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October 3, 2011

Tony La Russa


Q. A week ago Jaime pitched a very big game for you guys; down the stretch you could argue quite a few big games. What will that experience do for him tomorrow? Will that help him, and in what way?
TONY LA RUSSA: I believe that every time you have a real pressure challenging situation, it feeds into your experience.
Go back to opening -- his opening start last year, pitched against Gallardo, their ace, and he pitched a one- or two-hitter. That tells you all you need to know about what he's capable of doing. And since then he's pitched a lot of great games. He's still a young guy learning. Once in a while he pitches a little young and most of the time he pitches like he's got everything in control. It'll be fun to watch him.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about your offensive approach, and specifically last night and how you grinded out at-bats and got some good pitches to hit and executed and how that sort of meshes with what Mark (McGwire) has been preaching to the hitters, and is that sort of emblematic of what you guys are trying to do?
TONY LA RUSSA: Bottom line is you just try to take your most competitive at-bat by everybody, every at-bat during the game. That's probably your only real chance against -- especially an outstanding starting pitcher.
I told somebody out there a little while ago, when you've got a great competitor against you, one thing you've got, if their guys are competing in a great way, sometimes you break through. You try to find what's your best at-bat, and I think the biggest mistake that we try to avoid is thinking it's going to take you four or five pitches to have a great at-bat. As soon as the other guy identifies that you're up there being very passive, they throw strike one and then you never see another good strike. So we try to be aggressive with real good plate discipline. And if you do both those things, the pitcher gets to be a little bit more concerned about throwing the ball down the middle. Sometimes he throws behind, sometimes you foul balls off, but everybody works every at-bat. And we have good hitters, so there are times we break through.

Q. Could you give me your assessment on Cole Hamels, the starter for Game 3?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, he's a legitimate fit for that rotation. In a kind of perverse way, it's fun to compete against the Phillies because you're seeing the best of -- there's nobody better, and he's a good fit for that. Especially now, he's added another wrinkle or two to what hitters have to face, so when he was -- before he had those, he was already really good, now he's better. So he's a handful. So we'll do exactly what we've tried to do the first two games, just eight guys compete as hard as they can. But he's got a lot of ways to get a hitter out and he's very competitive.

Q. What does a comeback like yesterday's win do for you guys, particularly for your inexperienced post-season players, going into Game 3?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, the most important thing was it created a series. I mean, we go down 0-2, I mean, as optimistic as we are, that's a big, big hole. So it just got us excited.
I think if you watch us play, even the last couple years, our young guys play a lot more experienced than their Major League age, and I really credit what's happening in our Minor League system. They have a lot of teams winning down there, and you win wherever you are, Triple-A team, Double-A team, they're all competitively tough. They come here and they're not intimidated by the big league lights. They play just like they've been playing, Minor Leagues, and they've been playing that way for us, giving us a big lift.

Q. Can you give us the update on Matt Holliday and what his availability will be, you hope to be, or what your plans are for him?
TONY LA RUSSA: I wish I knew. I think it's going on as we speak. I just got off the -- there wasn't a whole lot on the field, but I was out there and I have not been told by a trainer or any one of our doctors that there's been an outcome. But I know he's going to get checked.
What I said outside to a couple people was it's more fun to be half full than half empty, but in this case it's a little tougher to be optimistic because he did feel significant pain with his one at-bat. So we're just kind of crossing our fingers, and I hope it's good news, but I don't know.

Q. Do you put much stock in home-field advantage for the next two games?
TONY LA RUSSA: A little bit, yeah. I do, because it's going to be every bit as loud and passionate as it was in Philadelphia. They're very similar fans. Ours are probably a little more patient than -- Jack Buck used to say that a lot about the Midwest. They're with you, win or lose, a lot of other places win or tie. But if you check our record, we had the same record on the road and at home, and if you check the Phillies' record they played tough everywhere. It's more fun to play here, you get a little edge, but it's not anything they can't overcome, and it's not anything for us to take for granted.

Q. Talk about Albert (Pujols) a little bit last night. The people don't get to see him day in and day out and just know him for his home runs, RBIs, average. Even with the bad heel last night staying in that run down, talk about his smarts baseball-wise?
TONY LA RUSSA: The way I like to explain Albert is people call him a great player, I call him a great player, and then what does that mean. And if you just watch the game enough, you'll see him show his greatness, and a lot of it is the way he swings the bat, but if you watch him play defense, he knows all the time what the score is. That's why he makes these aggressive plays sometimes throwing out guys, trying to bunt a guy over to third or making a play at the plate. On the bases, he's an excellent base runner, and he runs the bases according to the scoreboard.
But the other sign that we saw last night is what he's demonstrated forever, and that is his toughness, pain tolerance, as good as anybody I've ever seen. Adrenaline pumps and he'll grind out an extra base or he'll stay in that, and then he relaxes and he feels the pain. One year here he hit .320, .330, and he had that trouble with his elbow, couldn't hardly swing. He's a great player the way he plays, but he's also got terrific toughness.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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