10/11/05 5:05 PM ET
Chris Carpenter off-day interview
Cardinals pitcher talks about facing Astros batters in the NLCS
By / MLB.com
CARPENTER: Definitely exciting. I'm looking forward to it. Frustrating last year not being able to be a part of it, but you know, I'm excited about it, looking forward to tomorrow night and competing against a quality club. These guys have been playing well and they have got a good team and we've got to go and play our best baseball.
Obviously you just mentioned that you were not involved in this last year; how much better equipped is the staff as a whole, the rotation than it was last year at this time?
CARPENTER: You know, I think we're all solid guys that are competitors that know how to prepare and we know what it takes to pitch at this level.
I think everybody has been here before, besides me, but I was able to do it last series. Everybody's got the experience of pitching in the post season. Mark was big, he's been involved in the post season before, and he knows what it takes to pitch at this level, and you've got to be prepared and be ready to come out and be at the top of your game to beat this quality of a club.
I think that we all are and we're all going to be prepared and ready to go just like we were last series.
What concerns you most about the Houston batting order?
CARPENTER: They are a lot like our club. They take quality at bats, they are patient, they have an idea about what they are doing and the pitcher that they are facing. They have got speed, they have got some guys that can hit the ball out of the park. They have got quality guys from top to bottom and definitely, like I say, you've got to be on your game and make quality pitches to get these guys out.
With the extra time off, what have you done to stay sharp since there's not the normal rotation you guys have had all season?
CARPENTER: Just going to continue to do my work. Sometimes at this point in time, a couple extra days are nice, so it was nice to win that last game there in San Diego and have a nice day off on Sunday and then yesterday come in and get a work out in and have some nice, long toss and then again today and get ready for tomorrow.
I don't know if you have been asked this question, but the success you've had this year against them what does that mean going forward?
CARPENTER: It's a new game tomorrow night. That's the way I looked at it all year. I think that's why I was successful all year, because no matter what I did the last start, this next start was a different one, and you can't take the results from the last start into your next one. You have to prepare differently and prepare yourself to go out and execute pitches.
Like I said, if you don't do that, no matter who you're facing, they are going to beat you. My last start of the year against them, they went out and got some hits.
It's a new game, everybody is going to be pumped up a little bit. I think that you've got to go out and relax and execute pitches the way I've done all year and I'll be okay.
As good as your rotation is, how formidable is theirs, now that Oswalt and Clemens are lined up on full rest?
CARPENTER: They have quality pitching. It's a different look than what they had the year without Andy there and all of a sudden they throw Andy out there in Game 1, with Roger and Oswalt behind him, that's what got them there, is their pitching, and they proved that all year. It looks like Andy has just continued to get stronger and stronger as the year has gone on.
But I'm pitching against the offense, and my hitters have to take care of their guys, so I'm concerned about going out and making quality pitches and not worrying about who I'm facing on the other side.
I don't know if you've answered this, but can you describe the intensity of the Cardinals/Astros and how does it compare to Cardinals/Cubs?
CARPENTER: Cardinals/Astros since I've been here in 2002 or 2003, they are a lot like us. They go out and play the game the right way. They have veteran leaders on that club that know how to play the game. They have young guys that know how to play the game the right way and they love to go out and compete just like we do. It makes for an exciting match up because there's no extra stuff going on besides going out and competing and playing the game the right way and trying to do the best you can to win. That's what made this series exciting last year and that's is going to make it exciting this year, too.
This is a rematch, but there's a lot of new elements on both teams; could you talk a little bit about the changes on your club especially up the middle defensively?
CARPENTER: As they showed last series, our guys, and all year, our guys up the middle with Eck have been turning double plays and making double plays all year long. It's nice to have them there. You get a key situation, get a ground ball and they make a double play, it gets you out of some trouble.
Understanding the game, knowing how to handle the pitchers has been big and with those two guys up the middle and Jimmy in center that runs all over the place and catches every ball hit out there.
And then with Mark, you know, coming to the starting rotation, I think that it gives us a new little look with that lefty there and a guy that's been there before that has pitched in the post season and is a competitor and wants to win. He's going to be at the top of his game, too.
How much does having a manager like La Russa who has experience in the postseason keep you guys focused with the layoff?
