Before Wednesday's Game 4 of the National League Division Series, manager Tony La Russa and his coaching staff discussed potential lineup changes with their team facing elimination.
One was that, if his injured right hand would allow, Matt Holliday would return to left field. Holliday did play, singling and scoring twice, even after he was hit in the same right hand by a pitched ball.
Another decision involved third base, where David Freese, in his first postseason series, was pressing mightily. In his last 10 at-bats before Wednesday, Freese had struck out seven times.
The option was to go with left-handed hitting Daniel Descalso, who finished the game at third, as the starter, but La Russa and his staff stayed with Freese.
"This guy is a really tough competitor and wipes the slate clean," said La Russa.
Freese, playing in his hometown, where he had watched so many postseason games, smacked a two-run double and a two-run homer to key the 5-3 win that tied the series at two games apiece.
"I have, what, 20 strikeouts for this series?" said Freese. "You might have bad nights, but that's the beauty of this game."
Freese said his playoff dreams growing up involved the World Series, but he said, "Having a night like this in front of the people at Busch Stadium is unreal. To be part of this is something special."
Related article at The Cardinal Nation Blog:
RHP Edwin Jackson had his
normal first-inning problems. But, after the rough start,
LHP Marc Rzepczynski and
RHP Octavio Dotel, who came from
2B Skip Schumaker had to leave the game halfway through with a left hamstring cramp. But, after treatment, he is expected to play in Friday's fifth game of the series.
The Cardinals have played 15 previous postseason series to the limit. They have won 10 of the previous 15.
C Yadier Molina threw out a runner trying to steal in a key first-inning play. But his postseason hitting streak was snapped at 12 games.
BY THE NUMBERS: 100 - Postseason
victories by the Cardinals, who have lost 90 postseason games. The Cardinals are
second in postseason wins to the New York Yankees, who have 220.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's going to be as good as it gets."
LF Matt Holliday (strained tendon in right palm) re-injured his hand Sept. 27 and left the game, and he didn't play Sept. 28. He didn't start the opener of the NL Division Series, but he appeared as a pinch hitter. However, he felt more pain during the at-bat and was limited to pinch-hitting until he started again in Game 4 of the Division Series on Oct. 5.
RHP Adam Wainwright (Tommy John surgery in February 2011) went on the 60-day disabled list March 25. He will miss the entire 2011 season. Wainwright was getting closer to throwing a full-strength bullpen session in September, but he will not be allowed to throw his signature curveball until next year.
Thu., October 6: No game
Fri., October 7: at PHILLIES: Chris Carpenter vs. Roy Halladay, 7:37 P.M. CDT (TBS, ESPN Radio, KMOX).
VIDEO FROM FOXSPORTSMIDWEST.COM
Tony La Russa and the Cardinals preview the matchup of Chris Carpenter and Matt Holliday for Game 5.
Albert Pujols and Lance Berkman speak following the exciting six inning comeback over the Phillies.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel shares his thoughts after losing to the Cardinals Wednesday in Game 4.
Tony La Russa's full post-game comments (from MLB and ASAP Sports)
Q. How clutch would you say the two hits from David (Freese) were tonight?
TONY LA RUSSA: Huge. Oswalt was throwing the ball really, really well, and you get four runs on two swings: one a curveball and one a fastball. We had a lot of difference makers: Edwin (Jackson) settling down. The play that Albert (Pujols) made was huge at the time.
Q. If you could, can you expound on the play Albert made and the decision to go to third base?
TONY LA RUSSA: We talk about it all the time, that tell people he's a great player. And the way you're best doing it is just to explain actual things that he does that are great. He does it with base running, like that rundown he did in Philadelphia. His defense is great. He's always got an awareness of what the score is, and that was classic, and that's part of his greatness. He plays the whole game in a great way.
Q. Last night you expressed supreme confidence that your team would come out tonight and go about this the right way. Now that they did and now that it ended in a victory, what would you say about your team?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I mean, I wasn't making anything up because I've just seen them do it. I mean, we've been playing literally for I won't count the games, but we just seventh game of the World Series, last game of your life, whatever you want to use, and the urgency has been there and the effort and they're enjoying doing it. Guys on the bench are doing it, guys that play, everybody is playing. You lose a tough game, there's no doubt that that's our style now. It'll be that way Friday, too. You know, that's what's so nice about the post season. You can put that urgency because it really is there. If you don't win three games, you go home. But during the season we had a lot of ups and downs, lost some tough games, next day ready to play. That's what this club is.
