October 18, 2004
HOUSTON, TEXAS: Game Five
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for Tony La Russa.
Q. I know you guys have played each other a lot during the season. Has there been anything they've shown you this series that has surprised you?
TONY La RUSSA: I mean, I don't think so. We've played 18 times; now we've played them 4, that's 22. No, I mean, these four games have been a lot like the other ones except there's more at stake.
Q. Back to your usual lineup today?
TONY La RUSSA: Right. Mike (Matheny) and Reggie (Sanders) both back in there.
Q. Yesterday you said you wanted to challenge Beltran but with respect, what exactly does that entail?
TONY La RUSSA: Well, for example, there's some times you fall behind a guy and you yell from the dugout "make him put it in play."
You rather have him take a swing than walk with a guy that's a dangerous hitter (behind him), and Beltran is one of them. You face them during the year. Unless you really got a big lead, you're always trying to make pitches on them, trying to keep the ball out of the middle.
Q. One of your players was quoted as saying your team is a much better team than the Astros. Has that opinion been changed at all in the last two days?
TONY La RUSSA: Well, I'll bet you if you want to run a scorecard of quotes, we probably have 10 quotes by our players that talk about how good the Astros are, what an even competition. You have one quote by Julian (Tavarez), who said we were a better team. That one's got a lot of publicity. They haven't given as much publicity to all the other guys who have talked about how much we think of the quality of the competition we're facing with the Houston Astros. So nothing has changed except -- it's not my favorite thing to do, when media ask players for quote, especially if you get them at the wrong time, when they're full of themselves, they just finished competing. You get a lot of comments that most of us do not agree with. You know who's going to be the best team? The team that wins this series.
Q. I know it varies with each individual pitcher, but from your experience managing as long as you have, starting a guy on three days' rest, how much does that take away from a guy when he's not in his normal routine or he's not as rested as he normally is? Does it factor in a lot, a little?
TONY La RUSSA: I just say some of the stuff that you would expect to hear, a lot of it has to do with my power pitcher, how many innings he's thrown over the course of the season so by the time you get to the postseason, if this guy's really running short, then you push him. If the guy's a finesse guy, a sinkerball pitcher, you probably do him a favor to send him out there a day ahead of time. Used to do it all the time. I'm going way, way back; we used to do it with Dave Stewart all the time. It was always really good for him. I think there's so much of an emphasis on regular or more than regular rest because guys break down so much nowadays that it's becoming very rare. But this is the time of the year where adrenaline is going to cover, just like Lidge pitching yesterday, and he'll pitch -- hopefully he doesn't pitch tonight. I definitely believe that pitching with three days' rest at this time of the year is a reasonable thing if you considered all your options. I remember we did it in 2000 with Darryl Kile. Pitched Game 1, pitched Game 4. Got beat both times. I think Game 4, get some runs early. His stuff was outstanding. He was up some. So if you're healthy and adrenaline is pumping, I don't think it's a big deal.
Q. What kind of things do you look for when Williams is pitching to let you know if he's on his game? What kind of things should we look for tonight to let us know if he's working the way he would like things to work?
TONY La RUSSA: Most obvious is that the hitters make right turns instead of making those lefts around the bases. What do you look for? Woody has done it all. Woody has come out sharp in the first inning and carried it right through. Woody has struggled early. He competes and it starts clicking in for him, similar to what Clemens did in Game 3. But I think the answer is almost always going to be just how sharp he is on the edges, changes speeds. He's not going to be able to pitch in the middle of the plate to these guys.
Q. The Cardinals have scored quite a few runs in this series. How important is it for Tony Womack to start getting on base more at the top of the lineup?
TONY La RUSSA: You said it right. We scored quite a few runs. I don't want to put an anvil on Tony's back, but he is our igniter, and the quality of the guys hitting 2 through then on down, you're talking about some serious potential for some innings, especially crooked numbers. I'd love for him to get hot right now. I think he will.
Q. After Tavarez admittedly lost his composure yesterday, does that impact your decision to use him in a tight situation?
TONY La RUSSA: Well, I look at why he lost his composure. I believe the reason that he lost his composure, the score is 5-5, gave up a home run to put them ahead and they ended up beating us. I'm not saying that I pat him on the back for going out of control, but I would pat him on the back for caring enough to get upset. The other thing you're talking about one game. We played since April 1st. Do you know how many times he's been a real important part of our win? Did they release the thing on his hand yet? He's got a broken bone, the outer bone in the hand and the index finger; he's got a couple different breaks. But when I left the clubhouse, they were fashioning some kind of splint. It's his left hand. I think he can still pitch. So, like I said, you just pull him aside and tell him, "I don't care how much it hurts, you can't go crazy, but I'm glad it hurts and let's try and be happy because we won a game."