CARPENTER: I don't think it's as much Tony as it is the quality of guys that we have in the clubhouse to understand where we're at and what we're trying to do. San Diego was the first step and we're going to try to win the three games as fast as possible. Everybody knows what it takes to get themselves ready to compete and even with the day off on Sunday, there's guys here yesterday working out, and guys here today obviously who are working out and getting ready to go.
Like I said, at this time of the year, sometimes those extra days are nice to give the guys a nice little day off and with Larry getting hit that day and giving him a chance to heal up and giving Mark a chance to heal up a bit, I think everybody was looking forward to that nice day Sunday.
The Cardinals having been in the World Series last year, the moves and winning 100 games, is there more pressure on the team now to win it all this year?
CARPENTER: I think as much as we put on it. I think that when you get to the playoffs, I've said this before, there's eight teams. Now there's four, but there was eight teams, and there's a reason why all of those eight teams were here and that's because they played quality baseball all year.
The records and stats, everything else, goes out the window and it's a new series every single series and a new game every game. So it doesn't matter what club you're playing. You've got to come out and play quality baseball and at this point in time in the season when there's four teams left, whoever plays the best baseball is going to win and hopefully we can continue to do what we did in San Diego in the San Diego series and play good baseball.
Beltran and Kent both had big series last time in this series, do you approach the lineup differently without those guys?
CARPENTER: You can't. You're facing a Major League Baseball team that has quality hitters and there's a reason why they are here, no matter who is in Atlanta, if you don't make pitches they are going to beat you. You can't leave the ball over the middle of the plate. You can't leave the ball up, you have to get the ball down in the strike zone and get groundballs no matter who you are facing, whether it's Kent, Bonds, Beltran, no matter who you're facing, you have to make quality pitches or you're going to get beat. They are here for a reason, they scored a bunch of runs in the Atlanta series, so you have to make quality pitches.
In the back of your mind, did you think it would be the Astros again, in the NLCS, did you think it would come down to this again?
CARPENTER: Me personally, never thought about it. I was concerned about Wednesday against San Diego. Wasn't looking ahead and we just know that as a team, we're going to like I said just a minute ago, at the time there was eight teams. Now there's four, no matter who you're playing, you're going to be playing a quality team and no matter who you're facing, if you don't go out and play good baseball, you're going to get beat and you have to go out and do that.
Is there any concern over your hand cramping up again or is that just the result of an unusually hot day?
CARPENTER: I think people misunderstood. It wasn't just my hand. I had cramps all over my body, it wasn't just about my hand, I had it in my hamstring, my shoulder, both hands, my calves, so I'm not concerned about that. I think it was just a day that was hot, I was sweating and I cramped up. I'm not going to be concerned about that tomorrow night. I'm looking forward to going out and being strong.
As you said, the heat probably won't be a factor tomorrow, but if it's this cold, are you worried about being able to keep a grip on the ball and how do you keep your hands warm out there on the mound so that you can get the grip that you need?
CARPENTER: Another question I never think of. I'm not concerned about it. I've never had that problem.
I'm a guy that will sweat when it's 20 degrees out, so I'm going to be pleasantly warm and I'm not concerned with grips or anything like that. I've never had a problem.
You're set for Game 1 and Game 5, when you go to Houston to pitch. Do you look at your performance as pitching to their weakness, to the ballpark, to your strengths; how does it break down when you go to a quirky place like that place?
CARPENTER: Again, doesn't concern me. I've said to you all year that no matter what ballpark you're pitching in and what team you're facing, you can get beat anywhere and if you don't make good pitches, I won't change my game, I won't change my approach. I'm just going to continue to go out and pound the strike zone and get the ball down.
It's an obvious question, but how critical is it to keep Biggio and Tavares from getting on the base paths early on?
CARPENTER: It's no question, you keep those guys off the bases when Ensberg and Berkman come up and it's not going to be as much damage if they get you for one. But I think that's key with any order. It's the same with ours. If you don't keep Eckstein off the base paths, we're going to score runs. You go one out at a time and try to keep them off balance and keep them out of their game and keep them off the base paths.
Do you enjoy the pressure and the responsibility of being the No. 1 guy?
CARPENTER: I do and it doesn't concern me. We have five guys that have been here before, and at this point in time in the season, if you don't have a guy out on the mound that believes in themselves and believes that they can be that No. 1 guy, you're going not going to have a whole lot of success. We have five guys that can go out there and win at any time. I think that's what's nice about this staff.
Courtesy of FastScripts by ASAP Sports. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.