Q. I was looking at Jackson's stats and stuff, and sort of historically the first inning has not been his best inning. Can you just talk about his ability to get it back together there and basically shut them down for the next five, six innings?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, he's got a lot of weapons. In fact, both clubs do. During the game everybody is hunting fastballs, they got two, we got one, and right away both pitchers and catchers started mixing in a lot of off speed stuff, and that's why it became tougher and tougher to score. But Jackson has got the ability to he threw change ups, he threw big breaking balls, smaller breaking balls. In fact, if you want to have something that's Major League plus, you watch the two catchers in the series. The way they handle pitching, those guys are really good. And that was the difference, both catchers. Yadi for our guy and Ruiz for their guy, just started mixing things up, and then it was much fun.
Q. Back on David Freese, he had struck out in four of his six at bats prior to that, but as a case of sticking with it, much like the team, I guess?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, truth is that we got together as a staff, and we talked about key parts. There was a question about Holliday, and just to make sure you're crossing all your T's there, we discussed whether it should be Freese or Descalso because Descalso has done a really good job. We know what David Freese is. This guy is a really tough competitor and he wipes the slate clean. I'm not saying that ask any of the coaches that were in that meeting. The vote was for David because we knew David was going to take a really tough at bat, whether he strikes or whatever. That's just what he is.
Q. I know you've talked about it before, the Toronto trade, but those guys and the way they played tonight, is that kind of how you drew it up?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I didn't draw it. The gentleman that made the trade was John Mozeliak. He's the guy, he talked to the coaches, the stuff about what our needs were, then he talked to the scouts. I mean, he pieced it all together. And then he would say, hey, we're close to this or that and then we were excited he could pull something off. He was deep into our club in all the areas that we were struggling.
Q. Lohse beat Halladay down the stretch of the regular season, and then you guys took a 3 0 lead in Game 1, so you're getting close. What are some of the keys to breaking through in Game 5?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I said it the second game there, just because I'm a baseball fan as much as anybody, what a thrill it would be to go back to Philadelphia and see Carp and Halladay go at each other. They've got so much common history and they're both great pitchers, great competitors, and now we're going to do it. It's going to be as good as it gets. We're looking forward to being there and trying our best. And they are so close, they both have a lot of weapons. You can see each of those guys four times and they'll give you something different all four times. Halladay is every bit as good as his record and his awards and all that, but Carp is in that same category.
Q. Kind of along the same lines, Charlie Manuel praised your club. He also said he thought it was a really good series. He thinks it's fitting it's going to go to Game 5. Do you concur with that?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I concur. I think it shows how competitive it's been. I said that day in Houston, as long as we're not playing them, the Phillies because they're so professional, the coaches, the managers are professional, the players are professional. It's really fun to compete against somebody at that high level because they're going to do things that are championship like and you try to compete with them, so it's been a fun series. Having it go five is a good statement about how good they are and how good we've stepped up. But I appreciate that compliment, and we feel the same way about them.
Q. I wonder if you could expound a little more on David because there doesn't appear to be any secret when he's going well, he's going to center field, he's going to right. I wonder with you and with Mark (McGwire) if it's a conscious effort to keep him going that way because it seems like all his big hits are either to center field or to right.
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I'd be careful because the first big hit was down the left field line. This question is better addressed by Mark. He's the hitting coach. Mike Aldrete also spends a lot of time. The thing about David that makes his such a big run producer now than in his whole career is he plays left center, right center, and he can take the ball inside and pull it. And he can hit the ball outside and hit it to right field. That's what all the really good hitters you might get him, but he's capable of making the adjustment. And as he gets more experience, he's going to be a hellacious winning player.
David Freese and Edwin Jackson post-game comments
Q. David, you and I have kind of talked about this before, but growing up in St. Louis, not only being in the post season for the first time but to have the kind of game you had tonight, how do you even describe it? Or what did that feel like and what are you feeling now?
