ECKSTEIN: Without a doubt. The person who doesn't
get much credit is Jose Oquendo. From day one in Spring Training,
he had me and Grudz trying to get a little better, a little
quicker. Grudzielanek turns one of the quickest double plays in
the league. It's something we pretty much [did] from day one. It's a
lot of fun. I think you have to give a lot of credit to Mulder.
Mulder early on probably wasn't as sharp as he'd like. He let
some runners on but was able to get the [groundout] when he needed.
How many squeeze bunts have you had this year,
and what goes through your mind when you see the sign from Jose
ECKSTEIN: I had quite a few; probably about four or
five, I think, on the year. I know that at some point in time,
it's going to be on, especially if we didn't do it the first time,
that sometime during the second at-bat with a man on third that
it was going to happen, but I love it. It's one of my favorite
plays. All the pressure's on to get the ball down, you know, and
I just enjoy that.
David, can you describe what you're thinking when
Mulder takes that ball off his arm in the second inning?
ECKSTEIN: I was kind of happy. No, I'm joking. It
calmed him down, you know what I mean. I think his sinker
started working a lot better, and he was able to hit the zone.
We were actually scared. You don't want to have to make up seven
innings, and that's going to be tough. If you notice right after
that happened, he wasn't muscling the pitches up to the plate.
He was going up there and just letting it flow, and his sinker
started working. He did such a fantastic job. I know it was
killing him, but he's a tough guy.
What did you think Mark's chances were of getting
down a two-strike bunt?
ECKSTEIN: After the first two attempts? I mean, he
battles up there. You know, I mean, it was one of those things.
He does a good job. I mean, he -- he does a good job with the
bat just being his first year over here in the National League,
and he laid down a perfect bunt, you know. It was one of those
things that you've just got to tip your cap to him. It was a
pretty good pitch, and he was able to get it down. You saw what
happened the next time up, but we're just, you know, very
fortunate he was able to get that one down.
David, let's talk about home-field advantage.
You guys can't ask for better situation like that.
ECKSTEIN: We had home-field advantage. That's the
job, and the one thing we've gotta do, we've gotta stay
aggressive. We've gotta stay aggressive. The guys in the
clubhouse are ready to play. We can't wait to get over there,
and we'll be ready to play at 8:00 on Saturday night.
Speaking of 8:00, what do you think of that
starting time? For your fans, that's 10:00 here.
ECKSTEIN: I was sound asleep last night by that time.
It's going to be a little bit different. They're trying to
accommodate everybody, and there's a lot, you know, more of a
prime-time game probably going on and with the college football,
they just, you know, put us wherever they wanted to put us. Our
job is to show up and play. Whatever time they make for us,
we'll be ready to play. They said 9:00 -- I mean 8:00 -- and we'll
be ready to play.
Can you talk about Reggie's ability to come
through with the clutch?
ECKSTEIN: He's big. I saw it in 2002 when I was with
the Angels and he was with the Giants. There's -- there's a
certain coincidence. How come every time he plays on a team,
their team is successful? I mean, he's a big part of that, and
he's great in the clubhouse, and he thrives on those moments, [and]
his at-bats with men in scoring position are unbelievable. He
takes them and is able to get good wood on the ball and just find
some holes. He's a big key. He's a big key for this club, and
we're very lucky to have him.
David, at the end of the season, you guys have
gone through sort of a downslide, but this team really looks like
it's in rhythm. Can you flip a switch? Can you do it like that?
What do you attribute it to?
ECKSTEIN: Going down the stretch, we're trying to get
everybody healthy. Once we had it clinched, we were trying to
get everybody healthy and ready to play. In this game we can't
flip a switch. We're not that good, but I think this past
weekend, coming into the final three days here at Busch and with
all the distractions and everything like that, I think that
helped us get ready for the situations today. We were able to
come out there and -- and play hard, especially on that Sunday
game. We were down 5-1 and we were able to come back and win
that game. This club is relentless, and it's -- it's a good
quality to have.
Some of the things that the Cardinals did today
are almost extinct to the American League. How much more time --
how much more emphasis is there on this team than on the Angels
and on other teams on small ball?
ECKSTEIN: Scioscia does a good job with it in
Anaheim, but for the rest of the league, it's like you said, it's
almost nonexistent. It's something that is not really played
over there. You have so many big hitters, especially with the
DH, you don't want to give up one at-bat. You come over here,
and as you can see, the game works. I mean, you put a lot of
pressure on the opposition and you create holes for yourself, and
it's something that -- it's a good way to score runs. It's -- I
mean, I saw it last night with the Angels playing the Yankees.
You have Steve Finley bunting with a man on first, you know what
I mean. You won't ever seen that. AK comes up there and does
the same thing. It's something that wins you ballgames, and
Tony has a good knack of picking the right pitches, putting us in
a good situation to succeed.
Courtesy of FastScripts by ASAP Sports. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.