October 18, 2004
HOUSTON, TEXAS: Game Five
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for Phil Garner.
Q. Can you tell us if Brad Lidge will be available tonight? Would you hesitate to put him back in the game if the situation arose?
PHIL GARNER: Well, I don't know 100 percent yet. I don't usually know until we go out for BP. We'll see how he does after he throws, but my guess is he's probably available tonight.
Q. What happens tonight obviously has a big influence on this, but is there anything you can tell us about who will start Game 6?
PHIL GARNER: Not yet. I'll let you know as soon as I make the decision.
Q. What does your rotation look like tonight?
PHIL GARNER: Well, beyond Backe, I expect him to pitch nine innings (smiling). Of course the whole bullpen is available. We'll talk to Lidge and see how he feels and see how much he'll be available. But the whole bullpen is available so I can go to any of them. They're not overused and they're ready to go.
Q. How much does the outcome of tonight have to do with the decision of who will pitch Game 6?
PHIL GARNER: It's part of the consideration. I'm still working things out in my mind, what I want to do. It's not necessary to make the decision just yet, but I will take tonight's game into consideration when it's over.
Q. You've been asked this before 100 times, but what is it about Minute Maid Park? Is it the fans, are you just feeling comfortable at home? What accounts for your success here?
PHIL GARNER: Well, first, it's home. I think most teams play well at home. They would feel most comfortable at home, but we have gotten to where we have played our absolute best ball at home. I think the fans are a great part of that. You might have been here many years before, but I think our fans have gotten to the point where they're really into this, they really believe, and the place is deafening as the game goes on. That definitely works in our players' advantage, I think. I think we're comfortable with the ballpark. It's unusual with its angles in the outfield. We seem to be comfortable with it. I think some of our players take advantage of the way the ballpark is configured, and that works in our favor as well. So we've strung together some pretty good, impressive win streaks at home. That adds to our confidence here as well.
Q. At what point after one of Roger's (Clemens) starts does he get a pretty good indication of how his arm is bouncing back and whether or not he could be effective and available after three days' rest?
PHIL GARNER: Well, he usually knows fairly quickly how he feels. That means the next day. Roger is willing and able to do anything that we would ask of him, and he's volunteered on numerous occasions to pitch in the bullpen when we've needed it down the stretch and to do whatever is necessary to help us win a ballgame.
Q. Does he share with you how he feels after his most recent start?
PHIL GARNER: Yes, we've talked (smiling). He feels good. He feels good.
Q. How difficult is your decision to decide when to use guys on three days' rest or short rest, especially somebody like Clemens?
PHIL GARNER: It's a difficult call because the numbers suggest that it doesn't work as much as you'd like for it to. The other side of that coin is you want to put players in a position to do the best they can do, and so you weigh into that part of the equation, too. Is it the best thing for him, can he give you the best outing by doing that, and I also think it depends on where you are in the series. It's very tempting, when your back is against the wall, to say, "Tonight we'll use Clemens," when he's available and willing.
Q. Will the roof be open tonight, and what is your preference on that?
PHIL GARNER: I don't necessarily have a preference. I think the roof is going to be closed tonight. I think as has been the case, it's gotten a little more humid recently and I think we've decided, to my knowledge, we've decided to go ahead and keep the roof closed just to keep the conditions the same as we've had them the whole series.
Q. Wheeler has been a big guy so far in this series. How long has he been throwing this effectively? What did you think of him when you got him?
PHIL GARNER: Well, he pitched well for us when we got him, when we first put him in. He steadily improved. Each time he seemed to pitch down the stretch, he got a little bit better. We had him slotted in the order of things; he was doing a fine job. He's moved up a little bit in these playoffs. Each time he's been out, he's pitched well. I think his confidence level goes up each time he's used in these situations as well. He's done a fantastic job.
Q. What is Andy Pettitte's frame of mind since he's not able to participate? Is he contributing mentally and spiritually for the team?
PHIL GARNER: Andy is a wonderful person, wants to be in these playoffs in the worst situation, was willing to do anything he could even though he was not even close to being 100 percent before we all decided that surgery was the best thing for him. He's here, in all these games, he's on the bench, rooting guys on. I think his presence is felt in a very positive way. He's got a lot to add, he's got a lot to help with the young players, and sometimes we overlook that. We have so many veteran leaders, leadership, so much veteran leadership on this ballclub that we tend to overlook what his contribution is right now. Just because he's not pitching, doesn't mean he's not doing a lot for the ballclub, and he does.
Q. If you were on the other side watching Beltran do what he's done in this series, how would you pitch to him?
PHIL GARNER: (Laughing). I would pitch to him (laughter). You're asking me that question, I pitched to Sammy Sosa when he hit 12 home runs against us the year he had 66. I have a history of doing things like that. He's doing a fine job. Let's just say I would continue to pitch to him (smiling).
Q. I know you have all these decisions to make, but do you get a chance to savor this experience, enjoy this postseason experience?
