NLDS Post-G4 Interviews – Carp/TLR/Belliard

From Busch Stadium, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, second baseman Ron Belliard and winning NLDS Game Four pitcher Chris Carpenter fielded questions following Sunday's series-clinching victory. La Russa's pre-game comments are also included.

Chris Carpenter – Post-Game

Chris, first inning to the second inning, what were the differences for you?

You know, I came out in the first and, you know, I think I was trying to do a little too much. I wasn't attacking the strike zone, wasn't getting strike one, trying to make perfect pitches on the corners, and that's not my game.

Fortunately I was able to get out of it with two runs and we popped two runs in the bottom there to make it a whole new game. And second inning I just regrouped and went out and started back in the strike zone. I was going to be aggressive and make them swing the bats.

And, you know, worked out all night.

The last couple of weeks were a struggle for you guys in the regular season. Do you think that helped you at all into the post-season? Did it spur you on?

I don't know. You know, I think that, you know, I've said before that no matter how you get here, you're here, and then once you're here, you got the chance. I mean, that's the goal from spring training: Get a chance to play in the post-season and be one of eight teams to have a chance to win it all.

You go one game at a time and play as hard as you can, nine innings as hard as you can, and give it everything you've got. If you end up getting beat, you get beat. But you know, I think this club has a lot of talent. I think we've shown that in this series, especially defensively.

I know we've made some huge defensive plays this whole series that have saved pitches for our starters, for our relievers, saved runs.

You know, you look at the way we play defense and it's been phenomenal, and all of a sudden we start coming up with a couple of two-out base hits and some hits together like we did in game one against Peavy, and we've been playing cardinal baseball, been playing the way we know how to play and it's been great. Bullpen has been great, starters have been great.

It's just been, like I said, Cardinal baseball, coming out from first out to the last out, playing as hard as you can.

Chris, do you think that that game one kind of set the tone and changed the tone from what you had in the end of the regular season because of what the bullpen did and stringing the hits, getting timely hits?

I don't know. I know it gave us some confidence in what was going on. You know, we struggled coming into the end, but we made it. And all of a sudden we had game one against a tough opponent that we just faced and beat us two out of three, and facing a tough guy in Peavy. And you know, I go out and do my job.

The bullpen did a fantastic job, and we got some big hits against Peavy in that one inning to string them together. And there's no question, it all of a sudden sent a message to us that, you know, we can do it. There's no question about it. If you go out, try as hard as you can during the, like I said, first out to the last, we've got a chance.

Chris, tonight a lot of players that weren't with the team last year like Spiezio, Belliard, Encarnacion, came up big for you guys. You had a big makeover from last year to this year, what's been the key to make you mesh so well?

Bunch of grinders. Bunch of grinders. We go, understand the game. We're a bunch of professionals also. They're guys that come ready to play and, you know, if unfortunately we lose that game, they're not sitting in their lockers with their heads and their shoulders hanging over, and they're getting prepared to come back the next day giving it all they've got to win.

And like I said, they just continue to battle and continue to grind. And that's the group we've got. Like I said, Cardinal baseball guys are professional players. They come out and play as hard as they can every day.

Chris, Tony took a lot of guff for holding you for game one, but he said that if he could get one more win out of somebody else, he figured you would have two wins in this series. That's a lot of confidence from the manager, isn't it?

Absolutely. I mean, you know, to do that and say, okay, we need to hold off and so we can have you throw game one and four, if we get there, you know, obviously it shows a confidence he has in me, shows the confidence the organization has in me to go out and do my job. And it obviously worked out.

Chris, the umpire seemed to have a very tight strike zone tonight. How much did that affect you?

It didn't at all. And I take pride in I don't argue calls. I don't concern myself with if the umpire misses a pitch or doesn't miss a pitch. I thought Greg was great tonight. I've had him before. Greg is a very honest guy that calls the strike zone, that doesn't care: He takes grief from both sides about called strikes, noncalled strikes, and doesn't faze him a bit. He's a professional guy behind home plate, does a good job. Doesn't want to argue with you. Just calls his game. You know that. And I thought he did a fine job tonight, to be honest with you.

Chris, this is your third straight start against the Padres. Do you change your the approach on the third or does it stay the same?

Again, I came in the first inning and I tried to establish a game plan last night and today went over it with Duncan and the catchers. It's tough. There's no question about it. When you're facing three times in a row, they've seen everything you've got, everything you can throw at them. And that's where it goes out, you have to start pitching.

