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October 11, 2000

Al Leiter


Q. Talk about facing the Cardinals' lineup.

AL LEITER: Obviously, there is lot being said about them being lefthanded dominant with probably four guys, today with J.D., Drew in there. Is that 5? I think it is 5. And being lefthanded this year, I have pitched the best I have ever pitched against lefties. Not quite sure why, but it is one of those things where once you start getting lefties out, you have more confidence and feel good about what you are doing as far as setting them up. But it is a lot different. Watching them do as well as they did against the Braves in that series, and it really just comes down to having them make quality pitches to good hitters. And I am very well aware of every one of those guys in that lineup and what their strengths and weaknesses are, and that is all a pitcher thinks about, the ability to go out and execute a quality pitch.

Q. Have you consciously tried to do anything differently this year to get those lefty hitters?

AL LEITER: Yeah, I did. I have what is called a cut fastball. I call it a slider. But I will throw it almost as hard as my fastball, and it has been very effective against righthanders. But I think I have gotten so used to throwing to so many righties that it is kind of flat. It is what you would call a flat slider, which is probably why hitters call it a cutter. Lefty-on-lefty, that is not a good pitch because it stays on the same plane. Generally, your quality hitters are lefthanded. They stay on the ball, and they either try to hit it back at you or go to leftfield. Without having a downward plane to it, usually I used to give up a lot of hits to the left sides. But this year I was conscious of it. It really is more of a true slider to the lefty, and I have gotten a lot of outs on it. It has been a good pitch. So I have worked on it.

Q. One of the managers said Game 2 is more important than Game 1. Your take on that?

AL LEITER: I don't understand that. I just think every game, every starter, every pitch is important. And the only reason that I could possibly see, especially in a five-game series, is if you lose the first game, you certainly don't want to go down 0-2 and put your team in a situation where you have to sweep the next three. That would be my only thinking as to why that logic makes sense.

Q. Or winning two more?

AL LEITER: Yeah, or winning two more.

Q. The Cardinals winning three games here, was that coincidence, or was that a slide where something had happened?

AL LEITER: I think -- look, the Cardinals are great team. They won more games than us, and perhaps maybe that is when it really all started clicking for them, and it came together. I think that is when Will Clark was traded here. I know he has been a big boost for them. But really, when I think about that three-game series, every game was really an amazing game. And what, two of them were won on a home run? And another one was a little number off the end of the bat that got past our third baseman. They were really good baseball games.

Q. The Mets have built up this reputation about if you just stay in it and keep going you can win as you did in the Giants series. Did that series start that?

AL LEITER: Look, what I see and understand a little bit about this game is that when you put quality players on the field, mix them in with a group of veteran players that have done it in the past and possibly hopefully had postseason experience, and you sprinkle a few things, phenoms and young players that could play baseball, you have a good team. If you execute and you fundamentally play good baseball, which is good defense and timely hitting and good pitching, generally you are going to watch a well-pitched game and a well-played series. When they are evenly matched, like most postseason teams are, it comes down to winning baseball games. Certainly, when we were here, that was the kind of ball that was played.

Q. You were highly touted as young pitcher. Rick Ankiel is too. Talk about some of things he may be going through, especially after his last start?

AL LEITER: First of all, Rick Ankiel has done way more than I have ever had done at that point in my career. I was dealing with a lot of injuries early on, but I would just say over a period of time, personally in my career that, because I have been in a few World Series and pitched in big games, et cetera, that by experiencing it, the pressure feeling or the nervousness lessens each time. I could only imagine, I am sure you know, he is very good at what he does. He is going to be a great big league pitcher, that there are nerves. There are nerves that enter into this stuff. You try to eliminate those distractions, but we are human. And there is a mind and, you know, sometimes it plays to a negative. So I don't know how nervous he is going to be or whatever, but I would say that that is just a common thing that happens to a young player.

Q. You have been dubbed the big-game pitcher. Is that because you have had a lot more experience since your earlier days?

AL LEITER: Absolutely. I have been healthy pretty much for seven years, the last seven years. And again, any time that you get an opportunity as a major leaguer, specifically to be able to go out and pitch in a World Series, or down the stretch when you know your team needs a big win, et cetera, and a big out in postseason, and you continue to get those opportunities and do well, of course you are going to feel better about yourself. It is all confidence. It is all self-esteem. And with that, you feel better about yourself. You go out and, consequently, you don't allow the exterior distractions to not enable you to do what you are supposed to do, and that is make a quality pitch.

Q. It is unlikely that McGwire is going to start in this series, but are you prepared of the possibility that -- for the surprise that he may come in at some dramatic moment?

AL LEITER: I don't know if I am prepared for Mark to start. If he does, okay, fine. I will sit with Mike Piazza, and we will go over a game plan. But knowing that the greatest home run hitter is on the bench and very lethal and very, very capable of changing the game with one swing, certainly I imagine he is going to be used every game here at least in that capacity. So yeah, for sure that is a pretty good trump card that Tony has.

End of FastScripts....

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