10/19/2004 4:40 PM ET
Garner turns to Munro for Game 6
Righty confident he can help Astros reach Fall Classic
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
|In Game 2 of the NLCS, Pete Munro pitched four scoreless innnings before running into trouble in the fifth. (James Finley/AP)
ST. LOUIS -- The Astros are turning to a well-traveled right-hander to help punch their tickets to the World Series.
No, not that right-hander.
Passing on a chance to start Roger Clemens on three days' rest, the Astros tabbed Pete Munro to face the Cardinals in Game 6 of the National League Division Series on Wednesday night at Busch Stadium.
Win, and the Astros head to their first World Series with co-aces Clemens and Roy Oswalt fully rested. Lose, and Clemens starts a decisive Game 7 on Thursday night.
Munro has his mind set on the former option.
"I'm sure that they'd rather face me than Roger," said Munro, who started the season with the Twins' Triple-A affiliate, but made a midseason return to Houston. "I mean, I'd rather face me than Roger.
"There's a lot of underestimating going on about me, but I guess I showed up in Game 2, right? Closed a lot of mouths then."
Munro started Game 2 at Busch Stadium and dodged trouble through four scoreless frames before running into trouble in the fifth inning of an eventual 6-4 Astros loss.
When he exited, Houston was clinging to a 3-2 lead, and catcher Brad Ausmus said Munro delivered "more than what we were asking him to."
That's because it was Munro's first career postseason appearance and his first appearance in any game since Oct. 1 -- 13 days earlier. He took a no-decision in Game 2 and, this time, he will be pitching on five days' rest.
"I think when you have pitchers the caliber that we have, when you talk about Roger Clemens and you talk about [Roy] Oswalt and now Brandon Backe, we tend to forget that Pete did a good job for us down the stretch," Astros manager Phil Garner said. "I think, No. 1, he deserves to get the shot to start again."
Talking to reporters during their Tuesday workout in St. Louis, Cardinals players said they expected to face Clemens in Game 6. Oswalt then could have started Game 7, also on three days' rest.
Instead, after consulting with Clemens and the Astros' coaching staff, Garner went with Munro.
"Because I'm starting Pete doesn't mean we've giving this game away; doesn't mean that we are not taking this game as seriously as we've taken any game we've played the last two months,' Garner said. "I think that we're giving Pete a shot and letting him do his thing."
Was it a difficult decision?
"I thought about it for quite a bit," Garner said. "The process was a day and a half, I guess. And then you sit around and you think a little bit more. I think you can overthink it, you can see all kinds of scenarios. There's going to be a lot of people saying to you to do the opposite, 'Start Roger.'
"I'm sure that they'd rather face me than Roger. I mean, I'd rather face me than Roger. There's a lot of underestimating going on about me, but I guess I showed up in Game 2, right? Closed a lot of mouths then."
"But what I feel in my gut is what I have to do. If you take all the information that's available to you, all the facts, you assimilate them, and I haven't heard anybody give me anything I haven't thought about. So, given all those circumstances, I think this is the best way to go."
Munro got the news on the team's chartered flight to St. Louis. His reaction?
"I guess I was kind of overwhelmed," he said. "It's just another chance for me to prove myself."
Garner has been right before. He turned to the unproven Backe for a number of key starts down the stretch and in the playoffs, and Backe delivered. He pitched the game of his life on Monday, allowing one hit in eight scoreless innings of Houston's Game 5 shutout win.
Munro was watching. Had the Astros lost that game and fallen behind in the series, 3-2, Clemens would have started the win-or-go-home Game 6.
"Last night helped a lot, seeing what Brandon did with these guys," Munro said. "Seeing what they've done early in the counts and just scouting these guys."
It's a tough act to follow. Backe declared Munro up to the challenge.
"I did it, and I'm no superhuman being," Backe said. "I was on last night and I felt great, but Pete definitely has the capability of doing it, too. He has as great an opportunity as I do, or anyone else on this pitching staff.
"The Cardinals' lineup had no slouches. Everybody knows that. But if you make good pitches, they're human, and they're going to get themselves out."
Backe found a way to get Albert Pujols out. The Cardinals first baseman went 0-for-4 in Game 5, but is still batting .474 in the series. In Games 3 through 5 at Houston, Pujols batted .333 (4-for-12); the rest of the Cardinals hit .136 (11-for-81).
"There are a couple guys in the lineup that you don't want beating you, but specifically one -- I think we all know who I'm talking about," Munro said, referring to Pujols. "He's hitting what, .800 this series?
"I like to go after guys, be aggressive. If you can limit Albert to a single, I'll take that. But given the circumstance, if there's nobody on, two outs, man on second and third, he's probably not going to get my best pitches. Or he is, but not locations that he wants them. But nobody on, two out, he's going to get my best stuff."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.