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10/20/05 12:30 AM ET

Garner, Oswalt, Biggio interview

Manager, players discuss winning NL Championship

Congratulations, first of all. Phil, how close is this to your time schedule that you wanted to get this job done, bring the team here, how close is it, and where did you turn this team around after you looked up and saw 15-30 and your local newspaper almost wrote you out of the book?

PHIL GARNER: Okay. I've had a little bit of champagne. I'm going to have to digest all of that question here, one second.

Well, let's just say that winning is absolutely fantastic. We all know that and that's what we want to do. So, sure I would have liked to have been able to win it at home. If there's anything that can be disappointing, it's unfortunate that we didn't win at home. Our fans were primed and they have been a big part of our organization for the last several years. They have been supportive, battled so hard. So if I could have, we had it scripted out the other night just the way you'd like to have it. We come back in a terrific ballgame, we've got everybody on the mound that we want, everybody in the ballgame that we want and we just could not close it out and that's a tribute to a great Cardinal ballclub. There's just no quit over there.

But we come in here tonight, we got the job done. So even though it wasn't on my time schedule, I'm perfectly happy with that, because we're going to have the series in Houston for the first time in our history.

As far as when we turned it around, somewhere in late May, I can't tell you, I think it was probably the second game in Milwaukee, we had a very frustrating game and I think the players realized that, hey, we're going to have to buckle down and play some better ball.

At that point, a couple of guys got hot for us, Lance Berkman back in the lineup and started swinging the bat and Morgan Ensberg got on fire for a couple of months and Chris Burke came up and started playing good and everybody just started pitching in.

And you've seen how we manage these games. Everybody plays and everybody has a part. It's not been any one single guy, any one week or any one month. It might have been a guy that's been big for us but most of the year it's been everybody pitching in and doing a job.

Given what happened last night, or the last game, how important was it for Roy to go out and pitch as well as he did in the early innings, and then did you have any thoughts after watching him face Pujols the first time?

GARNER: Well, there's a reason the clubhouse was loose today. When you're running Roy out there, you've got to feel pretty good about your chances.

I also think that we see a true competitor here with Roy, and the way he went about his business tonight gave us great confidence. He went after them, he challenged them. This is a powerful ballclub. They are powerful from top to bottom, and Roy didn't back down. He struggled, not really struggled but labored a little bit in the middle part of the game, not because he was weak or pitching around anybody; they are just a good hitting team. They foul off a lot of pitches, they get you deep into the count and they are tough. But he never gave in, and I think that set the tone for the whole ballgame. We just kept picking away, a bunch of singles and came up with some big hits when we needed them.

I think maybe a big point in the game is when they scored the one run, was it the third inning? They scored a run in the bottom of the third, we came right back out and put a run right back on the board. To me that stopped any sort of potential momentum on their side of the game.

I thought Roy did what he does so well, shuts the offense down on their side, and we did a nice job on our side offensively.

I'd like to ask you first and then Roy, if I could, how much of a point of emphasis was it for you guys in the clubhouse to sort of get Brad off the hook after what happened a couple of days ago?

GARNER: Well, as I had said earlier, Brad, had it been a one run ballgame, two run ballgame, Brad would have been in the ballgame tonight. We had a little bit of room, he's pitched four out of five days and he's had some tough innings, so I was hoping that I could get an out and not have to sit him through a whole inning.

To his credit he was ready to pitch an inning or two if we needed him. I thought we had a little bit of room, but Brad was up and ready to come in. Brad has picked us up all year and we are not here without Brad Lidge. If the game is on the line again in any circumstances, he's our guy to go to in that situation. I don't think anybody felt any pressure to have to do that, and Brad would have been Brad would have been just fine if he needed to pitch tonight.

I would throw it to both of you, considering some of the disappointments that Houston fans have had over the years and you go back just as early as the other night, how nice is it for both of you to have gotten that win, not just for yourselves but for the fans who have been through so much?

GARNER: Roy, do you want to?

ROY OSWALT: Go ahead.

GARNER: Well, for me, I've been living in Houston, my wife Carol is with me over here, and we're Houstonians. She was involved in building the Minute Maid Park with the Sports Authority Board. We are Houston fans and since I've played there, we've lived there. So for us it's long suffering, 44 years of getting close and not getting to the big dance has been a little bit frustrating. So this is a wonderful accomplishment for our city, for our organization, everybody that's been involved in it.

