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10/16/05 4:09 PM ET

Phil Garner pregame interview

Astros manager talks about Pettitte, lineup

If someone would have told you before the series that after three games your team would be 2 for 23 with runners in scoring position, would you think that you would be ahead two games to one? And what's up with the offenses in this series?

PHIL GARNER: Yes, and I don't ... yeah, I would have said we're in a lot of deep stew here. And Lance and Morgan haven't done much either. If you'd have said we were going to have those numbers in scoring position, but those two wouldn't have done anything, I would say we would be in deep trouble.

But a tribute to the other portion of our lineup, I don't think you're going to win any seven game series unless several people pitch in and help out and fortunately we've had other guys step up and do some things.

Do you expect Andy to be inhibited at all by the knee today?

GARNER: Well, if he ...

Tomorrow? I'm sorry.

GARNER: Well, if Andy is pitching today I'm in deep trouble.

The newspaper comes out today.

GARNER: I think Andy will be 100%. He's feeling a whole lot better and he's thrown in the bullpen and he's a whole lot better. I feel 100% confident that he will be 100% tomorrow, if we can keep him from getting hit with anything between now and then. (Laughter.)

Can you talk about his ability to bounce back after a rough outing?

GARNER: Well, he hasn't had any rough outings, not too many of them this year. (Laughter.)

But Andy has got great stuff and he's got great mental discipline. He's got great control. He'll bounce back. He'll be fine. And it wasn't like he pitched a horrible game, anyway. When I answer that question, it's almost like I'm thinking, well, he had a really bad outing and it wasn't a God awful outing. He gave up a couple of runs. Sometimes you have to score a few runs to help these guys out a little bit. But he wasn't typically Andy because he got behind a few hitters, he struggled a little bit with his control and he doesn't normally do that. Normally if you beat Andy, you have to beat him, he doesn't help you at all.

So I would anticipate that he's going to be back to the Andy of old.

I think it's Andy himself that after the game said he was terrible and today he said there that he was so bad there's nothing that he can even draw out of the game. But for him obviously he's not going to say that the injury inhibited him, but is it obvious that that was the problem particularly in the first inning?

GARNER: I think it affected him a little bit. And to his credit, he doesn't make excuses and he's his own worst critic. He's very critical on himself and that's one of the reasons he's great. He will take responsibility and he'll do something to make it better.

But I wouldn't ... I don't think that start was a total disaster, let's put it that way. We had a couple opportunities to get back in the ballgame and make it a real good ballgame and Carpenter didn't let us back in the game. So you tip your hats to those guys.

How much different is the Cardinal offense that you're facing now from the offense that you faced in last year's NLCS?

GARNER: Not much difference. I think Grudzielanek and Eckstein both have been very solid addition to their lineup. Eckstein ends up being one of the premiere run produces in the League this year. So they certainly, probably gained in that respect. Grudzielanek has been superb all year long, too.

So from those two guys, I don't think they have lost anything and we're still seeing, Sanders is banged up but he's back in the lineup today and Walker is in the lineup. We don't see anybody else. Molina has been doing a good job and he's been particularly tough on us. He's driven in some big runs for them. So I don't see again, I say we have nothing but a great deal of respect for their lineup. Maybe a little bit -- Nunez has played well against us, too, up until yesterday, and he played well against us yesterday.

So they are still a tough lineup and I think just as good as they were last year.

I'm working on a story on Jim Hickey and could you tell me what a guy like him could tell someone like Roger Clemens or just how he helps?

GARNER: Well, the first thing the pitching coach has to learn to do I think is not give too much information. I think the real key when you get to the big leagues, and if a player you have to know, number one, individually how you're going to get to the players. Players learn different ways. Some learn auditorially and some learn kinesthetically and some you can just see it on the chart and do things by that. So you have to learn how pitchers learn, and that's the first thing.

Second thing is that you have to learn who you can approach and who you can't and when you can approach them and when you can't, so Jim had a process last year when he came in midway through the season, you're talking about a six time Cy Young winner, you're talking about Andy Pettitte who is one of the greatest post season pitchers of all time and Roy Oswalt who has a lot of success. I don't think these are guys that you walk in and say, hey, you need to start doing this now. So I think he needed to be somewhat laid back. He did a good job in the learning process last year.

This year, he's been a little more active in being able to know Roger Clemens' delivery, to know Andy's delivery, Roy's and everybody else in our pitching staff.

When it comes to Rocket, he probably knows his, and Pettitte, too, and even Roy, they know their delivery, they know their mechanics better than most people I've ever been around. So Jim's job in that regard is to be able to remind them during the game if he sees them varying a little bit from it, and get them back into that mode, and to continue to work with them in between starts, which he does a great job.

We've had a terrific run with our pitching staff and Jim's a good reason that that's happened, I think, especially with some of the younger guys.

Can you talk about pluses and minuses for Andy facing the Cardinal lineup just a few days later, and pluses and minuses for your hitters, having seen Carpenter just a few days ago?

GARNER: Well, we seem to have not done too well against Carpenter this whole year. He's pitched pretty good against us. Hopefully we'll have a little better idea now that we've seen him several times on the course of the year and get a little better production from our offense than we've gotten from him on the course of the season.

In Andy's case, I think he knows what he wants to do. He just didn't locate like he would like to have located last time. So I think the plus from Andy's side is that he I'm sure in tomorrow's start, he'll be able to locate a little bit better than he was. So he should pitch a little bit better in that regard. Hopefully we'll do a little better job offensively than we did in the past against Carpenter.

Is Burke back in center today and Lamb at first like yesterday?

GARNER: Same lineup today that we had yesterday.

Do you have any reservations about Taveras being your regular centerfielder all year and now he's not your centerfielder? I know you often hear managers are supposed to do the same thing they have done all year and when they vary, it can work against them and obviously it has not for you.

GARNER: Well, it can and I do have some reservations about it. I talked to Willy yesterday about it and I told him it was only a yesterday thing and here I am doing the same thing again today. I thought Willy handled it very well yesterday. I know he's disappointed, and I would expect him to be disappointed.

And he will continue to be our everyday centerfielder for a number of years to come. I also think that as my good friend and mentor Chuck Tanner says, you're here to win for the Houston Astros organization and it transcends any one player. Not that we want to trash any one player, we don't want to that to Willy because he's the key reason we've gotten here and we're going to count on him, perhaps in today's game, maybe tomorrow's game, a big way. So the trick for me to do is to keep him ready and able to go out there and do what he does well, too.

Did you feel more comfortable when you saw Burke chasing down those flies yesterday that he's okay in center because he had some pretty long runs?

GARNER: Yeah, I think he'll be okay. I believe Chris will do fine in centerfield. Yeah, I think he's fine.

Brandon Backe is pitching today. Nobody asked anything about Brandon Backe today, how about that. Today is the biggest game we're going to play, guys. (Laughter.)

Courtesy of FastScripts by ASAP Sports. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.