielders Curt Ford and Willie McGee got caught in a communication gap. Ford, the right fielder, had a bead on the ball and called off McGee, but the center fielder couldn't hear his warning. McGee poached Ford, leaped in front of him and got his glove on the ball.
That was all, though. The ball popped loose, and Hrbek trudged into second base, but had he run hard, he probably could have been on third. Still, Hrbek represented the go-ahead run.
But not for long.
St. Louis pitcher John Tudor whirled and fired to second baseman Tommy Herr, picking off Hrbek. It was a big play that loomed bigger when Steve Lombardozzi and Dan Gladden followed with singles before Tudor retired the side.
"I was paying attention to (shortstop) Ozzie Smith and never saw Herr," Hrbek said. "Ozzie is so sneaky you have to be watching all the time. I wasn't watching Herr at all. When Tudor turned and threw, it was all over."
And for Hrbek, the singles by Lombardozzi and Gladden only made matters worse.
"We got two hits after that and I sat there the whole game, thinking that if we lost by a run it would be my fault," Hrbek said.