Roy, you sat up here yesterday and you were extremely confident about what you were going to do coming into this game, and then you went in as Phil said with a plan and you worked the hitters and you obviously kept the ball down, all they kept doing was pounding the ball on the ground most of the night, what were you doing and how was your mindset coming into the game and as things were developing?

OSWALT: I think the biggest thing for me is once we got the early lead, I knew I could go right at them. At the beginning when the game was 0-0 the first two innings, Mulder looked real sharp the first two inning, he was mixing the ball in and out real well. Once we got the two run lead I knew I could go right at them with the fastball, mix some two seamers coming in, four seamers away, I didn't have to throw many breaking pitches as far as getting behind guys. I threw a few short off the plate trying to get them to fish for it and if they didn't, coming right back at them.

As long as I can keep guys off base with walks, I feel like they are going to have to put three or four hits together to score. It's real hard to put, you know, four hits together if you've got command of your fastball moving it in and out, I felt real good with my two seamer tonight throwing it in. Two balls tailed in further than I wanted to and got two of the guys, but overall I felt pretty good with it the whole night and when I wanted to go with it, the ball stayed true and came back over the plate.

Roy, given this stage and what a big game this was, is this the best game of your career? And two, what are your emotions like, you look very calm right now.

CRAIG BIGGIO: He doesn't have any emotions. (Laughter.)

OSWALT: Yeah, I would classify it as one of the biggest games, just because of the history of the team, of not being in the World Series after so many years and getting so close. It ranks right up there with winning the Gold Medal. I think that was real special for us because the United States never won a Gold Medal.

But, also, this is probably one of the best games as far as feeling, I guess I would say, because of the history of the organization.

Phil and Roy, just wondering about the emotion in the room right now for Craig and Jeff, the guys who have been there for so long?

GARNER: Well, I have said on numerous occasions that both Craig and Bags are two of the biggest reasons that we have a great stadium in Houston right now, along with some great civic leaders. But what they did is they created excitement for baseball in Houston that took, that helped create the fan base that we have now.

So for a decade and a half, they have set a standard for the organization that as a manager, you don't have to tell young kids when they come up to hustle, you don't have to tell them to be gritty, you don't have tell them to be dirty, you don't have to tell them to play the game the right way. All you have to do is take a look at these two guys, they are our leaders and if you play like they play, we don't have problems.

I'm happy for them because they have truly fought, in today's environment where it's easy for players, and I don't mean this in a bad way, you can go other places, you can get a lot more money, you can do a lot of things. They chose to stay in Houston. They chose to put their heart and soul in this organization, so I'm happy for Bigg who is sitting here, and Baggy, too, who is in the clubhouse.

The Lidge home run the other day is now basically insignificant; I want to know how important it was for you two to make that so.

BIGGIO: Well, once again, this team, what happened the other night was a heartbreaker. I mean, he ripped our hearts out because we were so close, but once again Brad Lidge has been so dominant for us. We have a lot of faith and confidence in him and 99.8 percent of the time he gets the job done, and gives up a home run to one of the great young hitters you'll ever see.

You look at where we came from, 15-30, where we're going right now, it's because we never gave up on ourselves and now we have an opportunity to go to the World Series. You've just got to put it behind you and I know a lot of people were writing us off after that homer but we have a lot of faith and pride in that clubhouse and now we have an opportunity to go to the World Series.

Roy, your wife said she had a dream last night that you were going to win.

OSWALT: She said 1-0. I told her, I hope it's not that close. (Laughter.)

But here you are, you won, you've won the MVP, is the MVP icing on the cake? What's your reaction to that?

OSWALT: Yeah, I think the most, the best thing about the whole thing is I gave it to my dad after the celebration, just because coming up, he was never late coming home to get me to a ballgame. He got up at 5:30 in the morning, got back home at 5:00 to get me to the game by 7:00. To give it to him that meant more to me than winning it. He didn't want to take it, but that's the way he is.

It was more special though for me to see his face once I gave it to him, and just the way he believed in me, growing up, people used to come by and ask why he spent too much time with me out in the yard throwing the ball and hopefully those guys see that on TV today.

You mentioned that a little bit, everyone, the media, and people that you say have kind of been writing you guys off after that Lidge home run. Did you feel like maybe the Cardinals, or certain the fans kind of maybe thought that now that once they got the series back to St. Louis, that it was over or they were going to come back automatically and win; that they had taken you for granted a little bit?