DAVID FREESE: Yeah, I mean, I don't even really remember it. It's a dream to be a part of this. Ever since I got traded over from San Diego, I always just thought about the post season, the playoffs, and being a Cardinal in the post season. That's what this is all about. This is what you worked for, and just to do this in front of the fans of St. Louis and a bunch of friends and family, it's amazing.
Q. David, a couple weeks ago, you said that one of the home runs was the biggest hit of your career. How would you describe this one tonight?
DAVID FREESE: I think we can scratch that last one off the list. No, this one is huge. It brings us to Game 5, it gets us to a nice little Halladay Carpenter match up, and that's what we were striving for.
Q. Edwin, how much of a factor was the long layoff between starts for you? And you got off to a bit of a rough start. How did you keep that together and bounce back from that?
EDWIN JACKSON: It wasn't as much of a factor as it might have looked, just a matter of going out. I knew I would feel kind of strong. It was just a matter of going out and staying relaxed and controlled in the game instead of letting the game control me and getting overwhelmed with everything. I mean, they got off to a hot start. They came out first pitch of the game swinging double, and then everybody else keeps swinging. But we had a chance to strike them out, throw them out and get out of the inning. And from then on, I told myself keep it close, keep within striking distance, let these guys do what they did tonight, come back and score runs.
Q. David, I guess the beauty of the playoffs is momentum can change with just one swing. Can you talk about your struggles the first three games of the playoffs and then what changed tonight?
DAVID FREESE: Yeah, I think I have, what, 20 strikeouts so far this series. I mean, you go up against pitchers like this, you might have bad nights, but that's the beauty of this game. And I'm the type of guy, I'm going to come in the next day and not even remember what happened the night before, and I'm going to get my work in and keep battling and kind of after my first day just be thinking about some stuff and kind of worried about getting my front foot down. That's always a key for me offensively is getting my front foot down. My timing, I felt like, has been a little off. I just got some good pitches to hit. You go up against this staff, you're going to have to grind it out and you're not always going to have the best night, but tonight worked out.
Q. This question is actually for both. Edwin, you brought up the double play in the first inning. There was two really big defensive plays, that double play and then Pujols stepping off and throwing to third. Talk about how big both those plays were and then talk about that Pujols' play. Were you surprised by what he did? And David, the same thing, obviously you were ready but were you surprised that was coming at you?
EDWIN JACKSON: Definitely that was two big vital defensive plays definitely kept us in the game and kept runners off the base, strike them out, throw them out was big, calm down. The rally that they had going on in the first inning, then the play by Pujols, it kind of did actually surprise me to see him stepping off the base. But out of the corner of my eye, I did see the runner keep going. So once everything settled down, I knew what was going on. But at the time it did kind of surprise me a little bit. But that's what you get when you put veterans on the field. That's definitely a heads up play and a real veteran move.
Q. David, can you talk about your success on first pitch strikes so far in this series as opposed to getting a few strikes later in the count and how you've had a lack of success there and you've had a great deal of success on first pitch strikes?
DAVID FREESE: Yeah, I go to the plate ready to hit. I think you look at my numbers, I don't walk a lot. Obviously that's something that hopefully I build on. But I go up there trying to find a barrel. If I see something I like, I'm going to go after it, and sometimes it gets me in trouble, but I think you've got to be aggressive.
Q. Edwin, what was the thought going through your mind when you took the hill tonight in a must win game?
EDWIN JACKSON: It was kind of funny, this is probably the most relaxed I've been all season, and maybe so far one of the biggest games that I've pitched in. But it was just a matter of going out and doing what I've been doing all season. It's kind of funny you have to treat it like a regular season game even though if you lose it could send you home. You have to do that to not get overwhelmed, especially coming off extra days of rest. I knew I'd be feeling kind of strong and it would be easy to go out there and try to do too much. Just have to keep your poise and make them put the ball in play. That was my main thing, throw strikes. I've been watching the series from the bullpen these last few days and the pitchers have just been coming out and throwing strikes. And the ones that haven't have been in trouble. So that was going through my mind, just throw strikes, make them put the ball in play and let the defense work behind me.
