Cards WS Post-G4 Interviews – TLR/Eckstein/WW

St. Louis Cardinals Manager Tony La Russa plus shortstop David Eckstein and closer Adam Wainwright spoke from Busch Stadium following Thursday's Game Four win.

Tony La Russa

Tony, how clutch would you say David Eckstein was at the plate tonight?

Well, he's the definition of a clutch player, and then you try to give an example of what that means, game-winning hit against a guy throwing 100. That's all you need to know. A guy with that talent, he's the toughest guy I've ever seen in uniform.

Could you talk about the grinding out of at-bats during the game against Bonderman and how important that was as the game turned out?

Well, he's very, very talented. You saw -- he went through a lot of our really good hitters. The only way you beat a guy like that is you have to -- everybody goes up there has to really try to fight their at-bat and make him work for everything. And maybe he makes one mistake, somebody runs into something. But it's your only chance.

If we had given in because he has the stuff that he has, we wouldn't have had a chance.

Not just for Game 4, but how important have your starters been not just throughout the World Series, but really throughout this whole entire playoffs?

I saw some place where we were hitting .200 as a team. I think we've only had one or two games where we put together a lot of hits. A lot of that has to do with the postseason pitching you face. But our pitching beginning to end has been the most consistent thing, and that's what wins, when you start playing good teams, anytime of the year, especially October.

Jim talked about how it's just baseball, the close plays, the pitching, throwing errors and the ball off the glove. You talk about how it's the small moments that sometimes can make a championship run.

Well, I'm not sure the ball was wet when Rodney picked it up, who knows. But I think it's the one thing that our club has done really well. Here in this series we've been doing it the whole time, is tuning out distractions, just trying to play the game. We're just trying to play really hard and really well and that's why we're in this position, just trying to play good baseball.

And we did some good things together advancing runners, got clutch hits, Preston's hit, Rodney is walking right through it and he gets a clutch hit. We did some really good things and did enough things to come through in tough situations. But in the end it's just baseball, that's what it is.

Your team came into the playoffs with the least amount of victories of all the teams, but you're having the most success. What are you doing now that maybe you weren't doing consistently during the season?

Well, I refer to Jim Leyland made a comment, if you look at the key guys that missed a lot of playing time, that's why he didn't disrespect our 83 wins. We went through a lot of issues this year, it was a very difficult year in a lot of ways. The biggest thing, most consistent thing we had was heart. But all of a sudden we go to San Diego and there's Jim playing center field and David is playing shortstop, and Scott's playing third. So our team was more intact. When we put that team out there, we're capable of being a very good team.

Could you please talk about all the clutch hitting with two outs.

Well, I think I brought the card with me, but how many runs did we score that were not with two outs, any? All four were two outs. I mean, that's one of those formulas, recipes, guys on base against you with two outs, if you can get the out you've got a better chance to win. If you get the hit it's a real momentum swinger, four against you, and today it swung for us.

How gutty of a performance would you say that was out of Supp tonight?

Typical Supp, in the sense that he's going to give you what he has. I thought early on probably didn't feel like he was real sharp and had the same kind of stuff he's had lately and try to be more careful with it. He got more aggressive and he got us into the second half of the game. So give him all the credit he deserves.

How much do you feel your team will draw from its experience to not get too excited being up 3-1 and being able to face adversity throughout the season to get itself to this point?

Well, when the game was over and Jim was passing out the game balls, right after the game balls, that's the comment that was heard most often, we're just close. We have too much respect for the Tigers and get ready to play tomorrow and take our best shot and see what happens. That was exactly what happened.

I'm sure Red Schoendienst was thinking of 1968 when Northrup hit that ball and one of the best defensive Cardinal center fielders in history, Curt Flood, slipped. And I wonder what your thoughts were on that play? It was somewhat of a payback for all those Cardinals fans that were here.

I think the final payback would be if we get that fourth win. But that was a break. Granderson covered so much ground and it ended up being an important run. But you get to '68 and the same situation, 3-1. We know the history and we know how good the Tigers are. Just come out tomorrow and play as good as you can, hard as you can, and see what happens.

David Eckstein and Adam Wainwright

Could you talk about have you ever had at any level, anytime two more unbelievable at-bats, back-to-back like that that were game turners?

