October 4, 2000
SAN FRANCISO, CALIFORNIA: Game One
Q. Dusty, how does the first postseason win feel?
DUSTY BAKER: It feels great. Might as -- I knew I was going to get it sooner or later. But I wanted to get it sooner. I was thinking about it all game. I thought we have to get the first one.
Q. Can you talk about the game that Barry Bonds had? He really stepped it up today.
DUSTY BAKER: Barry steps it up a lot of days. He was seeing the ball good today. He was very focused and determined and poised, and he just played his normal game. That was big, for him to come through early in the game like that and get the first knock right off the bat. He hit the ball well today. He hit the ball good three times, got a couple of hits. And it was just a Barry Bonds type game today.
Q. Ellis has got big hits all year, we shouldn't be surprised that he got a big one today.
DUSTY BAKER: Well, I'm not surprised. He's been doing it for us ever since he got here. But for a guy that doesn't get 500 at-bats, he makes them count big time. He's a clutch man for us, and we feel a whole lot better with Ellis in the line-up.
Q. How important is it to win the first game, especially in a short series?
DUSTY BAKER: It's very important. That means we have two more to go. And now tomorrow is the most important thing. And also since I'm here, don't ask me all the questions, you have Livan and Ellis up here.
Q. Talk about the home crowd and what that was like, pitching in front of them?
LIVAN HERNANDEZ: It was great. When you see 41,000 people in the stadium, and you see it all year, and this is the playoffs time, and the fans like you to win the games, two games at home. And there are two more games to make a chance for the World Series.
Q. Did you think Dusty was going to take you out when he came out to the mound the first time?
LIVAN HERNANDEZ: The first time, it's one opportunity, and he said: Okay, you got it. I said: I want to throw the ball down. There's two runners on the base, and Ventura hitting a ground ball to the second base, and the I don't want to miss a throw, and I want to walk him.
Q. Ellis, when you hit the ball, the homerun, did you have the feeling Carlton Fisk felt like in the '75 World Series?
ELLIS BURKS: Yeah, I did. Everything but the body language, I think (laughter.) But it was just a question -- I knew I had the distance, it was just a question of being fair or foul.
Q. Have you ever hit one off the pole like that before?
ELLIS BURKS: Yeah, a couple of times I did when I was with the Red Sox and Colorado.
Q. Ellis, did you watch Derek Bell go down on the play before, and how tricky is that right field to play?
ELLIS BURKS: I couple of weeks ago I had the same thing happen to me, I slipped and hurt my knee, and I was out three or four games due to that. But I definitely know how tricky it is, considering how the ball comes off the wall. You definitely have to be a lot careful in the right-hand corner, because it seems a little moist over there, also.
Q. Ellis, talk about the importance of after the Mets tied it up, 1-1, the Giants responded immediately in the bottom of that inning.
ELLIS BURKS: It's important to answer back, as far as when a team scores. You want to score back, keep your momentum going, and kind of break theirs. But for the most part, we've been doing that throughout the season this year, and it just goes to show you what kind of team we have. We're not going to give up; we always seem to bounce back some kind of way.
Q. Ellis, would you say that the homerun was the biggest hit of your career?
ELLIS BURKS: It was a big hit. I've had a couple of big hits here and there, but that really felt good today. So I can say it was one of the top hits, yeah.
Q. Ellis did the fact that they had to interrupt play to get Derek Bell off the field, did that have any effect on what happened with you hitting the homer?
ELLIS BURKS: Not at all. I'm not really -- I was feeling Derek's pain at the time, because I knew exactly what he was going through. But I knew the job I had to do at the same time. So, no, it didn't affect me at all. I was just looking for a pitch that was up that I could drive.
Q. Do you think it had an effect on Hampton?
ELLIS BURKS: I don't know. I think he had an opportunity to throw a few pitches in the meantime and to stay warm. But as far as affecting him, I have no idea.
