Tony La Russa
On Pujols' feat being the only player to hit 30 home runs in his first five seasons.
It is amazing. We have enjoyed every bit of it. The best way to describe how great it is, is that it is the first time it has ever been done. He is a great, great player and a great hitter. That is one way you can explain it. There are a lot of reasons, but that is one way you can explain it.
On the bench guys coming through.
The last couple of months, they haven't been bench guys anymore. You're talking about our regulars – our regular third baseman and our regular right fielder.
On the game.
The game was very misleading. The score was very misleading. It was an outstanding game. We had the big base hit to make it four runs, but the next inning, they had a chance. Mulder was outstanding with men in scoring position or men on base. He made some great pitches. But it was a very misleading score.
On whether Pujols' milestone was more special because it was against Smoltz.
Yeah, I would think that John Smoltz was the pitcher, a Hall of Famer. Albert understands what the game is all about. And that is special.
On Pujols' success against good pitchers.
He is a classic high-average hitter because he takes a relentless approach every at-bat. Every at-bat, he is the same way. He battles the great pitchers, the good ones, the ones who are trying to make it. He is just relentless.
It was outstanding. They have been scoring runs at a big clip. They are so dangerous. He made a lot of pitches to get the big part of the barrel off the ball when he had to. An excellent performance.
On whether he told So to hit more homers.
Yes, I told him in Japanese. But, he didn't understand and told me to tell him in English.
On hitting 30 home runs.
So what? Is that the first time with 30?
On being the only one to hit 30 home runs five consecutive years.
I don't care, man. We got the win. Let's talk about the win.
On beating Smoltz.
Beating a guy like him is great. He is going to bring his best game. You want to get him early and give the lead to Mark and hopefully, he will feel comfortable out there. You know, the last thing you want to do with John Smoltz, a future Hall of Famer, is get comfortable out there on the mound because he is going to throw seven or eight innings. I am glad he was out of the there in the sixth or fifth inning.
On the fastball he hit off Smoltz for the home run.
I didn't know it was a fastball that I hit.
On whether he will appreciate his accomplishments later.
What can I tell you, man? If I can stay healthy, I know I am capable of doing that. I don't think about it. I just want to win a championship. That is what I want to remember at the end of my career – to get a ring. I got the opportunity last year and missed it. You just try to get the opportunity again and hope it will turn out better.
That will show you guys why he won 20 games in the American League. He doesn't surprise anybody. He shows what he can do. If we give him enough run support, he is going to go out there and give his best.
On bearing down with men on base.
I left a few pitches up to start a couple of innings – a couple of change-ups that they grounded into some holes. But, after that, I really made some good pitches, got some double plays. Kept the ball down with most of the pitches that I was throwing and got out of those situations with guys on base.
On whether he feels like he is in a groove.
I feel great out there. I have a good sinker, a good splitter over the last month or so. And today, I threw some really good fastballs in to get guys off of those pitches. It helped me a lot tonight.
On pitching on his birthday.
It is the first time I have ever done this, so it was a little weird. But, it is nice. My parents and everybody is here. So, I am glad I pitched well or I would be in a bad mood right now. It will be a better night this way, you might say.
On extra incentive going against Smoltz.
You know, when Albert hit that homer in the first, it was "alright, that is all… I look at it like there are my two runs. Now, go out there and win this ballgame." But, obviously we scored some more. Nuney came up with a huge two-out hit and that was big for us.
On getting run support.
Yeah, it has been nice. Just with the three early, with Jimmy's homer after that and when Nuney got the two-run single with two outs; it makes you feel a little more comfortable out there.
On facing the Braves' unknown hitters.
That is what we have video for. A lot of these guys – I am not pitching to their weaknesses. I am pitching to my strengths. That is the way I pitch everybody.
On whether he feels like he is in a groove (again).
Yeah. When I get guys on base, I am keeping it to a minimum. Even that one run that I gave up, I easily could have gotten out of that. I just left that pitch up and he rolled it up the middle. It's just those little things. I try not to walk guys. Keeping the walks down and trying not to give up the big hit.
On whether he made mental notes on the Braves for the playoffs.
Not really. They have a lot of injuries, with Chipper hurt. And we have the same thing. Besides the fact that Smoltz is pitching, you can't read too much into it. Come playoff time, it is completely different. Different pressures on different guys. A different atmosphere. It's different.
You know, I've had a lot of buddies call me and ask me, "Is he that good?" Every bit that good. It is awfully impressive watching him day in and day out doing what he does out there on the field... He is going to do some amazing things if he stays healthy.