DAVID ECKSTEIN: Not really. This is probably the biggest stage that you can be on, and having the opportunity to be in that situation, I was just hoping that I would find a way to put a good at-bat -- put the barrel of the bat on the ball. And fortunately I was able to do it and it felt good.

When you hit the fly ball that Monroe almost caught, are you thinking he had a shot of it, what were you thinking?

DAVID ECKSTEIN: I was hoping it was going to find a little bit of dirt, grass out there. But the ball was kind of straightening out, and it kept going and it just reminded me, I played with a guy name Darin Erstad that made a catch like that at Yankee Stadium. It just barely got out of the reach of his own glove, hit off the tip.

But the key to that I think was Aaron Miles, who beat out that double-play ball. And that's one of the things that kept the inning going.

You came out you almost hit a home run your first at-bat the other night, you wound up getting a single on a hit to third base. Did you feel a little bit like, hey, wait, this could be my night, coming out the way you did?

DAVID ECKSTEIN: I felt a lot better at the plate. Over the past couple of days, I said it after Game 2, I felt a lot more comfortable, a lot more patient, and I just needed to find some holes. And tonight, I don't know if it was the prettiest ones, the swinging bunt, and then Curtis slipping in center, and then the one just barely finding grass. It's nice to actually have a little luck involved.

This is for both guys: The starting pitching throughout the season was something that was up and down, how important has that been to this team playing well here over this past three series?

DAVID ECKSTEIN: It's been a big key. Pitching is everything in this game, especially in the postseason. And for them to do what they have done, that's given us a chance to go out there and win games. Supp went out there tonight and battled, but kept it to three runs, and that's huge for us.

If you go out there and you give up extra runs here and there and you have a losing battle. But they never give up, they keep going and they do a great job. And then we have been fortunate enough to turn it over to our bullpen, who have been fantastic, and that's been the key to our success this postseason.

ADAM WAINWRIGHT: I agree with him. Our starting pitching has been fantastic, and when they pitch great, it makes it a lot easier on the bullpen; when they're going deeper in the game, the bullpen is way more effective. It takes a load off -- they keep us in the game, our offense.

David, you always hear that the fourth game is the most difficult to win, what do you think the mindset would be in the ballclub as you arrive at the park tomorrow?

DAVID ECKSTEIN: We're going to try to keep the same mindset and be as focused as possible. We're going to step up and get our game plan against Verlander and be ready to go. We can't change anything. We've got to keep everything in order. We know this Tiger club, they're a tough club, and especially when they're facing the deficit they are, they're going to be coming out and fighting as hard as possible. And we need to match their intensity and match their focus so it will be a battle out there once again like tonight.

David, Craig Monroe had a lot of complimentary things to say about you, but he also said he was playing in, because he didn't expect you to drive a ball like that. Do you get a kick out of showing guys you can hit balls like that?

DAVID ECKSTEIN: As long as they land.

It's funny, I played against Craig coming up through the Minor Leagues, so I've known him. He's a great ballplayer. He's had some little struggles getting to the Big Leagues, like we both did. And it's fun to see the success he's had, especially in this Tiger organization. He's come through huge. It's kind of funny, he probably knows me a little better than some of the other guys out there.

Yeah, I do hit a lot of balls that are short, but I was fortunate enough tonight this one got just out of his reach.

I wanted to follow it up, were you surprised that they were so shallow or was part of it maybe a factor of the wet grass and the runner at second base?

DAVID ECKSTEIN: I think that's a huge factor. The grass in the outfield was very slippery and pretty much any hit that wasn't right at you would probably have scored Aaron out there. By coming in a little bit you cut down the angles and definitely I'm not known, especially in that left-center field gap, that's not where usually I hit the ball. So I think they were definitely playing percentages, and that's where I probably would have been playing, myself.

David, your manager Tony La Russa said you had a big heart. It reminded me of the story of Leo Durocher, that talked about a guy named Eddie Stanky, that's where we heard the shot heard around the world in '51. He said, "If I had nine guys like that, I'd win the World Series."

DAVID ECKSTEIN: That's a nice compliment.

How did you feel after that double and the run came in?

ADAM WAINWRIGHT: Obviously it was disappointing that he scored there. Coming into the game right there, trying to get a strike out, or out, however I can get an out without him scoring, and probably didn't throw the right pitch there. But I held him to one and that was the big key there. Once they did score the run, keep him right where they were standing and not get any further.

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