Q. Ellis, you've battled so many injuries throughout your career, are you surprised you're this productive at this point in your career?
ELLIS BURKS: No, I don't think so. I've always had success when I go out on the field and play, be it early in my career or late, and due to the injuries, I think that's pretty much helped my career. I'm not as carefree at the plate, so to say, as far as swinging at everything. I try to take advantage of each given situation, and it's been coming through for me lately.
Q. Dusty, would you talk about the momentum shift when the two-two pitch wasn't called strike 3, then the triple?
DUSTY BAKER: I don't know if the momentum shifted as much as in every ballgame there's a close call or close play that's going to affect the ballgame. And Barry Bonds has a great eye at the plate, and like that didn't affect us, because he was still hitting. But it might have affected Hampton at the time; I saw his body language. Like most pitchers, they want most pitches, and they want all of them, really. That was a big play, but there were plenty of opportunities for us, too. We got five runs, but we had bases loaded two or three times. And in reality, we could have had 10 or 11 runs. I don't know, like you said, one call or one play or anything can affect the game, but that play had a big effect, but that wasn't the whole ballgame.
Q. Dusty, Barry and Jeff might go 1-2 in the MVP balloting for the League, but is Ellis the MVP of this team?
DUSTY BAKER: Well, that's hard to say. I think everybody would vote Ellis the most valuable person on the team. There's a most valuable player, and then there's a most valuable person. If you ask the guys that are on our team, they didn't vote him the Willie Mac Award for nothing. That shows the most valuable person not only on the field, in the clubhouse, in the plane, and in the bus, and everywhere else.
Q. Livan, what was the key to your effectiveness against Mike Piazza? You got him to pop up three times, and then to the rest of the middle of the Mets' order?
LIVAN HERNANDEZ: The Mets -- it's a tough hitter, a lot of power hitters like Piazza. Piazza, you don't want to do a mistake. You want to throw down. And every pitch is down, because if you throw up, maybe he's got a chance to hit a homerun. And I don't know, I want to throw down, to walk him. I don't want to miss one pitch, because sometimes in the situation you need to throw down, because you miss one pitch --.
Q. Talk about being back in the playoffs again. Tell me how you feel today?
LIVAN HERNANDEZ: I feel great. In '97, it was three years, and this is 2000. I feel great, I won the game today, and it's a great feeling, and I want to continue. Two more games and next, I don't know.
Q. Do you feel that it's ironic that you're here three years later, pitching for the Giants, when you faced them in 1997?
LIVAN HERNANDEZ: It's a surprise to me. I traded to San Francisco. And it's a great team here. And last year it was tough for me, because I don't know anything about San Francisco. And I know a lot of players here, they're great guys. And the city, I don't know anything about the city.
Q. Dusty, I just wanted to know if you do anything differently now that you have a 1-0 lead. Game 2 is a pivotal game. Do you do anything differently to prepare for that game than you did for today?
DUSTY BAKER: No, not really. We're going to do the same thing we always do. I might have a different line-up against Leiter, because he's so tough on left-handers. But in a short series, I've seen things turn around so quickly, that you don't even have time to have any comfort zone when you're out there. There is no comfort zone, because anybody -- you can win two or three in a row, and they can win two or three in a row. We're going to stay after them and keep playing the same ball that we played today, and day in and day out.
Q. Ellis, just talk about the importance of taking the first game at home, especially in a five-game series .
ELLIS BURKS: Well, that's what we played for, home-field advantage. We have so much success here at home, it's always great to get off to that first win in Game 1. So it's definitely in our court right now, and we have to continue to apply the pressure on those guys. We can't let up at all. They have a very tough pitcher tomorrow night in Al Leiter. We have to come with our A-game tomorrow, also.
Q. Ellis, can you talk about the pitch that you hit for the homerun? Describe it .
ELLIS BURKS: I think it was a 1-1 count and he threw me a cutter, down and in. And I was looking for something out over the plate, and my hands, I just reacted to it and hit it fairly well. Like I said earlier, it was just a matter of keeping it fair or foul. I knew I had the distance on it.
