David, your ability to manufacture runs today, especially those on the fielders' choice, talk a little about that.
DAVID ECKSTEIN: That's very big for us. We have many ways to go and attack you and we got a lot of bombers, but also when we have to, we can play small ball and find ways to manufacture. Many people didn't realize it, but the double that Nunez hit was a hit and run, too. We were just trying to put as much pressure as we can on them and put us in a better situation.
Can you talk a little bit about your infield and the double plays? It was huge the first game, huge today again. Something you guys take a lot of pride in?
ECKSTEIN: Without a doubt. The person who doesn't get much credit is Jose Oquendo. From day one in Spring Training, he had me and Grudz trying to get a little better, a little quicker. Grudzielanek turns one of the quickest double plays in the league. It's something we pretty much [did] from day one. It's a lot of fun. I think you have to give a lot of credit to Mulder. Mulder early on probably wasn't as sharp as he'd like. He let some runners on but was able to get the [groundout] when he needed.
How many squeeze bunts have you had this year, and what goes through your mind when you see the sign from Jose Oquendo?
ECKSTEIN: I had quite a few; probably about four or five, I think, on the year. I know that at some point in time, it's going to be on, especially if we didn't do it the first time, that sometime during the second at-bat with a man on third that it was going to happen, but I love it. It's one of my favorite plays. All the pressure's on to get the ball down, you know, and I just enjoy that.
David, can you describe what you're thinking when Mulder takes that ball off his arm in the second inning?
ECKSTEIN: I was kind of happy. No, I'm joking. It calmed him down, you know what I mean. I think his sinker started working a lot better, and he was able to hit the zone. We were actually scared. You don't want to have to make up seven innings, and that's going to be tough. If you notice right after that happened, he wasn't muscling the pitches up to the plate. He was going up there and just letting it flow, and his sinker started working. He did such a fantastic job. I know it was killing him, but he's a tough guy.
What did you think Mark's chances were of getting down a two-strike bunt?
ECKSTEIN: After the first two attempts? I mean, he battles up there. You know, I mean, it was one of those things. He does a good job. I mean, he -- he does a good job with the bat just being his first year over here in the National League, and he laid down a perfect bunt, you know. It was one of those things that you've just got to tip your cap to him. It was a pretty good pitch, and he was able to get it down. You saw what happened the next time up, but we're just, you know, very fortunate he was able to get that one down.
David, let's talk about home-field advantage. You guys can't ask for better situation like that.
ECKSTEIN: We had home-field advantage. That's the job, and the one thing we've gotta do, we've gotta stay aggressive. We've gotta stay aggressive. The guys in the clubhouse are ready to play. We can't wait to get over there, and we'll be ready to play at 8:00 on Saturday night.
Speaking of 8:00, what do you think of that starting time? For your fans, that's 10:00 here.
ECKSTEIN: I was sound asleep last night by that time. It's going to be a little bit different. They're trying to accommodate everybody, and there's a lot, you know, more of a prime-time game probably going on and with the college football, they just, you know, put us wherever they wanted to put us. Our job is to show up and play. Whatever time they make for us, we'll be ready to play. They said 9:00 -- I mean 8:00 -- and we'll be ready to play.
Can you talk about Reggie's ability to come through with the clutch?
ECKSTEIN: He's big. I saw it in 2002 when I was with the Angels and he was with the Giants. There's -- there's a certain coincidence. How come every time he plays on a team, their team is successful? I mean, he's a big part of that, and he's great in the clubhouse, and he thrives on those moments, [and] his at-bats with men in scoring position are unbelievable. He takes them and is able to get good wood on the ball and just find some holes. He's a big key. He's a big key for this club, and we're very lucky to have him.
David, at the end of the season, you guys have gone through sort of a downslide, but this team really looks like it's in rhythm. Can you flip a switch? Can you do it like that? What do you attribute it to?
ECKSTEIN: Going down the stretch, we're trying to get everybody healthy. Once we had it clinched, we were trying to get everybody healthy and ready to play. In this game we can't flip a switch. We're not that good, but I think this past weekend, coming into the final three days here at Busch and with all the distractions and everything like that, I think that helped us get ready for the situations today. We were able to come out there and -- and play hard, especially on that Sunday game. We were down 5-1 and we were able to come back and win that game. This club is relentless, and it's -- it's a good quality to have.
Some of the things that the Cardinals did today are almost extinct to the American League. How much more time -- how much more emphasis is there on this team than on the Angels and on other teams on small ball?
ECKSTEIN: Scioscia does a good job with it in Anaheim, but for the rest of the league, it's like you said, it's almost nonexistent. It's something that is not really played over there. You have so many big hitters, especially with the DH, you don't want to give up one at-bat. You come over here, and as you can see, the game works. I mean, you put a lot of pressure on the opposition and you create holes for yourself, and it's something that -- it's a good way to score runs. It's -- I mean, I saw it last night with the Angels playing the Yankees. You have Steve Finley bunting with a man on first, you know what I mean. You won't ever seen that. AK comes up there and does the same thing. It's something that wins you ballgames, and Tony has a good knack of picking the right pitches, putting us in a good situation to succeed.
Courtesy of FastScripts by ASAP Sports. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.