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SATURDAY. "Every game's crucial now," Montreal Shortstop Chris Speier is saying before the game. "In situations like this you don't wait for the big inning. You want to get on the scoreboard first, so you sacrifice, bunt, execute fundamentals."
With the score 1-1 in the second, Francona sees the infield is deep and lays down a perfect bunt. Speier sacrifices him to second and Cromartie singles him home. No wonder somebody has named a candy bar after him. It's a Cro Bar.
Fundamentals and execution—is there anything else to September baseball? In the fifth, Carter alertly calls for a pitchout and nails would-be base-stealer Lee Mazzilli. The Expos extend the lead to 4-1 on sixth-inning singles by Tim Wallach, Francona, Speier and Scott, and execute a key fundamental of the game in the eighth. Woodie Fryman, 41, replaced starter Ray Burris with the bases loaded and one out in the seventh and escaped with one run. Now Fryman has men on first and second and one out. Alex Treviño bunts to the mound. Fryman has an easy play at first, but to Fanning's delight, he throws to second, keeping the tying run out of scoring position and setting up a force. Sure enough, he gets one.
Fanning calls Fryman "cunning and smart," and the rubber-armed lefthander ends the game with a cunning and smart pitch—a slider over the outside corner that catches righthanded Mookie Wilson with the bat on his shoulder. "That's the pitch that kept me in baseball," Fryman says in the clubhouse.
The grandfather figure looks across the room at a player young enough to be his offspring, the 22-year-old Francona. The son of former major-leaguer Tito, Terry joined Montreal on Aug. 19 after two partial seasons in the minor leagues; next year he may take permanent possession of leftfield, moving Raines to second. Someone asks Francona where he gets his savvy. "I've played a lot of baseball," he says. "I played at Arizona and I played for about four U.S. national teams. In fact, I've been around a park as long as I could swing a bat. My father couldn't keep me away. I made him throw to me and shag. I don't think I knew he had a job. The poor guy. When I look back, I kind of feel sorry for him."
Fortunately, the Cardinals have stopped feeling sorry for themselves, beating the Pirates 5-3 behind Forsch as Templeton, Hernandez and Hendrick get key hits in the decisive three-run, seventh-inning rally.
SUNDAY. All good things must come to an end, and for the Expos, it's their seven-game winning streak. While Montreal is losing to the Mets 2-1 before 52,089, the largest crowd of the year, St. Louis is beating the Pirates 7-5. The Cardinals' big hit comes from Herr, who ends a 1-for-21 slump with a bases-loaded triple. Then, for good measure, the second baseman steals home. Sutter finishes up to get his 25th save, but the Cardinals are still a game and a half behind, with time running out.
"I'm proud of these guys," says St. Louis reserve Catcher Gene Tenace. "But maybe it's not in the cards," he adds, intending no pun. "Maybe there's something to the theory that you have to go through the battle once before you can win."
The Expos have waded through it twice. In 1979 and 1980 they stayed in the race until the last weekend. Both times they suffered damaging injuries: Carter broke a finger with six games to go in 1979, and Leftfielder Ron LeFlore broke a thumb early last September. When Raines got hurt in this year's race, Montreal tried to remain calm. In the aftermath, Francona replaced Raines in left and Cromartie at leadoff, and the Expos forged ahead.
The Cardinals haven't been in a race since 1974. Herzog expertly built a contender to suit the artificial turf and endless power alleys of Busch Memorial Stadium, but he hasn't found the cure for injuries and inexperience. "I think we've dropped our heads a little," says Forsch.