BIGGIO: That doesn't really matter. All we're concerned with is our attitude in the clubhouse, whatever people are going to say or write, that's their opinion. It's what you believe for yourself and your club. A good problem to have is you have a guy like that throwing the ball today. You have a guy like Pettitte throwing the ball the other day and you have Roger Clemens possibly going tomorrow. We believe in our team and we believe in everybody in that clubhouse just like the Cardinals believe in their team. That's an unbelievable team that we just beat, and it's just a great feeling right now and it just goes to show you that we just never gave up.

Your pitching staff tonight did a pretty amazing job against a potent offense, what do you think you were able to do against these guys to limit their offense?

GARNER: That last part, I didn't hear.

What do you think you were able to do to limit their offense throughout the series?

GARNER: Well, I think if I go back and look at the numbers, and I don't always look at the numbers that closely, but it would seem to me like we did a very good job of keeping the meat of their order from really hurting us too badly.

Eckstein was a pest, he just kept getting on base, but we managed to keep Edmonds out of harm's way a little bit. We neutralized Pujols and Walker for the most part, and also Sanders. So bottom of the order, we got on base a little bit, but I think the real key was we kept the middle part of the order from hurting us with the long ball and driving in a bunch of runs.

Were you able to watch the White Sox at all this October, and any thoughts on who starts your next game?

GARNER: I only saw the White Sox play three games. I don't know their team very well. I'd just as soon not watch them any more, they look pretty good. (Laughter.)

It doesn't get any easier, they are a good ballclub and their pitching is excellent. They are certainly rested by now. Their offense, they can do a lot of things, they are a multi-faceted offense.

We are an unusual team. We are a team that has managed to piece together games, come back and win ballgames. It should be a good series I would think. We've got a bunch of kids that have just played absolutely great. We've got veterans that have just played their hearts out and done great. So I'm looking forward to it.

And no, I don't know what the rotation will be. I haven't even looked forward with that.

Another White Sox question, you've got your team to the World Series; is Bagwell a part of your DH plans?

GARNER: I don't know. I haven't looked forward. Baggy is well, not well enough to play on the field but certainly well enough to swing the bat. That will be a major consideration. I really haven't allowed myself to think beyond each individual game, so I haven't given any consideration to what will happen during the World Series.

But Baggy is a big part of why we're here, so anyway we can utilize him, we're going to do that.

Thank you, congratulations, Craig. Way to go, guys.

Craig, everybody has talked about how they feel for you; will you share with us how you feel?

BIGGIO: Oh, it's undescribable right now. It's just, I've waited so long for this to happen. There's been a lot of great players to play the game of baseball that never got an opportunity to go to the World Series, and I was hoping that I wasn't going to be part of, to be another one of them.

But to wait this long, I guess good things come to those who wait, and I'm just, I love my teammates, and the city, and the organization, and it's unbelievable even to say the World Series and that we're going right now. So, yeah, I don't know how else to express it. It's a pretty emotional day.

For either one of you guys, considering the way that the season started, 15-30 and then after what happened Monday night in Houston, does it even make it that much more gratifying, does it maybe put you in a better position going to the World Series knowing how competitively tough you guys are?

BIGGIO: Well, I think that for me personally, and I've been on a lot of clubs, 18 of them, and this one here is definitely the most gratifying. From where we started, I don't think anybody has ever come back from a start like that, and is now going to the World Series. That just goes to show you that, you know, we do have a good mix of young guys and older guys and a great pitching staff. We're not going to give up, and obviously you've got an opportunity to see that now from the start that we had and now we're going to the World Series.

How important was it to take the crowd out of the equation tonight? It seemed like they were pretty quiet all night, and for either of you, how important was that?

OSWALT: For me, I mean, that's big, especially getting the early runs. Once you get the early runs, you put pressure back on them to do something, and the more guys you can keep off base, the less the crowd is going to get into it. I tried to do a real good job of not getting guys on early, try to make them hit the ball, hit their way on. Once you take the crowd out of it, it kind of takes a little bit of the air out of the team. If they can't generate nothing, then usually hitting is contagious the way I see it on the mound. You give up a hit here or give up a hit there, everybody seems like they want to run up there and hit the ball.

The big thing to me was not put anybody on by walks, just to go right at them and make the defense play behind me.

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