10/07/2004 4:46 PM ET
Bagwell pregame quotes
Astros first-sacker impressed with interim skipper
Q. Before you had the hot streak at home you were under .500. Is there any reason for the turnaround and what confidence does that give you going back to Houston?
JEFF BAGWELL: Obviously playing at home now is going to be very comfortable for us. We won 18 straight to close the season. Obviously, things are going well in Houston.
Our fans have been great. They've been into this the whole ride. It feels like we've been in a playoff run for six weeks, which is difficult to be in. There's a lot of pressure, lot of one-run games, lot of big games. It's been a lot of fun.
For the turnaround, I can't tell you, you know. It started six weeks ago. Started with our offense exploding. Then our pitching staff did a tremendous job through the whole deal. Our bullpen has really grown up and done a tremendous job, young kids have pitched in some big games, which has really helped us, with their level. It just seems that we found ways to win. That's been fun. That's what a team does, a good team does. Somehow, some way you find a way to win and that's what we've done. Especially at home. Obviously, I've never been a part of 18 straight wins at home. All I know is we considered every day that that was our biggest game and that was the way we took it.
Q. When Phil Garner was hired, he was given the term "interim manager." Do you think the way the team played got the interim dropped?
JEFF BAGWELL: I don't see how it could not. When you take over a team that's .500 and you get to probably four games under, I think we were, then all of a sudden to be 22 games over, to make the playoffs, I think Phil deserves it. That's probably going to be up to Phil. If Phil wants to continue to be our manager.
But obviously he's done a tremendous job and deserves to be our manager.
Q. What has Phil meant to the club? What has he brought?
JEFF BAGWELL: Well, Phil is a very positive guy, he's a very vocal guy. He shows a lot of emotion. He always is talking positive to everybody all the time. I think he's done a great job as a manager. He's pushed the envelope, he's hit and run, he's let guys run. I think he's encouraged it. Probably at times he probably wishes that we'd run even more, but some of us guys are getting too old to run a lot.
I think he's done a great job with the bullpen. Basically, for the last six weeks, he's managed every game like the last game, that's a great way to be. At that particular time it gave us an opportunity to win.
Thankfully we have guys like Brad Lidge, who can go out there as much as he has, our veterans, our old guys we played a lot that we probably wouldn't have as much but we had to. It's paid off. I think it's great. Phil definitely deserves a lot of credit for that, and I've enjoyed playing underneath him.
Q. Is there concern in that clubhouse right now about Carlos Beltran's health?
JEFF BAGWELL: No. I just talked to Carlos a little while ago. "Rub some dirt on it and let's go." No time for pain (laughing).
Obviously, Carlos, since he got here, has just been smoked a bunch of times. I asked him yesterday, "Did you get hit like this when you were Kansas City?" He said, "No, I never got hit." He got hit a lot this year, his elbow, his knee, his rib, but Carlos is a tough kid. He understands what the stakes are. I think he'll be fine. Like I said, I just talked to him and I think he'll be all right.
Q. Brandon Backe is your Game 3 starter. What kind of surprise and lift for the team has he been in these six weeks?
JEFF BAGWELL: Oh, he's had a big lift for us. We've been, since Andy (Pettitte) and Wade (Miller) have gone down, we've been kind of juggling guys back and forth through our rotation except for Roger and Roy. Brandon has emerged as our No. 3 starter. Probably pitched the biggest game of his life -- I guarantee it was the biggest game of his life except Little League or down there in Galveston -it was probably the biggest game of his life and he pitched great. He got to start when Roger was sick. He went out, obviously, huge game. If we don't win that game, we have to go to -- probably have to go to San Francisco.
But he came out, two strikes right off the get-go and just did a tremendous job. That was a big situation, and I think that can only help him and us.
Q. When things were at their worst in the summer, did you worry they were going to break up the team and you might never get a chance to get back to postseason?
JEFF BAGWELL: Well, I don't -- I guess I wouldn't say that I was worried. They never wavered from their stance that they were going to keep this team together. A lot of us in the clubhouse thought, you know, "Why?" We were that bad.
Then when you have a talent like Carlos Beltran, and even JK (Jeff Kent), they never went to him or anything like that. If you got a chance to get something if you might not be able to re-sign him in the offseason, then it was understandable for them to have done that.
But credit to our organization. They never wavered, as I said. They believed in us and they thought, "Hey, this is our opportunity to get things done, and if you don't get it done, then at least we gave you the opportunity." As veterans, we could be nothing but happy about that, and proud that they stuck with us. And thank God they did, because it turned out great.
Q. You've said over the years players police the game. Phil said this is not a time for petty wars. Your comments on what Phil said and your philosophy?
JEFF BAGWELL: This is the playoffs. There's no reason for -- people don't get in beanball or hit-batter wars in playoffs, there's too much at stake. You don't need runners on base, you know. Do I think that Juan Cruz intentionally tried to hit Carlos? No.
So there's no room to even discuss that, even to talk about it. This is too big of a time for us to be worrying about stuff like that.
Q. When you look at the make-up of this year's team, is this the best supporting cast that has been around you in the playoffs?
JEFF BAGWELL: I don't know. I don't know if I can answer that. As I said, and I've said time and time again from the beginning, this is a different club. I have a tremendous supporting cast around me with our offense. I mean, the kid that's batting in front of me in Beltran is the best player I've ever seen play ability-wise. Lance Berkman is one of the greatest hitters in the game right now. Jeff Kent is obviously the greatest home-run-hitting second baseman of all time. Craig Biggio is a Hall of Famer that I don't even have to go on and on about Craig. I can keep on going down the line. I mean, this is a great offense.
But more than anything else, this, I would say, might be the best team I've ever played on as far as every single person on this club contributes. It's not just about a couple guys. It's not just about a couple starters. It's not just about one reliever. Everybody contributes. Yes, we have some guys that are a little bit better than others, but this has been the best team effort I've ever seen.
Q. How fulfilling was last night? Was it the easiest night to sleep during your playoff career?
JEFF BAGWELL: We've only had one other win since that in the first game. I was in Atlanta. So that was a nice night then.
Obviously, yesterday's win is a big sigh of relief because of the way we came in here, on the roll that we did, and we continued that roll. It's nice, it's a great win and everybody feels good, which is great, and that's the way we started this thing coming in here.
But all of us know, since the way we've played over the last six weeks, okay, tonight, that game is over with, now we have to move on to today and continue to play the way we played for the last six weeks and the first game of the postseason the same way. That this is the most important game. Don't look down the road, don't look any farther than just today.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.