You come back, you do come back with a split. Does it seem odd to you, the similarities between this year and last year in this playoff series?
PHIL GARNER: Well, if it ends like it did, that would be fine. But some similarities, I guess. We win the first game, lose the second game, in Atlanta.
But is it going to be the same, I don't know. We have Andy Pettitte this year; we didn't have him last year. We have a different ballclub, they have a different ballclub. I don't know that there's going to be anything beyond that that's going to be like last year. Who knows?
The beauty of our sport, we'll play it out and see what happens.
Phil, it seems like Roger and Andy tend to get a lot more attention than Oswalt sometimes. Does Roy have a more laid back personality or low key personality?
GARNER: Well, I guess you could tell in here a few minutes ago, he's not -- I don't think he's going to be running for political office any time soon. He enjoys pitching. He enjoys his private life. He enjoys, I think, going back to his home when the baseball season is over. And if he can just move all this into his hometown, I think that he'd be perfectly fine with that.
Whereas I think Rocket and maybe not so much Andy, but they really like being on the big stage. I think they sort of feed off that a little bit. Roy doesn't shy down from it at all, but his personality is just much more low key.
Go back on Roy's last half dozen starts. Which Oswalt do you expect tomorrow? Do you expect the dominant one?
GARNER: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah, I would expect Roy to come out doing what he does. Roy's been a different a little bit different this year than last year and he's had a couple of different styles in the course of this season.
Last year he was, I thought, rearing back and throwing the ball, was in the top of the strike zone a lot, threw a lot of pitches to get deep in the game. This year he's been a little more efficient, thrown less pitches, got us deeper in the game, been in the zone a little bit more but there were times when he was back up in the zone.
You said when you expect this team to win, they lose, when you expect them to lose, they win. Is it difficult to play hunches as a manager with a team like this?
GARNER: I still play hunches. But what I intend to convey with that is, is that the team has been able to do things, we've been able to bounce back. We're here now in this position because we've been able to come back from a 15 30 record. We've been able to overcome a couple of injuries to a couple of our key players, and down the stretch when we counted on everybody to step in and do the job, it was a couple of rookies, Wandy Rodriguez, Ezequiel Astacio, that stepped up for us in addition to what the veterans were doing.
A lot of good things were happening. Even though there were some hunches played, a lot of them turned out good because players did a good job with it.
Are you still mulling your lineup for tomorrow, or do you have it in mind?
GARNER: I have it in mind. That's where it's going to stay for a little while. We'll see how the easing progresses, but I know what I'm going to do.
In your mind, how does Oswalt handle everything that goes along with postseason pitching last year, and how do you think that experience will make him better this time around?
GARNER: I thought he handled it well. I thought we had done a good job last year. We went farther than any other Houston team had gone. Roy was a big part of that last year. We counted on him in a large way.
I just think experience is a good plus when you go into these situations. You know how to slot all the things that you have to do. You know, first day that we the first game of the playoffs, you get to the ballpark and your time is consumed from the minute you get there right up to game time. It was a good thing I already writ that down. If I hadn't, I wouldn't have had time to write it down anywhere. You're consumed. The players have the same responsibilities. There's a lot going on.
I think when you learn how to slot that in your mind, you learn how to make time for everything else, then you learn how to get your mind back on the game, that's part of the experience of being in the playoffs in addition to the added pressure and some of the anxieties that that can bring. We're on the big stage now. When things go well, everybody in the world's watching it. When things don't go so well, everybody's watching that, too.
Having gone through it, dealt with it, I think it prepares you for the next time around.
Considering the last start, Roy admitted he lost some stamina after four innings. Is that a concern going into tomorrow's game?
GARNER: No, no. I'm not concerned about that at all.
With Sosa being the relative unknown to this team, what do you expect out of him and what do you expect out of your guys going against him?
GARNER: Well, the approach would be the same as you would do with anybody that you don't know real well, or any approach that you're going to take, it wouldn't be any different. If he throws the ball over the plate the way he wants to, he'll be tough, and we'll have to fight off good pitches and we'll have to get deep into the counts.
If we can be patient enough and have him throw the ball over the plate in places we like and be aggressive, then we're going to have success.
So it's as simple as that and yet as complicated as that because you don't know how he's going to fare. So part of the cat and mouse game is seeing how he's going to approach the game, and we will work accordingly.
Phil, last year, with it being Rocket's first year here, then going out and getting Beltran, there was a lot of fan excitement here. How has that compared this season? Is it as intense this year?
GARNER: It's been a different scenario this year. Last year when we were coming down the stretch we were climbing into position. I don't remember exactly when we got into first place. But going down to the last day we were having to watch San Francisco and LA to see if we were going to have to have a playoff or not. There was a different type of intensity. I think there was more nail biting going on this year because we had the lead and we were trying to hang on to it. It was a different feel this year. Didn't seem quite as loud. But, still, I consider our tenth player out here as our fans in this ballpark because I have never been in a ballpark where the noise is as deafening as it was here last year down the stretch and going into the playoffs. I'm counting on that same Astro enthusiasm coming out tomorrow and the next day that we're here. I think it's a big plus for us.
Obviously, Pettitte and Roger have much more proven experience in the postseason. Now that Oswalt has experience, what do you see in his psyche that he can live up to the stage and give you the performance you need?
GARNER: Experience tells me that. But Roy's pitched well. Even what we're accustomed to here is really good pitching in Houston. So when one of these guys, like Rocket, has a game where he's not where he's something less than perfect the other night, people are surprised by it.
But when you've seen average, mediocre pitching over the years, then you really realize how good these guys are. So I think in Roy's case, he's one of the top young winning pitchers in baseball today, and I think we can expect that kind of performance from him again tomorrow.
A team like the Braves, they lose a guy like (Mike) Hampton but gain a guy like Sosa, how difficult is it for an organization to replace starting pitching?
GARNER: It is difficult to replace good starting pitching. You can always get somebody to throw, but get them to perform well, I think we've done a good job for us. Wandy Rodriguez did a good job for us, Ezequiel Astacio did a good job for us, last year Brandon Backe stepped in and did a good job for us. We have our successes, too. I tip my hat to the Atlanta Braves. They're in very much the same situation we are. 14 times in a row that they've won the division. And they've had a different cast of characters doing it. This year's totally different, not totally, but different (inaudible). They have a lot of young kids they brought through their system. Sosa, I don't know if they brought him through the system, if he was originally signed by them, but he certainly did a fine job. It's tough to do, tough to do and win, and they've done a good job of doing that. I think Houston has, too.
Courtesy of FastScripts by ASAP Sports. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.