Q. Ellis, it couldn't have been easy for you to sit throughout the season. Does it make it easier today, knowing this ideally was what you were being kept out for?
ELLIS BURKS: It was pretty tough to miss X amount of games this year. The last two years I've had 390 at-bats, and I'd like to get more. But with this team you just want to go out and play as much as possible, because you have another guy behind that can definitely step in and do the job, also. When given the opportunity to play, I'd like to take advantage of it, and it was definitely sweet today.
Q. Livan, can you give some reasons why you think you've been so successful in the postseason? And how important is it to you to have a reputation as a guy that's a good postseason pitcher?
LIVAN HERNANDEZ: I think it's a big challenge, when you've got something, you play all year for 162 games, and you go to the playoff, you need to play hard. You need to play hard because a lot of players are waiting for this, playing 20 years, 15 years, waiting for this chance. And it's hard. It's hard because you need to keep going, and you need to play harder every day. You need to win three games, it's a five-game series. I want to throw good, I want to win my game. And when they say something like that, you have a chance of winning, and I want to throw down. I don't want to mispitch.
Q. For Dusty or Ellis, what effect, if any, do you think there will be for going so deep into their bullpen in the first game?
DUSTY BAKER: We didn't get that deep in their bullpen, because the guys they use, they use for a very short time. And they've had three days off, just like we've had three days off. I'm sorry, Monday, Tuesday -- two days off. And they use Turk Wendell very short and they also use Glendon Rusch very short, who's a starter and Rick White for a very short period of time. I don't think it's going to have that much effect. When you've got Al Leiter going the next day, just like we have Livan going the next day, you don't feel the effects of your bullpen that badly, because you know that there's a good chance that those kind of guys are going to go deep the next day in the ballgame.
Q. Dusty, nobody has mentioned Felix Rodriguez and Robb Nen. Those guys have been just great this year. You've had some good bullpen guys.
DUSTY BAKER: Well, those guys have been very, very steady. We feel very comfortable bringing them in the game. We feel comfortable bringing them in the game with nobody on to start the inning, we also feel very comfortable bringing them in the game with bases loaded, like we did today with Felix. And that was a big time in the ballgame. I knew that they were going to probably threaten again in the 8th, because of the guys they had coming up. And usually it's around that 8th inning that so many teams have trouble, because usually the third or fourth time that they face a starter, he has quite a few pitches behind him. But we know when Felix comes in the game, it doesn't matter, left or right, that's why we brought him in to pitch to Hamilton. He's actually better against left-handers. And so I felt very, very comfortable bringing Felix in. You know he's going to throw strikes, No. 1. And to start the 9th, we feel very comfortable bringing in Robb Nen. That's a tremendous combination. Much like when I played, we faced Davis or Gossage. Or what I had with Mike Jackson and Rod Beck. A closer without somebody in the 8th or 7th to get to the closer, that is usually the unsung hero, and the guy that gets the least amount of credit, but the guy we appreciate the most.
Q. Dusty, how tough was it for you to consistently sit Ellis with the kind of year he was having.
DUSTY BAKER: It was difficult, but we would talk about it. We'd look on the schedule, see how many consecutive days he played, see when the next off day was, see when there's a day game after a night game. But fortunately for us, we had guys like Calvin Murray and especially like Armando Rios who has 50 RBI's, and plays a good right field. The combination of Ellis and Armando, we have 34 homeruns and 147 RBI's. Ellis and I talked about it: Hey, we're trying to preserve you, work with me. I've got a pretty good idea from having some bad knees, myself, my last ten years I played on what to do and what not to do. But we're a team, here. And whoever we put out there, we expect them to play well. The guys stay ready, and it is difficult, but at the same time I'm glad that we do have some very capable backup.
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