Fri. NLCS G2 Interviews – La Russa/Spiezio/So

Prior to the NLCS Game Two, Manager Tony La Russa and starting third baseman Scott Spiezio spoke from New York's Shea Stadium on Friday. The same two met with the press after the game as did outfielder So Taguchi.

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, third baseman Scott Spiezio and outfielder So Taguchi speak from Shea Stadium following Friday's NLCS Game Two win. Pre-game audio comments from La Russa and Spiezio follow.

Tony La Russa – Post-Game

So said that he originally was just going to pinch-hit in the ninth. What changed your mind to send him out there defensively?

Well, I saw Billy warming up, so might as well get him to play defense as well.

Can you tell us what kind of year Scott Spiezio has had, and how many big hits he's gotten for your team?

Well, that's why, I was telling you earlier, and there's no reason it should be true, his pinch-hitting record is not great. But his record as a starter at first, third, in the outfield has been huge, and that was part of the Scott Rolen discussion. You've got somebody like Scott sitting there. If you didn't, you'd push Scott and he would be a warrior and go out there.

But Spiezio, he's done it all. He's taken great at-bats, he's got so many clutch hits. Got in front of that one bullet. He played defense. He's just been really clutch for us.

You've seen So hit 16 home runs in four or five big league seasons and here he is hitting a home run off one of the best closers in baseball, how amazing was it to see that?

Well, one of So's qualities is he really plays well late in the game. Ever since he first got here, September, I don't even remember the year now, 2001, 2002, whatever it was, in September, he got a couple big hits. He plays well late. In that at-bat, fouled a couple of pitches where he was getting the head out. So he's not intimidated at all by pressure situations.

So much was made of the Mets' bullpen going into the series, but not that much talk was made of your bullpen. Your bullpen has been amazing the last week of the regular season, and now in the post-season. Can you talk about their performance here?

Well, first of all, all the credit, recognition of the Mets' bullpen is well-earned. I mean, around our league, they are really tough. They have got so many different looks.

But our guys, they have really picked it up. It's been fun to watch because they don't go out there with a lot of experience, and they have got good arms and they are excited. I think today was the first run they have given up.

So it's a big reason why we're here in the post-season because they shut down San Diego, a fine offense, and got a bunch of big outs today.

Do you think at some point tonight while there's still so much series left, will you spend a couple minutes thinking about how this one ranks with the other post-season games you've been around in terms of importance, which we'll find out later, but just the idea of this game itself?

Oh, this is going to be a fun one to reflect on. It's a shame we don't have that day off to really enjoy. Already thinking about tomorrow.

But it's a heckuva win, a very, very tough win, a very important win to give us a chance in the series. And to come back like we did, every time, it's a great win. And, in fact, I already did it, put my lineup card in my suit jacket, so I can replay the game and enjoy.

But going back over the post-seasons, I haven't been -- it's maybe the best comeback on a club that I've been around.

Scott was talking about how the veteran guys have talked to the bullpen. Did you talk to them at all, or like what's been the big turnaround for you, especially the young guys?

The bullpen? No, I mean, Dunc doesn't allow me to talk to our pitchers. (Laughter.) Only thing I'm allowed to say when I get in there, here, get a pitch and get an out. I do everything Dave says.

I think he's talking about guys like Izzy.

The last homestand, Cal Eldred was in town, great influence, great advice, tremendous respect from the young guys to both those guys. So they have given them an edge on an important way to get through this.

With Chris starting today, did you almost feel this was a must-win game in this series?

Well, kind of. I mean, because you go down two, and the three guys that were going to throw in St. Louis in our home ballpark, we're expecting them to pitch effectively, but Chris is our horse. Here again, he really struggled. When it's all over, he's as important to our win as anybody who pitched or played, the way he hung in there and really stopped the bleeding. Yeah, going back, 0-2, would have been, even though we are going home, it would have been a tough situation.

Because it was so many hours ago, Jim Edmonds, what he did early in this game, probably is not going to be talked about the way it's supposed to be. You made a move, putting him behind Albert and obviously one of those things that paid off and it's supposed to be noted. I would imagine that that swing is probably, really in theory, as good as any swing that was put on tonight by your side.

Well, Jim has a history of rising to the occasion. All you've got to do is just get him healthy enough to play and that's really the secret. Even now, he likes the challenge of hitting behind Albert and he's got a good stroke when he gets it going. As impressive the home run, pull a ball hitting off Billy Wagner throwing 98, that was a piece of hitting as well. If we keep him healthy enough to play, definitely helps our chances.

So obviously is good in the late innings, but of all your guys in the clubhouse, where would he rank on the list of guys you expect to hit home runs?

Well, he's not a big home run hitter. But serious when I tell you, that if you give him a clutch at-bat, and he will give you a real good effort. You know, you're expecting a single or double, not expecting a home run, especially off a guy like Billy Wagner. But he handles that situation. You can tell with his experience, in Japan he was a big-time player and he's not intimidated by it.