And basically, you know, after the first inning, I was able to throw the ball down and away and sinking the ball down the way, both sides of the plate. My cutter was so-so, but I made a few good pitches with it. And my breaking ball was good. I was able to get a strike one with it.

So it was a battle in the first, and then I got back into my game plan and just see where it goes. Here it is. I'm going to -- found the strike zone, and you're going to have to hit it and see what happens. And it worked out.

How huge would you say Ronnie Belliard was in this series?

There's no question that's the Ronnie Belliard that everybody knows, defensively, offensively. I mean, he had a phenomenal series. Having him there, making some of the plays he's made and coming up with some of the hits he came up with, that's the guy we need. And he did a phenomenal job the whole series. And, you know, I'm proud to be a part of his team.

Chris, when you were back in the dugout there in the eighth inning and you were watching the Padres try to mount a rally there, what did you think of Josh Kinney's work?

Josh Kinney, it's funny. Me and Josh go back a long way. When I was rehabbing in '03 when I first signed with the Cardinals, I met him in Florida. He was on the same league team, and I moved up there to do some of my rehab starts in triple A. By the time my last rehab start happened, it was in double A. He got moved in double A.

And I really thought that Josh, from the time that I saw him in Florida to the time that I saw him in AA, that he had the stuff to pitch in the Major Leagues. No question about it. He had the mind to pitch in the Major Leagues.

He's done a phenomenal job and, you know, like I said, talking to him back then in '03, I really enjoyed spending time with him. And I was really proud to see him get called up earlier in the year have this opportunity and I'm really proud to see him do the things he's doing in the playoffs. He's been great.

Tony La Russa – Post-Game

Tony, how gratifying is it to see Chris Carpenter make the adjustment from the first inning to the final four innings?

I've seen him do it before. Not every game you wipe them out from the first pitch to the last. Got in couple scratch hits after the strikeout. And then you got damage come to bat. He's pitching carefully, and then he walks guys.

But that was classic Chris there because in the end of the inning, he had two runs, not four or five. He didn't get flustered. And then he just, like I said, he started pounding the strike zone.

But right away, because of those two guys on base and you got Bard and Branyan, he just he had to try and make pitches. He wasn't sharp enough yet. He had good patience.

Can you talk about the approach of your bullpen, especially the young guys? Just seemed like there was no nervousness. I'm sure there was but it didn't look like it.

I mean, they were so impressive. They made so many good pitches. I think, you know, they've all got their feet wet in the season getting here. I know it's the playoffs, but each of those guys, you know, Tyler and Josh, Randy has had a little experience, Adam, they've been pitching for their life since Spring Training to try to get here. So you kind of get used to the pressure it seems.

Would you say that was a vintage Carp out there on the hill tonight?

It was because the first inning was difficult. All of a sudden then it was just two out there. Maybe it's not my night then you hang something and pretty soon there's four and five and then the game gets away. When he walked out of there with two runs, in fact the guys are yelling on the bench, "It's only. It's only two."

Tony, I've got two questions for you. Let me ask the first one. So much was made -- and I asked you this before -- about you holding Carp back for game one. And you said, "Get one more win out of somebody else," and Carp was going to nail down the series for you. And it came to pass. It was a great decision.

You know, I think when you coach or you manage, you make decisions, and there's some that are really, really tough. And I said at the time once Saturday was over and I got by myself -- I mean, half an hour, I called Dave I said, "Dave, this is not even a tough call."

Then I missed the chance to -- you know, I'm not very cute with lines, but I missed the chance.

I was telling Jim Leyland -- he had the great line about being outmanaged on an off day. I said I had one, I mugged it and so I'm using it now.

I compare that decision, say you're down in the ninth inning with one run, down by run. One lead off guy gets out, and Albert comes up to bat. Do you bunt them or do you swing? How tough it was. You let Albert swing, you hold Chris back. It wasn't a tough call.

The second question is in the very first inning with you guys batting in the bottom of the first, I thought maybe the crux to the whole game was simply having Wilson move on that ball that Albert hit to third, because if he doesn't, it's a double play, you're out of that inning, and the game is probably totally different.

Albert strikes out 50 times a year. If you want to start a runner with anybody on base, start with Albert. He'll put the ball in play nine out of 100 times. But what happened afterwards was critical. Jimmy's at bat, got hit, and finally Ronnie hit the tying single. That was an answer, quick like that, that gives you a surge.

