HOUSTON -- As of three hours before the first pitch of Game 5 of the National League Championship Series on Monday, Houston Astros manager Phil Garner had not decided on a Game 6 starter.
The decision was likely contingent on the outcome of Game 5. If the Astros beat the Cardinals to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series, Garner may be inclined to start Pete Munro and save Roger Clemens, on normal rest, for a possible Game 7 in St. Louis on Thursday.
But if the Astros were to lose Monday and allow the Cardinals to go ahead in the series, 3-2, Garner might decide to send Clemens to the mound on three days of rest Wednesday and hope he has the stamina to give five or six innings, which would then require Roy Oswalt to pitch on short rest the next day.
"I'm still working things out in my mind, what I want to do," Garner said. "It's not necessary to make the decision just yet, but I will take [Monday's] game into consideration when it's over."
If Clemens were as good on three days of rest as four, the decision would be simple -- pitch him. But Clemens struggled on short rest in Game 4 of the Division Series and would seemingly be more useful if he just stuck to his regular routine of pitching every five days.
"It's a difficult call because the numbers suggest that it doesn't work as much as you'd like for it to," Garner said. "The other side of that coin is you want to put the players in a position to do the best they can do, and so you weigh into that part of the equation, too. Is it the best thing for him, can he give you the best outing by doing that? I also think it depends on where you are in the series.
"It's very tempting, when your back is against the wall, to say, 'Tonight we'll use Clemens,' when he's available and willing."
No time to be tired: When Jose Vizcaino took over as the full-time shortstop following Adam Everett's season-ending injury in early August, there was some concern that the veteran utility infielder, unaccustomed to playing every day, may tire toward the end of the regular season.
Jose Vizcaino / SS
Weight: 190 lbs
Bats: S / Throws: R
Now that the Astros are right in the thick of postseason play, those concerns no longer exist.
"We gave him the time to prepare for this," Garner said. "You get to a point where you don't worry about that. At this point, you don't get tired. The problem is if you get tired getting here."
Vizcaino, who played for the New York Yankees World Series championship team in 2000, has never felt more energized than he has since postseason play began.
"This is why you work so hard in Spring Training," he said. "To get here. Why are you going to get tired when you get here? Why would you be tired?"
Garner wondered the same thing.
"I don't think that's a question," he said. "And if he is [tired], so what?"
What, me worry? Although every game during the postseason carries the weight of the world on its shoulders, Garner swears he's relaxed and having fun.
He and his wife, Carol, have enjoyed the company of plenty of family and friends who have traveled between Houston, Atlanta and St. Louis to be a part of the playoff experience. But it was the recent visit of his 1-year-old granddaughter, Marilyn, that really put the skipper in the right frame of mind since she arrived on Friday to spend the weekend with her grandparents.
"You get back to playing with toys that go, 'Ding dong, ding dong, ding dong,' and you're reading nursery rhymes," Garner said. "'I'm a little teapot, short and stout' -- I was reading this morning."
Brad Lidge / P
Weight: 210 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
Overworked? Brad Lidge has been logging postseason innings at a rapid pace lately, but so far, there is little concern that he may be tiring from all of the extra work.
Oswalt pointed out, following Sunday's win, that Lidge, a starting pitcher in the minor leagues, can handle more than one inning at a time, unlike several closers throughout the league.
"We played together in Double-A and Triple-A," Oswalt said. "He's always been a starter. Being up here in the bullpen, his arm's accustomed to throwing a lot."
During the regular season, Lidge pitched more than one inning 27 times. He logged two innings 13 times, including eight times since taking over as the full-time closer on June 24.
"We need him down the stretch," Oswalt said. "We're trying to do as much as possible, Roger [Clemens] and I. We're trying to pick up the bulk of the load, and he's doing a good job on the back end."
Odds and ends: Mike Lamb missed Games 3 and 4 of the NLCS to be with his wife, Teresa, who gave birth to the couple's first child on Saturday. Andrew Michael Lamb weighed 9 pounds, 3 ounces and is with his mother in Los Angeles. His exhausted father, on the other hand, flew from L.A. to Houston late Sunday and was available for Game 5 at Minute Maid Park on Monday. ... Game 5 starter Brandon Backe hit a ball during batting practice that flew to the Landry's sign above the left-field Crawford Boxes and knocked out one of the restaurant logos, much to the delight of the fans. Backe, a former outfielder, doesn't deny the notion that he loves hitting as much as pitching. ... Game 5, slated to begin at 7:40 p.m. CT, was pushed back even further to 7:50 to accomodate the telecast of Game 5 of the Yankees-Red Sox ALCS.
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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