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October 13, 2006

Tony La Russa


Q. So said that he originally was just going to pinch-hit in the ninth. What changed your mind to send him out there defensively?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I saw Billy warming up, so might as well get him to play defense as well.

Q. Can you tell us what kind of year Scott Spiezio has had, and how many big hits he's gotten for your team?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, that's why, I was telling you earlier, and there's no reason it should be true, his pinch-hitting record is not great. But his record as a starter at first, third, in the outfield has been huge, and that was part of the Scott Rolen discussion. You've got somebody like Scott sitting there. If you didn't, you'd push Scott and he would be a warrior and go out there.
But Spiezio, he's done it all. He's taken great at-bats, he's got so many clutch hits. Got in front of that one bullet. He played defense. He's just been really clutch for us.

Q. You've seen So hit 16 home runs in four or five big league seasons and here he is hitting a home run off one of the best closers in baseball, how amazing was it to see that?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, one of So's qualities is he really plays well late in the game. Ever since he first got here, September, I don't even remember the year now, 2001, 2002, whatever it was, in September, he got a couple big hits. He plays well late. In that at-bat, fouled a couple of pitches where he was getting the head out. So he's not intimidated at all by pressure situations.

Q. So much was made of the Mets' bullpen going into the series, but not that much talk was made of your bullpen. Your bullpen has been amazing the last week of the regular season, and now in the post-season. Can you talk about their performance here.
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, first of all, all the credit, recognition of the Mets' bullpen is well-earned. I mean, around our league, they are really tough. They have got so many different looks.
But our guys, they have really picked it up. It's been fun to watch because they don't go out there with a lot of experience, and they have got good arms and they are excited. I think today was the first run they have given up.
So it's a big reason why we're here in the post-season because they shut down San Diego, a fine offense, and got a bunch of big outs today.

Q. Do you think at some point tonight while there's still so much series left, will you spend a couple minutes thinking about how this one ranks with the other post-season games you've been around in terms of importance, which we'll find out later, but just the idea of this game itself?
TONY LA RUSSA: Oh, this is going to be a fun one to reflect on. It's a shame we don't have that day off to really enjoy. Already thinking about tomorrow.
But it's a heckuva win, a very, very tough win, a very important win to give us a chance in the series. And to come back like we did, every time, it's a great win. And, in fact, I already did it, put my lineup card in my suit jacket, so I can replay the game and enjoy.
But going back over the post-seasons, I haven't been -- it's maybe the best comeback on a club that I've been around.

Q. Scott was talking about how the veteran guys have talked to the bullpen. Did you talk to them at all, or like what's been the big turnaround for you, especially the young guys?
TONY LA RUSSA: The bullpen? No, I mean, Dunc doesn't allow me to talk to our pitchers. (Laughter.) Only thing I'm allowed to say when I get in there, here, get a pitch and get an out. I do everything Dave says.
I think he's talking about guys like Izzy. The last homestand, Cal Eldred was in town, great influence, great advice, tremendous respect from the young guys to both those guys. So they have given them an edge on an important way to get through this.

Q. With Chris starting today, did you almost feel this was a must-win game in this series?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, kind of. I mean, because you go down two, and the three guys that were going to throw in St. Louis in our home ballpark, we're expecting them to pitch effectively, but Chris is our horse. Here again, he really struggled. When it's all over, he's as important to our win as anybody who pitched or played, the way he hung in there and really stopped the bleeding.
Yeah, going back, 0-2, would have been, even though we are going home, it would have been a tough situation.

Q. Because it was so many hours ago, Jim Edmonds, what he did early in this game, probably is not going to be talked about the way it's supposed to be. You made a move, putting him behind Albert and obviously one of those things that paid off and it's supposed to be noted. I would imagine that that swing is probably, really in theory, as good as any swing that was put on tonight by your side.
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, Jim has a history of rising to the occasion. All you've got to do is just get him healthy enough to play and that's really the secret. Even now, he likes the challenge of hitting behind Albert and he's got a good stroke when he gets it going. As impressive the home run, pull a ball hitting off Billy Wagner throwing 98, that was a piece of hitting as well. If we keep him healthy enough to play, definitely helps our chances.

Q. So obviously is good in the late innings, but of all your guys in the clubhouse, where would he rank on the list of guys you expect to hit home runs?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, he's not a big home run hitter. But serious when I tell you, that if you give him a clutch at-bat, and he will give you a real good effort. You know, you're expecting a single or double, not expecting a home run, especially off a guy like Billy Wagner. But he handles that situation. You can tell with his experience, in Japan he was a big-time player and he's not intimidated by it.

End of FastScripts...

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