Tony, a week ago tonight you guys backed into the playoffs --

The last bat. I don't like that one. We didn't back in.

But you lost and you clinched?

We got in on the last day of season.

Right, okay. And a lot of people weren't giving you much of a chance. Are even you surprised at how completely you turned it around?

Well, if you watched us, you know, we had periods we played very well. We had periods where we didn't. So I certainly didn't blame anybody that didn't think we had a real good shot. But you know, we had a couple important things happen. Jim Edmonds, David Eckstein, nothing to take away from Aaron, because Aaron played great.

But you go to PETCO with a big center field, and Jimmy is playing, and we didn't have Chris for game one. It's a short series.

I'll tell you where I think a lot of us had the most fun, and I'm talking about coaches. From the first game in San Diego through tonight, the energy and the passion and excitement of the dugout was just as good as you can have. And I think it really lifted our club. And we were an up club. There wasn't anything about squeezing in or anything else.

Tony, how important was the extra off day then?

Well, you know in this format, you get two extra, you get the Wednesday you get the Friday.

You know, the key is that if your number one guy goes to game one, he's only going to be able to pitch twice. Pitch him with three days' rest if you are in the other format or pitch him with four days' rest.

So it seems like we get in this one a lot with the off days. And if you play two in a row take a day off, it's the playoffs. You're so excited to be here, you just make do. But if what you mean is that our bullpen was fresh game after game after game, yeah, that was significant, except we have a deep bullpen.

So we had some -- I guess Loop and Thompson pitched very well the first time they were in the playoffs.

Tony, will Ronnie Belliard get another game ball for his play?

I don't know. The committee that hands those balls out has yet to convene. That would be interesting to see where the ball will go. I think that 29 is going to get one. Probably more than one probably.

Do you have pitching set up at all for the next series? Are you going back with Weaver and Suppan, just keeping them in that rotation? And who would be your fourth guy?

For the first time during batting practice I walked up to Dave and I said, "Dave, you know, there's a chance that we're going to have to start looking ahead," and we both decided that the thing doesn't start until Wednesday.

So there he is right there. So we've got tonight, Monday, Tuesday to think about it. So first time we ever talked about it was during batting practice.

Tony, you mentioned that during the season you've had your good stretches, but would you say that this last week is about as high a level as you played at consistently over the last four months or so?

Well, you take a last, you know, two and a half, three. You did have a real good April and May. So here I just thought the energy was great.

And was that the last question? Because I want to say something about pressure. For all our friends in the Dominican. I told Ronnie, he plays for Licey, and the finals a lot of times is Licey and Escogido. They're the two teams in the capital. That's the most pressure you can ever face.

So playing in the playoffs here in the States is just enjoyable. It's fun. Real pressure to be back in the Dominican. That's one reason why he's such a star.

Ronnie Belliard – Post-Game

Ronnie, when you look at the way that you've played over this past four games here, what does it mean for you coming over for this team and then kind of going through some ups and some downs and now to play like you have been over these past four games?

You know, sometimes you feel bad, sometimes you feel bad. Like when I get here, we lost eight in a row. But, you know, people start thinking about, hey, we're not going to be in the playoffs. But I'm like, hey, I'm going to be in the playoffs and I want to be there. So being in the playoffs, it's the thing that you just focus more than the regular season. So I think everybody did that. And look where we are right now.

Ronnie, did the experience that you had last year with Cleveland, getting so close, seeing it just slip away at the very end, did that help at all going down the stretch in the season once you reached the post-season this year?

Last year it hurt my feelings, because we were so close. We were for the last two games, then we went home. But when I got traded here, we was in first place. Anybody telling me, hey, we got a chance to be in the playoffs, I'm looking forward. And thank God we win the division, and we're here and now we're heading to New York.

Ronnie, a complement from Fernando Vina, he said when you were a rookie at Milwaukee he saw that deceptive quickness and he had no doubt that you were an exceptional fielder. I want to hear you on that.

Thank you. And I always like, when I went to Milwaukee as a rookie, I always looked at how he played and looked how he turned out playing, and he was a good player, too. Thank you.

With what Scott and also Molina also did tonight, Scott, of course, going through what he has going through, not knowing if he was going to play and Yadier struggling with some points, what did they mean to the team and also for game four?

