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October 4, 2007

Bob Melvin


THE MODERATOR: Questions for Bob.

Q. Is there ever concern -- this obviously didn't play out last night, but with a club that's already exceeded expectations, or at least the general expectations, that when you get to this level there's a sort of we're happy to be here? Obviously that isn't occurring, but is that a concern at any point?
BOB MELVIN: It's not a concern because I think something we've done pretty well this year is just focus on the day, whether it's the first day of the series, second day of the series, whatever, and I think we continue to do that.
So granted, we're happy about being here, but everybody knows there's still unfinished business. And as long as you're there you go out there and play pretty consistent with the way you did the better part of the season, and that's the way we take it.
Our long-term we've talked about all season has been the series. The mid-term has been the game. The short-term has been pitching to at-bat to at-bat. That's the way we continue to look at it.
I would say the short answer to your question is, "Not really." How's that? How about "maybe"?

Q. Lilly is 9 and 1 after losses for the Cubs in outings this year. Just talk about your guys' approach to him and what you expect. Is patience the key, or what do you see tonight?
BOB MELVIN: Well, he's got four pitches that he will throw at any time. We have to try to -- to an extent try to work the count and get the count in our favor so we can make him a little bit more predictable. Whether it works or not, I don't know.
He's a very good pitcher. He's been very good for these guys this year, and with the two guys they have at the top of the rotation I know they feel very good when those two guys are going to pitch.
We'll try to do some things that will get the count in our favor a little bit, and if he's painting and getting ahead of us, it's going to be doubly tough.
A lot of times it's a veteran guy like that who's been through the wars before that is up for the task of doing well after a loss. I didn't know those numbers, but I know he's been very good for them this year.
Really it's no different for us than yesterday. We have to go out and try to grind and get his pitch count up and make it a little better for us.

Q. Can you talk about the job the bullpen has done this year and specifically José Valverde?
BOB MELVIN: It leads to José who's done a phenomenal job. I don't know that there's been a better closer in baseball this year. He really has. He's come a long way from last year starting out closing and ending up at one point in time in the Minor Leagues and kind of fighting his way back to claim the closer's role at the end of the year.
I think this year it served him well that -- I think he's tougher this year because of what happened last year, and he realizes every time he goes out there he has an opportunity, and I think that the thing he's done better than anything this year is being able to respond to the games that maybe he has blown, and he's always come back and responded.
He's been the guy in the 9th inning that makes us feel like we're going to win the game, Pena and Lyon leading up to it as our situational guys. The bullpen is one of the reasons that we've been as successful in the one-run games and the lower scoring games this year, and it all ends up with José Valverde.

Q. What have you said to Justin Upton today, and do you expect to see any nerves from such a young man in his first playoff start?
BOB MELVIN: I think to an extent everybody has to look within their first time they're in an atmosphere like this and in a playoff game, so who knows. I didn't say much to him today. Everything was real loose around the cage.
He knew last night he was playing. So he'll go out there and prepare the way he normally prepares, but he seemed pretty loose around the cage.

Q. From a team aspect, after winning last night's game, did that help maybe settle any kind of nerves or tensions that there might have been going into the game with this team being so young?
BOB MELVIN: I think any time you win a game when you're in a scenario where you've never been before, it takes a little pressure off. You know, in a five-game series it can flip that quickly. So to get a win under our belt, especially at home, especially with Webby on the mound, I think your question would be, Does that take a little pressure off? Probably.
Yet if we go out there and lose this game going into their place it starts all over again. But it's nice to win the first game.

Q. I had talked to Tony a little earlier about he had played in New York with the Yankees, and any season there that doesn't end in a World Series victory is considered almost like a failure and the crushing pressure of that. You guys flew a little bit under the radar screen. You're in the western Pacific time zone. With a young club, the fact that you didn't have those expectations going in, did that help maybe a little bit?
BOB MELVIN: Maybe a little, but I think coming down the stretch, all the games were as pressure packed as they could potentially be. Once you get to the end and you're in the lead you're not as under the radar.
I think expectations aren't nearly what they are in New York every year. That's the big difference. When they're in the postseason, like you said, it's all about winning the World Series. The expectations weren't like that for us. But since we're here in the moment we expect a lot out of ourselves, and kind of a progression leading into this where now our expectations are high and we expect to win.

Q. Your thoughts on the lineup, was that mostly because of the lefty, and with Upton, any hesitation at starting him tonight?
BOB MELVIN: No. I mean, we've played him down the stretch, we've brought him up in the midst of a Pennant race, and he's responded. Our development people, front office staff have been good about recognizing who and when is ready to come and play at the Big League level: Mark Reynolds, Justin Upton, Emilio Bonifacio, started at AA level and lower.
He knew when this series started that this was going to be his day, and there was absolutely no hesitation even after a win yesterday to play him today.

Q. With division play, teams don't -- between the divisions you don't see each other for long stretches, and when you do see them it's only short times in the season. Are the Cubs a different team now than when you last faced them in August? Have your reports kind of indicated that? And I guess by the same token you're a different team, as well.
BOB MELVIN: I think everybody to an extent, depending on how they're playing, who's injured, I think we missed Lee and we missed Soriano the second time. So they haven't been 100 percent healthy since we've seen them.
And they've made some changes too: In the middle of the diamond, behind the plate, center field. They're at full strength now, and every time you see a team there's a little different variable that you have to deal with.
And unlike your division when you see them enough you feel like you have a better handle on things, and you just go from there.
But we know they're a very good team, and this is the first time we've seen them at full strength with their complete lineup out there.

Q. Does Wrigley Field present any special problems for you? Is there anything you have to tell the team before they go play there?
BOB MELVIN: We've been there. We won a couple of games there. It's not like it's not sold out every time you're there anyway. So I think having some experience there and playing well, having a little success there, guys know what to expect.
There might be a couple of us that weren't there when we were there last, but it's always an experience going to Wrigley Field. And this time of year you can talk about what potentially is going to go on there, and it's always kind of a zoo and great atmosphere.
This is going to be over the top. I think everybody realizes that going in, and I think it's exciting to our group to know that we get a chance to go and play there under the conditions that you have to deal with there.

Q. Reflecting barks, right after the All-Star break the team is struggling, then you go into Chicago, you take two of three, Drew hits the big homerun. Essentially looking back is that one of the turning points of that series to this season?
BOB MELVIN: Based on the way we were playing leading into the break and right after, I think we lost maybe the first two series and we ended up winning the series there. And Stephen's homerun obviously was a big point that turned around, then we go 21 and 5 I think it was after that.
So if you look at it, it was a turning point. Whether or not we knew it at the time, obviously no. But the run we went on after that, you know, was a turning point in the season. Whether or not it actually happened at Wrigley Field in that series I'm not altogether certain, but we played a lot better after that.

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