Q. Do you think having seen Lidge so much this year, it's fair to put him in the class with a Gagne or a Smoltz yet?
TONY La RUSSA: I always like making that class, upper echelon-type. I put Izzy (Isringhausen) in that class. I remember when he was pitching behind Dotel, we never liked to see him come in. Now he's a guy that comes in, we don't like to see him come in. I think he's an upper echelon closer, absolutely. Part of what we would like to do is get ahead so we don't have to face him.
Q. Is Pujols as locked in as Beltran right now? He's not getting quite as much attention.
TONY La RUSSA: Yeah, I think -- I bet you they're as concerned about his at-bats as we are about Carlos. That's the way this series is. They send guys up there that we're really concerned about besides Beltran; I think we do the same to them. One of the tough plays yesterday was a line drive single that drove in - whatever it was, run five or something - that was a laser. That's over a couple feet, that's going to roll all the way to the bullpen. So, yeah, I look forward to his at-bats.
Q. Just to be clear, did Julian break his hand during the outburst in the dugout? Secondly, I believe Kevin Brown had to miss some time when he did the same thing. In your discussions with Barry Weinberg, is that a factor?
TONY La RUSSA: Well, he punched the phone so that's when it happened. I ducked (laughter). So I think that's -- I don't think he would have broken it if it was me he hit. I asked that question because I didn't understand when Brown was unavailable then I got the explanation; he had a pin inserted and had some kind of cast or big splint that would have made it impossible for him to function. And as I said before I left, they were in the training room, putting stuff together I think. I don't know if he'll pitch tonight, but he'll pitch in the series.
Q. Something that would allow him to put his glove on?
TONY La RUSSA: Right.
Q. Because the hitters are so good on both sides of this series, do managers have to be extra supportive of their pitchers to tell them, "That was a good pitch, the guy's just a fabulous hitter"?
TONY La RUSSA: Yeah, I think you got to be realistic. A ballpark like this, hitters got some extra pluses. So we're asking our guys just to pitch effectively. I don't know how this sounds, I just say it because I mean it, we gave up 5 and 3 and gave up 6 yesterday. I think that's effective pitching. I think yesterday, I talked to some of our hitters, everybody's bummed out that we got 5 and got shut out the last half of the game. If we would have added some runs, which we didn't and they shut us down, but I think the point is if you're going to go out there and you're going to try to pitch a two-, three-run game, a shutout, you got things working against you. The idea is to pitch well to give your club a chance to win.
Q. Other than Lidge, it looks like Wheeler has been their most effective reliever. Did your scouting reports reveal anything he might be pitching well this time or has he been a little bit of a surprise?
TONY La RUSSA: Well, he's done a good job for them. We haven't scored on him yet. He's from the Mets, right? We saw him in spring training. Always liked his arm. I think I made it a point to say after the two games there, sometimes you got to look beyond the numbers. They gave up some runs at our park, but you look at Qualls, Harville, Springer, they got guys that are capable of getting you out, Miceli. So Wheeler is one of those guys. He hasn't surprised us. We have confidence in our hitters, and we think there's a chance to break through. Surprised we haven't.
Q. Outside of the baseball game, how is Houston treating your team as guests?
TONY La RUSSA: Well, I was going to say something cute, but the honest answer is the places that I've been, people have enjoyed the series, they can't pull for us, but respect the way we play. I've heard that a lot because I've been out quite a bit. Here at the ballpark, I tell you, from the minute you walk in the front door - and I always forget her name, she's just a wonderful lady saying hello to you - to everybody else, the security, I mean, that guy Steve Perry in the clubhouse, that's what I mean, it's a first-class place. I'd like to break their heart tonight (laughter).
Q. Just to follow up on that, they said they would apologize to you and to Walt (Jocketty) about playing that tantrum on the video screen. Have they done that?
TONY La RUSSA: Well, I read that and no, they haven't. They don't have to. They hadn't said anything. Like I was talking about Tavarez, for eight months he's been great. So he had a hiccup, he's still great. So they had a hiccup, they're still classy. You don't forget how they've been for years. It's not a big deal.
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