Scott is going to be in the lineup, you're winning. But we're a team. We are going to live and we're going to die together. We're going to win or lose it together. And I think of Yadier, we're friends. When I got here, he treat me as a friend. I'm going to treat him as a friend. I think he's a good player. We talk about that post-season, you know, that I think, you know, you always hit good in the post-season. You're a good player. So, hey, we're going to go there. I know you've been struggling all year, stuff like that. But he picks it up. He got a couple -- he got a hit in every game. He made a lot of good plays in this four games in the post-season.

How does that celebration in the other room feel to you?

Good. It feels good. It's feeling good. Like I said, I was looking forward to winning the playoffs, and when I went over there to San Diego, it was like I'm going to do whatever it takes to win, and that's what I did, I think. But I'm going to keep doing the same thing. I'm just going to keep playing hard, trying to play my defense and trying to get some hits, try to get on base. We're going to New York and they're a good team. And we've just got to keep playing like we're playing now. We're excited to go to New York.

Tony La Russa – Pre-Game

What's the situation with Rolen today?

Well, Spiezio is playing. Came in after the game and said that his shoulder felt sore and fatigued. So going to play Scott.

Not injured, though?

Yeah, that's an injury of a type, I think. And since it's something physical and it's restricting him.

Is Weaver still, would he be your guy and, if so, has he already gone on ahead or how do you proceed with that?

Well, we're going to concentrate on tonight. But the answer is that if we have to play tomorrow he's the pitcher.

Tony, some comfort at least in Spiezio's numbers against Woody?

Well, there's comfort mostly the way Spiezio has filled in, whether it's first, third, left field. I mean he's been key, and seems like every time he starts a game he's done something to help us have a chance to win.

So I mean, we feel like if Scott's not going to play, then the other Scott is a great alternative.

Available to pinch hit Rolen tonight?

I think with the guys we have on the bench, I will probably go in a different direction. I think he'll be able to play defense. But he's not playing mostly because it's hard for him to get in a good hitting position.

And I mean, I would think we have other guys that would be a more fair challenge.

Do you have any sense with Rolen if this is a long-term concern or -- I know you want to focus on tonight, but are you looking at needing to buy him some rest beyond just today's game?

Well, the conversation we had, I did say, I mean, if we could find a way to win this one, you have three full days before we compete again. And then we'd see how he feels.

Was this a you-and-Scott decision or was this a Scott and you and Barry and maybe Paletta?

After the game he went to the training staff and the doctor and said, "I haven't been as in shape to play as I've been telling everybody," pretty much. I mean, the word he's described his condition as is fine. Not okay, all right, but fine.

And he says, you know, he's felt something. But he felt like he had an obligation to be out there, which, you know, it's one of those rock and a hard place because it's been explained to him over and over again that, you know, we have other guys, just whoever is the guy that's sore, we have other guys and we don't need to send players out there. But he feels like he's one of the core guys that should play.

I mean, you know, probably the thing that -- I don't think we could have asked him more often or more clearly. And he just felt like he said he could make himself available, he thought we needed him.

Tony, did you send Weaver ahead to San Diego or will he fly with you tonight if you had to go?

I just walked to the clubhouse. He's in the clubhouse. So I don't think he's flying anywhere.

Tony, would you -- had Scott not come to you, would there have been any point where you might have said you might have made the switch based upon lack of production?

Well, we've gone through this over the last couple of weeks. You know, there's been concern. And I'm not sure if in a private moment he's commented to a friend, a teammate or somebody else that, you know, I'm not right. But whenever we've approached him, it's never been any question. And the thing I hang my hat on and have hung it is that he's taken a ton of extra swings, which they don't add up. It adds up if you're trying to get well, but if you're fatigued and sore, the less you do, probably the better. So I've always felt his biggest problem is getting his stroke right. When that guy is that talented, that tough a competitor, you always feel like that game is a game that he's going to have the at-bat that all of a sudden he feels it.

Was there any consideration at all to try to roll the dice again to go with a bullpen game and hold Carpenter for the game one in the next round?

Well, the way you ask it, that's a legitimate way. Was there a consideration? Yeah, I thought about it. It's a different set of circumstances. I mean, there's, I think, a lot of different reasons why today is different from last Sunday.

Is it mostly the lack of another starter or --?

That's one of the issues. But there's other stuff that you put together. But I don't -- I thought it was real clear. Once you think about it today, it's real clear to me that Chris pitches.

Do you look at him as, if you guys win here or maybe there on Monday, to go on three days for him, or will he get a full four?

We're talking about tonight. I won't go beyond what-ifs except that if we play tomorrow.

