Tony, how gratifying is it to see Chris Carpenter make the adjustment from the first inning to the final four innings?
TONY LA RUSSA: I've seen him do it before. Not every game you wipe them out from the first pitch to the last. Got in couple scratch hits after the strikeout. And then you got damage come to bat. He's pitching carefully, and then he walks guys.
But that was classic Chris there because in the end of the inning, he had two runs, not four or five. He didn't get flustered. And then he just, like I said, he started pounding the strike zone.
But right away, because of those two guys on base and you got Bard and Branyan, he just he had to try and make pitches. He wasn't sharp enough yet. He had good patience.
Can you talk about the approach of your bullpen, especially the young guys? Just seemed like there was no nervousness. I'm sure there was but it didn't look like it.
TONY LA RUSSA: I mean, they were so impressive. They made so many good pitches. I think, you know, they've all got their feet wet in the season getting here. I know it's the playoffs, but each of those guys, you know, Tyler and Josh, Randy has had a little experience, Adam, they've been pitching for their life since Spring Training to try to get here. So you kind of get used to the pressure it seems.
Would you say that was a vintage Carp out there on the hill tonight?
TONY LA RUSSA: It was because the first inning was difficult. All of a sudden then it was just two out there. Maybe it's not my night then you hang something and pretty soon there's four and five and then the game gets away. When he walked out of there with two runs, in fact the guys are yelling on the bench, "It's only. It's only two."
Tony, I've got two questions for you. Let me ask the first one. So much was made and I asked you this before about you holding Carp back for game one. And you said, "Get one more win out of somebody else," and Carp was going to nail down the series for you. And it came to pass. It was a great decision.
TONY LA RUSSA: You know, I think when you coach or you manage, you make decisions, and there's some that are really, really tough. And I said at the time once Saturday was over and I got by myself I mean, half an hour, I called Dave I said, "Dave, this is not even a tough call."
Then I missed the chance to you know, I'm not very cute with lines, but I missed the chance.
I was telling Jim Leland he had the great line about being outmanaged on an off day. I said I had one, I mugged it and so I'm using it now.
I compare that decision, say you're down in the ninth inning with one run, down by run. One lead off guy gets out, and Albert comes up to bat. Do you bunt them or do you swing? How tough it was. You let Albert swing, you hold Chris back. It wasn't a tough call.
The second question is in the very first inning with you guys batting in the bottom of the first, I thought maybe the crux to the whole game was simply having Wilson move on that ball that Albert hit to third, because if he doesn't, it's a double play, you're out of that inning, and the game is probably totally different.
TONY LA RUSSA: Albert strikes out 50 times a year. If you want to start a runner with anybody on base, start with Albert. He'll put the ball in play nine out of 100 times.
But what happened afterwards was critical. Jimmy's at bat, got hit, and finally Ronnie hit the tying single. That was an answer, quick like that, that gives you a surge.
Tony, a week ago tonight you guys backed into the playoffs ...
TONY LA RUSSA: The last bat. I don't like that one. We didn't back in.
But you lost and you clinched?
TONY LA RUSSA: We got in on the last day of season.
Right, okay. And a lot of people weren't giving you much of a chance. Are even you surprised at how completely you turned it around?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, if you watched us, you know, we had periods we played very well. We had periods where we didn't. So I certainly didn't blame anybody that didn't think we had a real good shot. But you know, we had a couple important things happen. Jim Edmonds, David Eckstein, nothing to take away from Aaron, because Aaron played great.
But you go to PETCO with a big center field, and Jimmy is playing, and we didn't have Chris for game one. It's a short series.
I'll tell you where I think a lot of us had the most fun, and I'm talking about coaches.
From the first game in San Diego through tonight, the energy and the passion and excitement of the dugout was just as good as you can have. And I think it really lifted our club. And we were an up club. There wasn't anything about squeezing in or anything else.
Tony, how important was the extra off day then?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, you know in this format, you get two extra, you get the Wednesday you get the Friday.
You know, the key is that if your number one guy goes to game one, he's only going to be able to pitch twice. Pitch him with three days' rest if you are in the other format or pitch him with four days' rest.
So it seems like we get in this one a lot with the off days. And if you play two in a row take a day off, it's the playoffs. You're so excited to be here, you just make do.
But if what you mean is that our bullpen was fresh game after game after game, yeah, that was significant, except we have a deep bullpen.
So we had some I guess Loop and Thompson pitched very well the first time they were in the playoffs.
Tony, will Ronnie Belliard get another game ball for his play?
TONY LA RUSSA: I don't know. The committee that hands those balls out has yet to convene.
That would be interesting to see where the ball will go. I think that 29 is going to get one. Probably more than one probably.
Do you have pitching set up at all for the next series? Are you going back with Weaver and Suppan, just keeping them in that rotation? And who would be your fourth guy?
TONY LA RUSSA: For the first time during batting practice I walked up to Dave and I said, "Dave, you know, there's a chance that we're going to have to start looking ahead," and we both decided that the thing doesn't start until Wednesday.
So there he is right there.
So we've got tonight, Monday, Tuesday to think about it. So first time we ever talked about it was during batting practice.
Tony, you mentioned that during the season you've had your good stretches, but would you say that this last week is about as high a level as you played at consistently over the last four months or so?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, you take a last, you know, two and a half, three. You did have a real good April and May. So here I just thought the energy was great.
And was that the last question? Because I want to say something about pressure. For all our friends in the Dominican.
I told Ronnie, he plays for Licey, and the finals a lot of times is Licey and Escogido. They're the two teams in the capital. That's the most pressure you can ever face.
So playing in the playoffs here in the States is just enjoyable. It's fun. Real pressure to be back in the Dominican. That's one reason why he's such a star.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.