Q. What was that move when you got to second base after the double? It was kind of a ...
DAVID FREESE: Well, that was excitement, but we kind of cross our arms on doubles. That's kind of our thing. I used to have a walk up sign, the DX theme, so that kind of stuck. Obviously we don't do the cross down below; you kind of bring it up higher for the kids. But that's just what we do.
Q. The big trades, you come from the White Sox, all those guys came from Toronto, Arthur Rhodes, Furcal came in later. What's it been like for you? Or what's it mean for all of you guys to contribute the way you have to help make all of this possible?
EDWIN JACKSON: I mean, it's been a blast. We brought a lot of energy over with us, pretty much every guy that they brought over has a lot of energy, and maybe that's what this team felt like they needed, and we just gelled in with what they already have, and everybody has been working out together perfect. You bring in two veteran bullpen guys and then a lefty who has great stuff and you throw him out in the bullpen, everybody in this trade has been vital. It's been like the missing pieces to the puzzle, and we've all been having a lot of fun, and that's how we are where we are today.
Q. I want to go back to that play in the 6th because up until then it was 3 2. Obviously you're covering third because of anything that might happen, but how surprised were you when the ball came at you and how big of a momentum change was that?
DAVID FREESE: Well, that was a tough hop on Furcal to begin with. I don't know if Pence would have been he would have been safe on that play if I would have stayed, but Albert is Albert, and he does stuff like that all the time. And you've just got to be ready, whether he's on the bases or on the field. His instincts are second to none in this game, and he threw me a bullet. And I knew the way Utley plays, he plays his heart out and I knew he was going to come in hard and I was just trying to catch the ball and hang on to it.
Q. Knowing the kind of competitor that Carp is and the way he pitched in Game 2, have you guys noticed his demeanor around the clubhouse? Was he pretty upset about that the next couple days? And does anyone want the ball more in a Game 5 situation?
DAVID FREESE: You know, Carp is all about winning, bottom line. That's what he said after his outing. We fought back, and that's what Carp wants, he wants to win. And he wants that ballgame 5, and he's going to be ready. He knows what we're going up against in Philly with Halladay and their offense, but I think that they understand that we're going to bring our A game. And it's going to be exciting. It's going to be a lot of fun, and we'll see what happens.
Q. Sorry if you answered this, but growing up in St. Louis, having this game at home, is this the kind of thing you dream about in your back yard as a kid?
DAVID FREESE: Yeah, I dreamed about the World Series, but having a night like this in front of the people at Busch Stadium is unreal, and this crowd has been amazing the last few nights. Growing up coming to these games, dreaming to be a part of this is definitely something special.
Q. I posed this question to Tony: Is there a conscious effort on your part when you're going well to go to center field, right field? Obviously you did get the big hit to left tonight, but do you feel at your best when you're trying to get the ball right back up the middle?
DAVID FREESE: Yeah, that's the type of hitter I am. I don't go out there and try to hit home runs, I just try and hit line drives. When guys are on base, I try and act like nobody is on base and try and just be me and try and just go gap the gap, and sometimes it leaves.
Q. What was your thought when the ball cleared the wall on the home run ball?
DAVID FREESE: Wow, that's nice. I was happy it left. I knew I hit it pretty good, but you never know, especially in this park. But just to give our pitchers a little cushion just to work with because we know what type of offense Philly has, and they're going to play a full nine, and the bullpen that we have and what they're doing right now is awesome.
Q. Edwin, I know you don't know what's going to happen this winter or whatever, and you're not focused on that, but is it gratifying to go out there in a game where it's potentially your last one here, pitch the way you did, and maybe give yourself a chance to come back and pitch some more here?
EDWIN JACKSON: Definitely. I definitely hope that I do have more opportunities to pitch here. But right now we're just focusing on one game at a time, and hopefully have more opportunities to pitch here in the playoffs. We can go Friday and take care of business, I'll have more opportunity to be in a Cardinal uniform. But anything else besides that, I haven't really been focused on, I've just been focused on trying to go out and win ball games here and concentrate on what we have going on in front of us right now.