PHIL GARNER: I certainly am. I am enjoying every minute of it. It's a wonderful experience. These are the things that players work for for many years; it's things that you dream about. Every player would just love to be in this situation, and I have so many friends, and I've known people over the years that would love to be able to play baseball and be involved in baseball and be in these kinds of situations. So I think sometimes we get -- we're working so hard and we're grinding so hard that we forget how fortunate we are to be able to do this. So this time around, I'm really enjoying it. I had a moment last night in the ninth inning, the place was going crazy, and just kind of looked around and said, "This is a lot of fun." I felt real good about it, and this is a lot of fun.
Q. Lance (Berkman) and Carlos had such monster games last night. Jeff (Bagwell) almost got overlooked. Do you think your offense is starting to look like what you hoped as you're going along here?
PHIL GARNER: Yes, I would think so. The interesting thing about it is it takes everybody. Each run was big, Bagwell answering in the first inning driving in a run is a big run. Might have been the biggest run; I don't know. Berkman hitting the two-run double might have been the biggest two runs of the game in terms of when you look back at the emotional lift it gave us on the bench. Then how can you overlook Raul Chavez driving in the tying run? I mean, each one of them is big. So everybody in the lineup can chip in and do something. Even if you're 0-7 or 0-8 or 0-9, you're going to get an opportunity in one of these games to do something big. Your batting average may not look so good, but it may be something that you can chip in. Let's not forget Vizcaino's double that set it all up at the bottom of the lineup. Everybody is going to get an opportunity. You would hope, I would hope, that everybody will come through. We've had some exciting games here that we've managed to put some runs on the board, and there's going to be somebody else that's going to surprise us, I'm sure, in the next couple of games.
Q. When you're dealing with a young pitcher like Backe, is it a bigger advantage for him the second time around in a series like this?
PHIL GARNER: I think he'll be more relaxed. I think he'll feel a little bit more comfortable the second time here. It was a big game to open the series, a place where the Astros have never been in the NLCS. For him to open in St. Louis, that's a big game. I thought he pitched a decent ballgame, I have seen him pitch better. I think he'll feel a little bit more relaxed here. He seems to pitch well in this ballpark. That's probably going to help him a little bit. Also, I think just overall in general, I think good hitters probably would all tell you that they like to see a guy a second time. They're probably a little more comfortable when they know what a guy throws. Does one outweigh the other in this particular case? I don't know. I tend to think if pitchers put the ball where they want to, pitchers always have the advantage. So if Brandon makes his pitches, he will have good results tonight.
Q. Pujols is almost as hot as Beltran. Are you thinking of changing your approach, or is he just so locked in it's impossible?
PHIL GARNER: Well, we haven't made good pitches on him for the most part. When we've made a mistake, he's punished us for it. I think if we can make better pitches more consistently in the areas that we want to, we can have better success. He's a good hitter, and he's going to hit pitches, even though you might make good pitches on him. If you make consistently good pitches, as I was referring to in the last question, I think it's usually to the pitcher's advantage. The approach would be let's get the pitches where we want to. I don't know we need to change it other than to say we need to make the pitches that we want to make.
Q. Just going back to the Clemens question once more. Is there any part of this to just keep the St. Louis Cardinals guessing?
PHIL GARNER: I'm not that smart. I'm just trying to -- we're trying to take care of our business. We'll take care of our business. That has nothing to do with trying to play those sort of games with St. Louis.
Q. Because you have recent experience with Roger on three days' rest, how does that factor into it?
PHIL GARNER: It's part of the discussion. I don't know that it has any weight one way or the other. If it convinces me not to do it or if it says, "Let's do it one more time," I've considered that and said, "Well, in the last start this is what we had." I think there were mitigating circumstances in that one, which was he was not far removed from having the stomach flu, which I think took a little bit out of him, the previous start, the previous short-time start. So I'm not sure that that was a really good indication of how he might perform if we were to ask him to go on three days' again.
Q. How is Oswalt today physically? How does that factor into if he'll be available for Game 7 or if you have to change things around there?
PHIL GARNER: Roy is fine. He would be available to do anything we would ask of him, also, If we would ask him to go to Game 7. We're trying to figure out Game 5, though, right now, so we'll cross that bridge. But I just spoke with him. He was in and he's feeling fine, normal type of thing you feel after you pitch, little sore, little stiff. That's about normal.
Q. Do you believe in pressure as a negative influence or are these two teams too experienced for that to be a factor?
PHIL GARNER: Well, I think both teams have young, inexperienced players. Luna was playing shortstop yesterday. I don't think he's been in these kinds of circumstances before. We have young players that haven't been in these kinds of circumstances before, like Backe, for instance, and Wheeler, who is getting a taste of this and Qualls and Gallo. But I think that that gives a ballplayer a chance to shine. It gives him a chance to show his stuff. I think it's always a personal challenge, an individual challenge, if you will, how do you handle these hyped-up situations? I mean, you can get so keyed up and things can get away from you or you can get so keyed up and really learn how to channel your energy and focus. That's what makes some guys really great in these circumstances and other guys may not perform as well as others, or as well as they performed in regular season play. So it's a great study. It's always fun to watch, and it's always fun to watch some of the players that you don't really key on in the regular season and watch them come through in these circumstances. So it's a good study. So I think for some players it takes them a little longer than others to learn how to deal with it, but it's always a fun study.
End of FastScripts...