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October 5, 2011

Tony La Russa


Q. We haven't seen your lineup posted yet. Could you give that to us, please?
TONY LA RUSSA: I actually posted two of them. Depends on Matt. He's going to take batting practice, going to throw, and it's his call. If he's good to go, then it'll be Rafael (Furcal); Skip (Schumaker), Skip will play second base; Albert (Pujols); Berkman; Matt (Holliday); Yadi, sixth; Freese, seven; and Jay, eight. If he can't go, the same four guys except Skip will play left field; Yadi will hit fifth; Freese, sixth; Jay, seventh; and Theriot will play second base.

Q. What's your level of optimism?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I'm 100 percent optimistic that our club is going to take its best shot, which is by definition all you can do. And if we're good enough to win, we play Friday, and if they're good enough to beat us, us taking our best shot that's why it's a fun competition. We will take our best shot.

Q. I meant Holliday. What's your optimism there?
TONY LA RUSSA: Just being realistic. He took a shot, the shot was painful. After the game he felt pain, but I think it was more from where the shot was -- he had to take another shot. I mean, I don't know what -- I know he's a tough guy, he can take a lot. I think a lot depends on his swing. Oswalt is a very live arm that you can't go in there handicapped and compete fairly. We'll wait and see. I have no level.

Q. We all know what having Matt's production means to the lineup. You've mentioned a few times that having his reputation there is also a big factor. I wonder if you could elaborate on what changes for the lineup?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, it affects both our side and their side. If you've got Matt Holliday in, then there's another proven impact bat, just deepens your lineup, and it makes the guys in front and behind better. And then if he's in there, does the same thing for our club, just adds to the confidence and the fairness of what he's -- nobody has to pick up Matt's share. We've been lucky because I think in every case, Allen Craig has taken that, and he's been productive. But Allen is still trying to prove, and Matt's already proven.

Q. What do you remember about the 2004 NLCS-Game 6? What's the legacy of that night and just Jim Edmonds' play that year?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, that was one of the more exciting and memorable nights for a lot of us because we had gotten into the playoffs several times. Except for '01 we had always got past the Division Series, so we got beat in the Championship Series. Even though the Yankees were playing the Red Sox and that one got a lot of publicity, and should, we were having a great series. Two wins here and then they beat us three times very dramatically and then you're facing a tough thing with Roger (Clemens) in 7. It was very meaningful to our club and our organization that we won that game. I think we got the lead in the 9th, stayed tied and then Jim, the home run, was just ecstatic, and then we had another Game 7, which would be the same thing if we can get to Friday. You play the last game of an elimination series, that's what you dream about as a kid. I'll never forget it. I don't think a lot of our guys will because it finally led to us winning a National League pennant.

Q. What goes into Theriot being the guy who would slide in there? Is that basically a matter of him playing his way into an opportunity there?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, you know, there were a few choices, but he's had two really good games. He's had some base hits against Oswalt. If you look at it during the year -- we played these guys nine times. He was one of our most productive hitters. You just can't ignore what he did during the season and what he's done in the post-season. Like I said, if Matt can't go, I like our lineup a lot. If he goes, I like our lineup a lot.

Q. If this goes five, and knowing what kind of competitor Carp is, how much do you think he's looking forward to getting a chance to pitch again this series?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I think he's -- I think it's a dream match-up because the two guys are great, and they were great together in Toronto. They have maintained a relationship -- I mean, you can't ask for anything scripted better than that. I know a lot of us -- I haven't heard them say it, but I know a lot of us on the Cardinals' side even mentioned in Philadelphia that the opportunity to play that Game 5 with that match-up was as special as it gets. I mean, I wouldn't pull a lose if we were up 2-1. But it would be really special for a lot of reasons if it happens.

Q. Two years ago when you guys faced the elimination against the Dodgers, you had clinched the division or basically wrapped it up certainly long before the playoffs started. This go-around you guys are basically playing elimination games all throughout September. Does that help your team heading into tonight's elimination game?
TONY LA RUSSA: I think the general answer is that it's such a brand-new deal when you get into the playoffs. You clinch early, you have a chance to rest guys, heal guys, and then you can play well. If you clinch late, keep it until the end, you can compete until the end and get eliminated. It's such a brand new -- I think the ideal thing for us is we have played so many games -- not even the last game Wednesday, if we lose and Atlanta wins, we're out. It's a different kind of pressure. We played a lot of games where if we lost that game, the numbers really worked against us, and I think our guys have really gotten used to it and have enjoyed the thing about playing like it's the last game of your life. They're used to it, and you saw them respond yesterday in a great way. I'm sure that's the way they'll respond today. The guy on the mound is tough. He may never give us anything to hit, but our guys will be ready. They've enjoyed it, and we've enjoyed being around them.

Q. Are the conditions a little more fair today? Another hour on the clock.
TONY LA RUSSA: You know, the fact is that you play a lot of games in the Major Leagues at -- late afternoon. You go to the West Coast, and if you're the game of the week or the Monday or Sunday game, whatever it is, it happens all the time. I'd be interested to know the first time that that was an issue with our team whether Albert or Lance (Berkman) or Matt or anybody stood up and said, hey, come here, I've got something that I want to say. I'm willing to bet that somebody asked a question and they answered it honestly, and they're getting blistered and we're getting blistered, which is really irritating. If you don't answer the question, then you're not cooperative. If you answer the question, you come out like you're excuse-makers. That really pisses me off. If there's one thing this team is not is excuse-makers. They all say it. It's tough to see for both sides. It makes no difference. The only thing that should not be ignored, it can be dangerous. When you can't see pitchers throwing the ball, that is not a good situation for either side. That to me is the only issue, poor visibility, hard to see.
But I'll tell you, you play in the middle of the summer and you go to parks and you start at 7:00, until it starts to get dark, you don't see real well, either. You can't wait until 9:00. It's something guys face all the time. Like I said, I'll repeat, I don't think anybody stood up and said, hey, I want to make a speech about this. They were asked a question, they answered honestly and now they're getting drilled on it. Very unfair.

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