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Phil Garner, pregame quotes
10/13/2004 6:59 PM ET
Q. Someone asked Tony about the matchups and advantages in the series. He basically said when the teams get this far and are as good as both these teams are, that's really kind of a futile exercise. Do you agree?

PHIL GARNER: You're talking pitcher and hitter matchups, that kind of thing?

Q. Comparing bullpens, comparing lineups, that kind of thing, the things we do in the paper every time.

PHIL GARNER: Well, it's great, it's a great exercise, there's no doubt about it. But you'll get some surprises. I would have not thought Scott Rolen wouldn't have gotten hit in the Division Series. I don't think that has anything to do with this series.

I do think that what I have seen in short series, and I've not been, as a manager, in a series like this, but in short series coming down to the wire, you can throw a lot of stats out the door.

A lot of matchups, some pitchers against some hitters, hitters against some pitchers, it doesn't necessarily work.

I think what you do in these series is a lot of times you go with your gut, and a lot of times you trust the players that have been so good over time. It doesn't make any difference what the matchup looks like on paper.

Q. What was the main thing you learned from the Milwaukee and Detroit years that you could apply to this year, other than the fact that it's better to have good players?

PHIL GARNER: Well, I think one of the things that -- there's a couple of different things that happens. I think when you're doing everything you can to win, to try to win when your team is struggling, like we were in Milwaukee and Detroit, there's two things you do: Sometimes you can overmanage, try to overdo things. It ends up that you are overdoing things.

I think the other thing is you're managing away from situations sometimes. You're perhaps managing away from a player or a pitcher on the other team, and in some cases even managing away from what you have on your own team.

I think one of the things that sort of has evolved with this team is I've found that when we were struggling, I tried to do a lot of different things and managed aggressively and boldly, and not only managed in the games that way but managed some of the players that way.

And in the end, what really matters is the players, their performance. I think our players have stepped up and performed. That's basically what's happened.

One of the things I think that's important is let them perform. The moves that I can make is putting guys in positions to do what they can do best. That's the simplest form I guess you can do.

Q. With the other series being shown to 77 percent of the country, so much attention on that, you guys are kind of a just second series, how does that make you feel? Does it have any impact on you at all?

PHIL GARNER: Well, I think it's a good series. I like watching the Yankees and the Red Sox play. For goodness sakes, it's a great rivalry. With what's gone on this year, it's a lot of fun to see. That's truly a rivalry there.

This is going to be a good series, too, and I suspect what's going to happen, there's going to be a lot of people tuned into the Yankees, and they're going to see what scores are coming from this series. They're going to hear what's going on and there's going to be a lot of people start watching our series. There's a lot of population in that end of the country, but there's a lot of baseball fans around the country that are really going to enjoy seeing this series. It has a chance to be a fantastic series. We have great hitting from both sides. The possibility of good pitching from both sides. Going to be some terrific defensive plays. We have the ingredients here on both sides of the diamond for a lot of good play, a lot of interesting play.

Q. Every great team has to break down some barriers to get to a championship. You guys have broken a lot of barriers this year. Would you talk about that, to get to postseason?

PHIL GARNER: This has been an interesting team. When I, before I took the job, you pull one of those all nighters that you do in college when you weren't really prepared and just tried to get all the information you could as quickly as you could. I thought this was a possibility, but entirely different way than what we've gotten here. What happened first, the chicken or the egg, did we start winning and this team gained confidence, or did the confidence start to show up in the winning? I actually think that the confidence started to show up as we started the winning. That's what we got the winning.

What I've seen with our ballclub is when we've had our backs to the wall, we've played our best ball.

So as we come into this series, obviously, we've done something that no Houston club's ever done, that's get through the Division Series. So I feel like that just probably adds to perhaps some confidence.

But I don't think, that's not what got us here. What got us here is a belief, a belief that we could get it done. I think that's probably our most important ingredient going forward.

Q. When you were in Milwaukee and Tony (LaRussa) was in Oakland, you had some competitive moments. Did you pick that up again this year when you were with Houston?

PHIL GARNER: Well, as you know, when we were fighting, we were sort of, it was David against Goliath in both those situations.

I think to be able to compete at all, when you're such an underdog in terms of talent and just this aura that's out there, you have to play with a great deal of passion. I think sometimes passion can spill over into extremely aggressive play.

That's the way we played. And that was the only chance we had of playing against a couple of Tony's teams.

So, you know, that was then and that was the way we needed to play. I think this ballclub has played entirely differently, so we look at things a little differently here I believe.

Q. How has Pete Munro thrown for you since you've been there and especially down the stretch?

PHIL GARNER: Pete has thrown pretty good at times, and I asked Pete to do something quite unusual down the stretch. We had a lot, when we expanded the rosters, we had a lot of people in the bullpen, and we had quite a few guys on the bench. One of the problems that we were having in a couple of Pete's starts and sort of down the stretch is we had such an offensive outburst to get back in the race, and when we slacked off a bit we were having a little trouble scoring some runs.

I told Pete one of the things I might do is take him out of games earlier, and a lot of times it wouldn't reflect how he was pitching, it was that I wanted to try to get another at bat and try to generate some offense from the nine spot a lot of times. So I did in two or three of his starts I took him out, it was early not because of how he was pitching, it was because of our lack of offense. Pete responded well to that. I would think as a starting pitcher, if I was one, I wouldn't want to be taken out of the game.

To Pete's credit, I don't think he let that affect him. He stayed glued to what he needed to focus on, which is do what he can do and not worry about these other things.

Under those difficult circumstances, Pete's pitched quite well for us. Pete's a super competitor, he's a very good competitor.

Q. Do you think the Astros consider themselves, your players, consider themselves the underdogs in this series? And if they do, do you think that will help them, as they have this end of the season?

PHIL GARNER: I don't know if we look at it that way. I think our players are very confident. I think that we look at it as we stand, we can stand with the Cardinals. There's no question that when you look at what the Cardinal team accomplished this year, you have to tip your hat to them. They had a fantastic season. They made shambles of the Central Division race when nobody really expected them to do that. So I think you have to give them credit for what they've accomplished this season.

But by the same token, we've accomplished something pretty good, too. I really believe that our guys don't see it as, we don't feel like we're necessarily underdogs, but we feel like we can be very competitive, and we'll play very good against them.

Q. There was a time not long ago when Matt Morris was the guy starting Game 1 for St. Louis. Now he's not. How do you look at that?

PHIL GARNER: That they have a very good Game 2 starter (smiling). And I believe that. He's actually throwing the ball better now than he was a couple of weeks ago.

So he can be extremely tough. All their starters can be. I think, I don't see a weak link out there.

Q. I know you'd like to have Andy, but is there more coincidence to the fact that all the four teams still alive have all right-handed starters?

PHIL GARNER: That's, I had not noticed that, but I am a firm believer that it's left handed pitching that helps you get to this point. And we've kind of done it without a lot of left handed pitching. We've had a couple of guys in the bullpen, we only have one left hander in the bullpen now, Carlos Hernandez we brought back from an injury up in the Minor Leagues. He pitched decent for us for a while.

But I'm a firm believer that teams that win usually have a good left handed hitting portion of the lineup, and the way you keep in the race is you've got to have some left handers that can nullify that. It's quite interesting to me that, as you say, there's not any more dominant left handed starters that are left handers that have been with teams that have gotten this far.

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