10/06/2004 9:44 PM ET
Garner pregame quotes
Astros manager discusses club's surge to playoffs
Q. For those of us who have not been with your team, what was it like when you started winning those games down the stretch?
PHIL GARNER: Well, we had gotten into a desperate situation, actually. We had had a couple of things that were in our favor right after the All-Star Game. For instance, 18 out of the first 23 games after the All-Star Game were at home. We were playing teams that were even or below us in the standings and you would have thought we played better against those teams because as you got in the mid part of August, latter part of August, we were playing the Cubs, Cardinals, Cincinnati, Philadelphia. It looked like the schedule was going to get tougher.
We actually started in Chicago with a great series in Chicago, winning three out of four there. It was a very hyped up series. There were some hit batsmen and a lot of excitement going on in the games.
So it appeared to be somewhat surreal at first. You aren't really sure this is happening. We were winning ballgames.
But I think what happened, in my viewpoint, we just kept our heads down and we said, "We're going to play this game today like it's the last one we'll ever play." The next day we did the same thing, the next day we did the same thing. It just kept, after each series, you kept looking at, "Boom, we won three more games." Now we won three more, then we won three more. It happened the only way it could have happened. If you looked at it in the total picture, you would say this is insurmountable, we can't jump over six or seven teams in this Wild Card series.
When we got the streak started, guys weren't paying attention to the streak. They were just looking at today's game, doing whatever we can. As it turned out, when you look back on it, what we did in the last six weeks was an improbable finish to a wild season. Because we had started off well, played poorly, then it looked like we were going nowhere. Here we are, right back in the thick of things.
Q. This is your first postseason game to manage. Do you approach the game any differently?
PHIL GARNER: Well, I've got the coach that's going to wake me up right before we have to go out there. I'm going to probably snooze in a little bit.
Actually, it's been very exciting. As you know, I have a lot of energy, anyway. This kind of thing just hypes you up. It's the greatest thing going. You enjoy this kind of thing. It's what you play for. It's why you train. It's why you practice. You always have this goal in your mind that when you complete the season, you want to be in postseason play.
So for me, it's a great experience. I've done it as a player; there's no greater feeling. I think I said this yesterday, that when you do it as a coach or manager, those feelings are exponentially greater one way or another. As a coach and a manager, you live through your players. It's not just what I do, it's what they all do.
So when we get to this point, you feel great, you feel wonderful.
So it's exciting for me, the wheels are turning, you're thinking about everything, just make sure there's air in the tires at home. Every little thing in your mind comes up. You got all these things going around.
Q. What have you noticed about Roger Clemens' impact and interaction with your younger pitchers down the stretch?
PHIL GARNER: Well, I would think that that's one of the big reasons our younger pitchers have emerged -- Chad Qualls, Chad Harville, Mike Gallo, Brandon Backe -- I think that's the reason some of these guys have stepped up. They've seen Roger's intensity. They know how hard he works off the field to be prepared for his start once he's going on the field.
I think all those things are good. I think as time goes on, that will even become more important to him, what they've learned through what Roger does this year.
The other side of it is there just have seemed to be a couple of games that we have not put a lot of offensive numbers up there for the Rocket, but he seems to will his way into winning the ballgame. I think that's something that our younger guys are going to learn from him. Perhaps, even they have fed off of now.
But I think the impact will come years, for some of these younger guys. I got to play behind Nolan Ryan. You know they're special people when you're playing behind them. To a certain extent, you watch what they do and you learn from these people. The Rocket is a special guy, he's a special athlete. I think everybody's learned something from him.
Q. Coming back as you did, though not quite as long a break as Jack McKeon, has Jack become your postseason idol?
PHIL GARNER: I had hoped to meet Jack in the World Series. He traded me when I was in Oakland. I've held that against him.
Not really. I think it's terrific for Jack. I was happy for him last year. You don't like to see guys get fired. We'll all kind of in a fraternity here. There's not too many of us who don't appreciate what everybody goes through. You also like to see things happen that work out, and work out well. I thought Jack did a tremendous job last year, and it was a fantastic run. Those kind of stories in baseball are what keep you coming back. It keeps you interested. It's somewhat boring if you start the season, these guys are supposed to win and at the end of the season they have won.
It was a fantastic season last year, and I'm happy for Jack. Is he an inspiration? I don't look at things that way. But certainly he's shown that it can be done. And these teams, the last couple of teams, have shown you can win the World Series by going through the Wild Card race.
Q. Oswalt won 19 games last year, 20 this year, but seems to be underappreciated in baseball. Would you talk about Roy.
PHIL GARNER: You're right. I think he doesn't get perhaps a lot of the credit that he deserves, and maybe a little bit of it is overshadowed by the Rocket this year. That's okay. I don't think Roy would argue that point.
I think he should get a little more credit for what he's accomplished. He's got a terrific arm. He's been pitching well now for a couple of years. I think he's going to even get better. He's got an explosive fastball that he just can overpower people with, and I think he's going to learn how to use a changeup, his breaking balls a little bit better.
I think what you're going to see, you're going to see him become a better pitcher as time goes on and perhaps that's what's going to have people turn their attention to him. He's got to be in the running for the Cy Young this year, if not the leading candidate. That's going to give him more notoriety as well. But Roy's done a fantastic job. You couldn't ask for a better performance on a team that has needed it as much as we have, and Roy's been fantastic.
Q. Have you decided on a rotation? In general, how do you feel about three days' rest?
PHIL GARNER: Well, I plan to bring Brandon Backe back on Saturday when we're in Houston, back into Houston. I have not gone beyond that.
In general, I don't think the numbers suggest that three days -- bringing pitchers back on short time works. I will tell you that, but by the same token, what happened to me last Sunday, the thought process is, I just couldn't live with myself thinking that we perhaps lost the division, and I had Roger Clemens on the bench.
So I did not want it to go into a playoff situation, and have to go to San Francisco. I had assumed that after LA had clinched that the Giants would probably have a blowout. I would have done the same thing Tracy did, I would have rested my players, wouldn't have been a key game. I would have set things up for the playoffs.
So you have to assume in that case the Giants would probably win. I did not want to go out there and have to play, even though we would have had Roger on five days' rest.
Given all those variables that you put together, [I would] still rather have Roger go out there on short time.
Q. What is Andy Pettitte doing now? Will he have an impact even though he's hurt?
PHIL GARNER: He's with our team, and, yes, I think he does have an impact, a positive impact. By the way, the surgery went well. He should be back pitching next year. We're excited for him in that regard.
But he does bring that can do and have done it before attitude to the ballclub. I think guys can rely on him for what it's like when these emotions start to creep up. Some of the younger players are going to be very excited, they're going to be nervous, they're going to be anxious. I think having Andy around so that they can bounce ideas and bounce things off of him is going to help a lot.
Courtesy of FastScripts by ASAP Sports. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.