Tony, if Scott's not available basically tonight to hit and tomorrow might be a question also, has there any thought been given that he basically take a shot and he just be shut down from circumstance or whatever it might be hopefully he's ready to play the next round?

You know, my preferred answer is we got an opportunity today and, you know, I feel terrific about our chances. And based on what happens tonight, you know, we can look at it. But you know, what's going to be clear to me tomorrow is what's clear today.

You know, for him to come forward finally, I don't see it's going to get better by tomorrow. But it may get better in three days, especially if there's something, you know, that can be done to alleviate the situation.

Well, you certainly want to commend a guy who wants to play. Is there a part of it in you or the organization that gets a little bit hacked off that a guy wasn't maybe as honest as he was supposed to be in this of situation?

I wouldn't say hacked off. I think mostly he gets credit because, nowadays, the organizations, whether it's ownership, front office, coaches, managers, when guys had guaranteed money, you get more upset and more frustrated when they're not available.

If a guy is going out there, making himself available, it's pretty hard. But I do think, though, and we've stressed so many times, to the whole club, he's just part of the club, that you know, that's not the smartest way to go about it for a team.

And what you want to do is I think you want to have players be very straightforward about how they feel. And then there are times, based on your alternatives aren't that good, that you say, "Look, it if you can grin and bear it and it's something that's sore but you're not going to damage it, 75% of you or 50% of you is better than somebody else."

So I'm definitely in favor of players being very straight up with how they feel. Then you come to a decision based on that.

Tony, I've seen managers and coaches approach your situation in a different way. So I just want to get your thoughts on do you have guys come packed for a trip that you don't want them to make or how do you approach the travel issue here today?

Approach it very similar. In fact, I had a conversation with Jim Leland. There's only one concentration tonight, that's playing the game to the best of our ability. There's nothing else about our situation that we're going to get into our coconuts and get distracted about. That's one of them. We're going to concentrate on playing our very best competitive game and seeing what the result is.

You'll fly tomorrow?

Yeah, we're going to fly tomorrow. Hopefully it's to New York.

Chris is facing the same team for the third straight time in a short period. In the game of adjustments, who holds the advantage in that position, pitchers, batters, and why, if either?

I think generally they'll tell you the more often they see somebody, they get a little better chance. But if a guy has a lot of weapons like Chris has, if he got them out with his fast ball today, he'll throw his cutter. Got them out with a curve ball today, throw a changeup. He's got so many weapons.

We just saw Chris Young yesterday for the second time in a week. And didn't do very much -- you know, a pitcher pitches. They have the advantage. And Chris has the advantage because of his stuff and his command. But if I was a hitter, more often I'd get to see somebody, the little better chance I have.

Tony, I hate to keep going back to the possibility of tomorrow, but you talked about when you looked at why Chris today as opposed to maybe what you did last week. Jeff's performance out in San Diego must come in and factor in as part of that decision-making process.

That's part of when you get a nonanswer. We're going to concentrate on today's game. And the only thing I'll say, if we play tomorrow, Jeff Weaver is the pitcher. But other than that, we just talked to our club. We said we're going to think about today, period.

Wilson/Taguchi tonight, matchups, anything beyond that?

Taguchi is not playing.

Wilson instead of Taguchi?

That's tough, because So has played well against San Diego. He becomes a great weapon on the bench if you look at it that way. I mean, I think Preston brings energy and some potential extra base, plus base running, just chose to go with him.

Albert seemed visibly disappointed about his performance yesterday. And have you offered him any words of encouragement between last night and today?

Well, my encouragement was to myself, not to get in the way of him going to the batting cage. Because he's in there tearing the net up.

He's a proud competitor, and he got beat, and I think he acknowledges it. The pitcher beat him, but it doesn't make him happy. So I mean, he hits, if he hits 400, he makes six outs at ten at-bats. But he actually went 0-for games during the season and next day he turned it off and concentrated on playing.

Yeah, he was disappointed because he felt like if he does something, couple at-bats, we have a better chance to win. But at this point, tip the hat to the other guys.

Tony, it doesn't happen that often where there's three day games in a row. Any conversation that you were able to hear maybe coming out of the clubhouse about night, no shadows, let's go get ready to hit and maybe see pitches a little bit better?

Not really. For one thing, you know, we've been a good daytime club. So that didn't bother us. I think playing at night, you do get around that one problem, which whatever club has the edge, you get in the last couple of innings, that's a nice edge to have. I think Jim mentioned that the other day against the Yankees. So there will be more pitches.

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