The sixth inning was vintage Whitey Ball, minus the steals. Lonnie Smith led off by making the most of a weak check-swing grounder to the right of First Baseman Chambliss. "I'd been swinging at bad pitches all night," Smith said, "but Whitey told me, 'Run as hard as you can.' I knew I had a chance because Chambliss doesn't run for the base very often and Perez got a late start." Racing Perez to first, Smith rattled both Chambliss (who threw too hard, said Perez) and Perez (who took his eye off the ball, said Chambliss). Perez dropped the throw and Smith reached on what was ruled an infield hit.
The next batter, Hernandez, lined a single up the middle, sending Smith to third. "If I can reach second before the outfielder gets the ball, I'll go, no matter where it's hit," said Smith. Hendrick's single scored Smith and KO'd Perez. In came Steve Bedrosian, a rookie whose fastball moves in rapid but unmysterious ways. He was so pumped up that his pitches didn't drop or swerve. They came—and went—on a straight line. After Porter walked, McGee and Ozzie Smith singled home a run apiece, and Forsch drove in another with a sacrifice fly to give St. Louis a 5-0 lead. Ken Oberkfell made it 6-0 with another roller to Chambliss, reaching this time when Bedrosian failed to cover first. The Cardinals ended the scoring on Lonnie Smith's bases-loaded sac fly in the eighth.
St. Louis tied or broke league championship series records with 11 singles and a five-run inning; every Cardinal hit safely, including Forsch, a .206 lifetime batter who had two singles and a sacrifice fly. In addition to their slipshod fielding, the Braves lost what would have been a sure run in the third, when Perez failed to sacrifice, and a possible run in the sixth, when the stealing Washington beat the throw to second only to be tagged out as his slide stopped short of the bag.
Fortunately for Atlanta, another rainstorm postponed Friday's action. With the second game dropped back to Saturday, the indispensable Niekro could start and be available for a possible fifth game on Tuesday. Was this a reincarnation of the 1948 Boston Braves, whose rotation was described by the refrain "Spahn and Sain and pray for rain"? Bedrosian offered an updated version, "Phil, rain and pray for Niekro."
But even Niekro wasn't enough. Saturday night's 4-3 defeat was twice as devastating for the Braves as the opening loss, if only because it was twice as winnable. Consider the denouement. Last of the ninth, one out, score tied 3-3 and Cardinal rookie David Green on second. Green had singled and been sacrificed to second by Tom Herr. Atlanta's money play seemed to be to set up a force by walking Oberkfell and forcing Herzog to pinch-hit lefty Dane Iorg for Sutter. Oberkfell hit .360 in September and had a .600 lifetime average against Atlanta Relief Pitcher Gene Garber, and Sutter had pitched two splendid innings. Nevertheless, Torre decided to pitch to Oberkfell, instead of taking a chance with Iorg and Hernandez, who would follow Iorg to the plate. "I was between a rock and a hard place," said Torre.
Garber threw a slider and Oberkfell pulled it foul. "We figured he'd be looking for one over the outside, so we tried a fastball down and in," said Atlanta Catcher Bruce Benedict. Unfortunately, it arrived up and in, and Oberkfell crushed a liner to right center.
Torre had inserted Brett Butler in center an inning earlier and moved Murphy to left. Butler is 5'10" to Murphy's 6'5", but he can run faster. He raced to his left and reached up; he had the speed but not the reach. The ball cleared his glove by inches and rolled to the wall. To Hiller's consternation Green jumped straight up in the air before dancing home. Horns sounded in downtown St. Louis, and the Busch Stadium P.A. announcer said, "The Cardinals thank you, and we'll see you again soon." But Benedict, upbeat till the end, met Garber at the mound and said, "Hey, I thought he hit a really good pitch."
"I'm not sorry for [my decision]," Torre said later. "Gene's the best pitcher on my staff at pitching with a base open. He just gave him too good a pitch to hit."
It was a game that would have left other losers rehashing every move. With Niekro struggling on two days' rest, the Cards got a run in the first on a walk, a fielder's choice, a base hit and a liner Shortstop Rafael Ramirez should have turned into an inning-ending double play but dropped. Then Niekro threw a wild pitch and Oberkfell scored.
But it could easily have been Knucksie's night. The Braves had built a 3-2 lead by the time he left in the seventh, thanks in part to his own sacrifice bunt and sacrifice fly. Thanks, too, to McGee in center, who let Ramirez' RBI single go through him for a run-scoring three-base error. That's what makes him exciting. And thanks to Porter who cost his team a big sixth inning when, after doubling home Hernandez with no one out, he foolishly tried for third and was cut down. St. Louis drew even in the eighth when Porter walked, Hendrick singled him to third and McGee, hanging tough with two strikes, poked a high bouncer over Garber's head, forcing Hendrick but allowing Porter to score. That, too, is what makes Willie exciting.