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On This Date in Twins Playoff History: October 21, 1987

Great pitching from John Tudor and an implosion by Juan Berenguer let the Cardinals back into the series in Game Three. The Twins turned to staff ace Frank Viola with hopes of stealing a game in St. Louis.

October 21, 1987
World Series, Game Four
Twins Lead Series, 2-1

Twins: Dan Gladden (LF), Al Newman (2B), Kirby Puckett (CF), Gary Gaetti (3B), Tom Brunansky (RF), Kent Hrbek (1B), Tim Laudner (C), Greg Gagne (SS), Frank Viola (P)

Cardinals: Vince Coleman (LF), Ozzie Smith (SS), Tom Herr (2B), Jim Lindeman (1B), Willie McGee (CF), Tony Pena (C), Jose Oguendo (RF), Tom Lawless (3B), Greg Mathews (P)

After starting Game One and giving Minnesota eight innings of one-run baseball in a blowout, Tom Kelly and the Twins turned to their ace once again. Holding a one-game lead over the Cardinals in St. Louis, taking Game Four would have given the visiting Twins a stranglehold on the series with just one away game remaining. A tie, on the other hand, would drastically up the stakes for Game Five.

Taking the hill in the top of the first for the Cardinals was 25-year old southpaw Greg Mathews. Mathews finished sixth in the race for National League Rookie of the Year (fellow starter Joe Magrane had finished third) in spite of the fact that he had 145.1 innings pitched in 1986. Originally drafted by the Twins out of high school in 1980, he chose not to sign and ended up being a tenth round selection for St. Louis in 1984.

Mathews and Viola sent the opposing side down 1-2-3 in the first, and both pitchers stranded runners in scoring position in the second. The teams again matched each other in the third inning, when Greg Gagne led off the inning with a home run and St. Louis answered when Jim Lindeman - who hadn't started since Game One - drove in Ozzie Smith from third with a two-out single.

The Cardinals lost Mathews in the top of the fourth, in the middle of a Tim Laudner at-bat. Tom Brunansky had reached on a fielder's choice and stole second on a 1-0 count, and that was it. The trainers came out and Mathews was removed with a quad injury, and was replaced by Bob Forsch who walked Laudner but struck out Gagne to keep the game tied at 1-1.

St. Louis won the game in the bottom of the fourth. Viola walked Tony Pena on four pitches to lead off the game, Jose Oguendo singled to put runners on the corners with nobody out, and then...Tom Lawless.

Lawless was hitting eighth in a National League lineup for a reason: he was less likely to get a hit than the average NL pitcher. But because Terry Pendleton was banged up and unable to play the field, he was stuck on the bench while the team was in St. Louis; Lawless had played just 19 games all season - four in April, one in May, one in June, three in July, five in August, two in September, and then three at the end of the season in October. After all that inconsistent he batted .080 in 29 plate appearances. In his career to that point he was a .216 hitter, with a home run back in 1984.

Maybe that's why he stood and watched his home run for so long. Maybe that's why, when the ball arced through the St. Louis night and he carried the bat with him until halfway to the first base bag, when he flipped it right up into the air, he just wasn't really sure what was happening.

It came out later that this was the case. Lawless said himself that he was sure the ball wasn't going to get out of the park, because he never hit home runs and because Busch Stadium was so big. That didn't stop Gary Gaetti from being thoroughly unhappy with Lawless' behavior; he saw it as the Cardinal batter showing up his pitcher. It makes you wonder if he was also unhappy with Berenguer's excitable performance in the ALCS.

The three-run homer put the Cardinals up 4-1, and two outs later Viola was lifted when he lost Coleman with a one out walk. Dan Schatzeder struck out Smith and then Coleman stole second base, which paid off when he scored on Lindeman's single. Willie McGee was next and doubled on the first pitch he saw, bringing home both Lindeman and Tom Herr. It was 7-1 by the time Schatzeder managed the third out.

Forsch stayed on for the top of the fifth. Gene Larkin pinch hit for Schatzeder and coaxed a walk, taking third on Dan Gladden's single. Al Newman, in his only start of the series, struck out for the first out of the inning. Kirby Puckett came through with a tough play to Lawless at third, scoring Larkin and putting runners on first and second with still just one away. But Forsch turned in a fielder's choice and a groundout to get out of the inning, with his Cardinals leading 7-2.

Minnesota would have one more opportunity for a rally when Roy Smalley reached on an error in the seventh, and then Newman singled and Puckett was plunked to load the bases with, again, one out. Ken Dayley came on in relief of Forsch; Dayley was a strikeout artist with command issues, but he was also one of the game's better relievers from 1985 to 1989, a period in which he posted a 2.83 ERA in 295.2 innings. He struck out Gaetti on three pitches, and then Tom Brunansky popped out to Lindeman on the first pitch he saw.

That was the Twins' last true chance to mound a comeback, and the game ended with a 7-2 victory. Coleman had already stolen his fifth base of the series, the home team was better with runners in scoring position while also coming through with four runs with two outs, and they also had a big time contribution from a player at the bottom of the order. It was a lethal combination, and the effort tied the series at two.

Also in the 1987 World Series