Scott Spiezio – Post-Game

Can you just talk about that play, it looked like a home run at first and can you just take us through that, what was going through your mind?

Well, I still haven't seen the play, but as far as the at-bat went, he threw me two changeups and I swung through them. So I had to kind of shorten my swing in my mind and be ready for that changeup again. He threw me two fastballs, pulled the first one foul. Second one, I got enough of it and it got in a hair, but I got enough of it at least to get it over Green's glove, barely. But I'll take it.

It was one of those situations where I was thinking in my head more a changeup than a fastball, and I was still able to put the meat of the bat on it.

Your bullpen has been amazing in the post-season and so much talk going into the series was about the Mets' bullpen. Can you just talk a little bit about how important it is for you guys to have your bullpen doing so well?

Well, you need a clutch bullpen when you get into post-season, and our bullpen has been unbelievable.

Our young guys have stepped it up and really faced the pressure amazingly. We talked to them and they asked a lot of questions to the guys that have been in post-season play before, and I also think that in the last week of the season, when we were fighting for a playoff berth against the Astros that that was kind of a playoff atmosphere and helped get us ready for this.

Were you looking at the ball, the one you hit off Green, and when you were running the bases, did you get any kind of view at it and what did you think?

I thought it was a home run. (Laughing) No, I saw it, it was high, so I was basically watching it the whole time.

It was really hard for me to tell, so I'm sure, you know, it was a tough call. I'd like to see it on the replay just for myself. But thank God it doesn't even matter, so either way, I'm happy with it.

Just talk about the depth, obviously, now the two biggest rallies started by guys considered bench guys, the depth on your team.

Ever since the playoffs with Jimmy Edmonds and Eckstein and Rolen have come back healthy, our bench has gotten really deep now. We've got great hitters coming off the bench, hitters that can start on many other teams, and that's a luxury to have in the playoffs.

Our bullpen is deep, as well. So it's great, it's great for us, it gives us a lot of confidence to know that we can come up in certain situations and make a move to bring in a lefty or a righty, we have a guy that can come up and pinch-hit in a crucial situation.

What does it do for your confidence when Tony puts you in the starting lineup ahead of a great player like Scott Rolen?

Well, you know, in any normal situation, if Rolen was anywhere near the way he should be, you know, I wouldn't have started.

But, you know, with that situation, I still feel, it does give me a lot of confidence because Tony puts me in a situation and knows that -- feels that I can have some big at-bats for him. Whenever you have a manager that has confidence in you, like he does every guy on the team, it boosts the whole morale of the team. I think it gets us excited when we get put in those situations.

We think of Albert Pujols for his power hitting, but tonight he got on, walks, singled, doubled and managed to score two times. Just talk about that a little bit.

You know, great hitters have to do that because they don't get a lot of pitches to hit in big situations. You see Bonds scoring a lot of runs because he gets walked, smart enough to take a walk, smart enough to take a single when he has to. And Albert has been doing a great job in the post-season getting on for us and starting rallies. That's pretty big for a guy that's used to driving in 140 runs a year and hitting 50 home runs to have to take those walks on a big stage like this.

So Taguchi – Post-Game

Was it a surprise to you when you came in the game? It seemed like they stopped the game a little bit to get you out in left field. Did you know that you were going into the game?

Tony told me next batter, I'm supposed to be pinch-hitter. I was behind the dugout. Tony said, "So, go left." So, I was surprised. (Laughter.)

I just said, "Right now?"

He said "Yes".

You're not a home run hitter, at least your record isn't that you're a home run hitter, and yet you have two home runs in the post-season so far.


And you have only two at-bats. How do you explain that?

I can't explain. (Laughter.)

It's unbelievable.

Who expected that I would hit a home run? Maybe nobody, even me.

Is this what happens when you get in your late 30s, you get a power surge all of a sudden?

(Laughing) What can I say?

Can you discuss, was the at-bat, I think it was a nine-pitch at-bat that you hit the home run, can you describe the at-bat against Wagner in the ninth.

Because maybe my stats against Billy Wagner maybe 0 for something, I never got on base, and always strike out, ground ball, pop up.

So, I just stay on top of the ball and try to get on base.

You said you don't think you had any hits off Wagner?



No. (Laughter.)

How difficult is it to come in that situation, facing a guy like Billy Wagner who throws as hard as he does?

(Scratching head.) How different? Too much different. (Laughter.) It's very tough. I think he's one of the best closers in the big leagues. So probably can't imagine.

What were you thinking when you were rounding the bases? You just hit a home run, first hit off Wagner, your hit off Wagner is a home run, what was going through your mind as you're rounding the bases?

I couldn't recognize what happened. (Laughter.) I didn't know, what should I do, so I just run.

Tony La Russa – Pre-Game

Scott Spiezio – Pre-Game

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