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October 18, 2005

Tony La Russa


Q. How does it feel getting on that plane last night knowing that you had just won the most dramatic League Championship Game 5 and knowing you were coming home to play Game 6?

TONY LaRUSSA: Well, I don't think anybody really remembers getting on that plane. It was kind of magical, unbelievable set of circumstances, so you're trying to pinch yourself. You know, it was really a combination of two things. Everybody was really excited, and really understanding that it was Game 5 and we're down three games to two. It's a great story; it's a lot greater if we can take it to Game 7 and see what happens in Game 7.

Q. Do you expect Núñez to start tomorrow?

TONY LaRUSSA: I think he's going to start. I know he worked out, I watched some of it. Unless I go in there and find out something that wasn't obvious, I expect him to start.

Q. Especially with the off-day today, what's your theory on can the momentum be carried over for 48 hours or is it brand new tomorrow?

TONY LaRUSSA: I think the first I guy I ever heard it say, Earl weaver, maybe he heard it from somebody else, that's when I first heard it from years ago, and I think it's true, the momentum will be dependent on the two starting pitchers. If we were playing today and it was a quick turnaround, maybe there would be a little carryover from Houston. But they have an off-day and they are going to collect themselves. Our guys we might still be celebrating and might not be ready to play. It might affect both of us. With the off-day, we turn the page and by turning the page it comes down to Mulder and Oswalt, as it does every game in this league, the starting pitcher has the opportunity to establish that.

Q. Do you get the sense that you're going to be seeing that home run over and over and over for 20 years?

TONY LaRUSSA: 200 years? I mean, yeah, I think it's -- it would be tied for first with the most dramatic home runs that have ever been hit. I think if you're talking about drama, you might play off the fact that if you look at a World Series winner like (Bill) Mazeroski or (Joe) Carter, home run, you're a world champion, that's really dramatic. But we're playing tomorrow and we're not done playing. So Dave Henderson and Albert Pujols, yeah, that will be played forever. I was on the other side of that in 1988. This side is a lot better.

Q. Can you talk about facing Oswalt again just a few days ago, some of the hitters say it doesn't really matter whether you face a guy real quick or not. How do you see that and what do you expect from him?

TONY LaRUSSA: Oh, I think if you have got an average starting pitcher or below average starting pitcher, if you get to see them quickly, a hitter gains a substantial edge. If you have an above average or outstanding starting pitcher, they are going to be outstanding for a long time because they have special stuff and a lot of ways to get hitters out. So, you know, we've seen Roy four or five times this year. They have seen Mulder four times. So I think it's who is -- it's not really going to be stuff; it's going to be command. You know, do you locate your pitches.

Q. Last year when you came back for Game 5 or Game 6 here, you were coming off the Jeff Kent home run. Talk about being back in that same situation 3-2 and coming home and having to win two?

TONY LaRUSSA: I'd say the same thing I said last year: I'd rather be up three than down the two. They are in a better position. That's why I say it's more important for us to win. They can afford the loss more than we can, obviously. You know -- the simplest and healthiest frame of mind that our club has to have is are we good enough to win the next game that we play, period. With all due respect to the Astros and Roy Oswalt, you have to believe that we can win the game. Otherwise, why should we play it? But it's similar to last year, and we were going to compete as hard as we could, so we had no regrets when Game 6 was over, and we'll do the same thing tomorrow.

Q. You talked a couple of days ago perhaps your hitters taking a more aggressive approach in certain situations. I don't know if you saw some of that last night, and second of all, do you kind of tie that with some of the struggles you've had with guys in scoring position this year; does one kind of go with the other?

TONY LaRUSSA: You know, what I was trying to say was we're being caught kind of in the middle, or in between. And there's sometimes where we're really aggressive and it's not a good pitch to hit. Like the first one to Albert, the day before, then he (Lidge) threw to Sanders. It would be nice to take that pitch to get the count 1-0. There are other times where the best pitch that you have in the at-bat is early in the count and you're just trying to get a good look at it and all of a sudden now you have a strike against you and the guy throws something nasty and you foul it off and you're in a defensive situation. What we need to do is that old classic, be ready to hit good strikes and work the count in our favor.

Q. Before the series started, you talked about how important you thought the Game 2/Game 6 starter was. Why do you like Mulder in that spot?

TONY LaRUSSA: Well, we like Mark pitching in our ballpark. We liked him pitching at night. Not that he can't pitch during the day; the first one was at three-something and I think this one is at night. You know, I think that with the left-handed starting pitcher, with all of the right-handed hitters that, short porch in our ballpark, we would much rather have those right-handers flip the ball in our park than theirs, so that's the biggest reason we did it.

Q. As much as Albert has accomplished, does a moment like that take a guy to even another place?

TONY LaRUSSA: Well, I think it does. I think it does for whatever amount of the public is interested in, whether it's casually or a lot. But if you're a student of the game, a fan of the game, and you watch carefully, since his rookie season, you will say that's something that Albert had a chance to do if he had something to work with. I mean, this guy has done it over and over again. Look at his game-winning RBIs. I can give you 50 examples of what he's done. I think the reality is that a lot of people kind of watch the playoffs and don't pay a lot of attention or as close of attention; forever now, as long as baseball history is repeated, that home run is going to be part of history and Albert will have his place in it.

Q. We've heard your cell phone go off three times in the past couple of minutes; can you describe what this past day has been like for you and the team?

TONY LaRUSSA: You know, it's a good question, because actually I think it's a healthy reminder to do what we need to do, which is put the ballgame and the excitement of just being a part of it and the congratulations and the comments, put them off to the side and get ready. Because it's not as neat of a story if we don't keep winning. But there was an interesting by-play there on the bus and then on the plane, guys were comparing the number of messages; I had 12, I had 15, I had 32. It's just the modern thing, you can call somebody's cell phone, leave a message and a lot of people saw it, you know. My case, it's actually a lot of coaches have called. I've got some great calls from coaches in NFL, college -- college and pro baseball basketball, guys that I thoroughly enjoy talking to at any time, all of them trying to recruit Eckstein and Pujols.

Q. Either after their win or after your win, have you been in contact with anybody with the White Sox over either one of those wins?

TONY LaRUSSA: Well, yeah. They were a significant part of the messages. A lot of friends -- that's why I was really thrilled for them. It has great meaning for the franchise, but the individuals that back in the '80s when I was there, they are still there. The family is still there. I mean, this is an unbelievable experience. So, yeah, got a number of calls.

Q. Going back to '88, did you realize at the time that the (Kirk) Gibson home run was going to be as much, have the staying power that it was going to have, and now as you fast-forward ahead, do you think this home run will have the same kind of staying power?

TONY LaRUSSA: I think my first understanding of the significance of Gibson's home run is the drama of what he did that day, as hurt as he was, that being his only at-bat. And if you saw him foul those pitches off and how gimpy he was, it was an incredibly heroic kind of at-bat, if you can use hero in sports. But I think beyond that performance, they won the world championship, and that's made it one of the greatest at-bats of all time, and that's why I think unless we can get another couple of wins, it won't be as great of a story.

Q. Mike Martz was probably watching his team's game last night, but was he one of the guys that called to congratulate you?

TONY LaRUSSA: I actually talked to Mike before the game at length. I haven't talked to him today, but I talked to him before the game and -- in fact, I don't know who was in there at the time. As soon as I walked in, first thing I did was turn off the discussion about our game and the highlights and turned on to see where they were. And I got the news about them being up 17-0 and so it was a tough loss. They just beat us in, I guess they arrived minutes before we did.

End of FastScripts...

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