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On This Date in Twins Playoff History: October 20, 1987

Playing in their first World Series in 22 years, the Twins took a 2-0 lead into St. Louis.

October 20, 1987
World Series, Game Three
Twins Lead Series, 2-0

Twins: Dan Gladden (LF), Greg Gagne (SS), Kirby Puckett (CF), Gary Gaetti (3B), Tom Brunansky (RF), Kent Hrbek (1B), Tim Laudner (C), Steve Lombardozzi (2B), Les Straker (P)

Cardinals: Vince Coleman (LF), Ozzie Smith (SS), Tom Herr (2B), Dan Driessen (1B), Willie McGee (CF), Curt Ford (RF), Jose Oguendo (3B), Tony Pena (C), John Tudor (P)

Les Straker didn't have a long career. In spite of having a cool name, Straker's second and final season in 1988 yielded 25 walks and just 23 strikeouts in 82.2 innings. The ERA was fine, but even in 1988 it was obvious that there wasn't much to salvage from his career. But in 1987 he was a rookie starting in the World Series, and was the first Venezuelan-born pitcher to do so.

John Tudor was a 33-year old lefty who had had a terrific 1985, a damned good 1986, and an injury-shortened but very good 1987. Tudor had a great career by some standards: his 3.12 ERA is great by a starter's numbers. But injuries played a big role down the stretch of his career, and considering he didn't become a full-time starter until age-28 we'll never know just how could he might have been.

For the first time in the series, neither offense was able to press an advantage. A 6-4-3 erased a one-out Ozzie Smith single in the bottom of the first. Straker worked around a balk and two runners on in the third. Tudor returned the favor in the top of the third. Straker nullified a Willie McGee double in the bottom of the fourth; Tudor stranded Tim Laudner after his double in the top of the fifth.

Minnesota finally put the game's first run on the board in the top of the sixth. Tudor's only free passes of the game were back-to-back one out walks to Greg Gagne and Kirby Puckett, and Tom Brunansky came through with a big two-out single to bring Gagne home and give the visiting Twins a 1-0 lead.

Straker would hold that lead in the bottom of the sixth, working around a one-out single from 1988 Twins second baseman Tom Herr to get the next thee batters and take the one-run lead into the seventh. Tom Kelly would take his starter out for the bottom of the seventh, believing that the rookie generally suffered after getting through six innings.

The truth was that Straker went beyond six innings in 12 of his 26 starts in '87, and in five of those 12 starts his effectiveness did deteriorate after the sixth inning: two in July, one in August, and one in September. While Straker may have felt good and believed he should have taken the mound for the seventh, and while his line in the game may have indicated that strategy to be sound, no doubt those appearances (especially the two in September) were on Kelly's mind.

And so Juan Berenguer took the hill in the bottom of the seventh. He gave up back-to-back singles to Jose Oguendo and Tony Pena to lead off the inning, before Terry Pendleton came on as a pinch hitter and moved the runners up on a successful sac bunt. Coleman then ripped a one-out double just past Gary Gaetti and into left field, scoring both base runners and giving St. Louis a 2-1 lead. Coleman then stole third, his second steal of the game, and he came home on Ozzie Smith's single.

Smith's hit chased Berenguer, and Dan Schatzeder took over and retired Herr and Dan Driessen to keep Minnesota's deficit at two runs.

Todd Worrell, however, didn't allow the Twins to mound a comeback. One of the game's better closers in the late 80s and again in the late 90s, Worrell's 256 career saves still rank 31st all-time. Puckett's eighth inning triple was wasted, and the three-time All-Star and '86 Rookie of the Year secured the Cardinals' win with a 1-2-3 ninth.

With the crucial 3-1 victory, the Cardinals avoided going down the dreaded three games to zero.

Also in the 1987 World Series: