PHIL GARNER: Oh, no, Roger volunteered. You guys are in a good spot in here (laughing).
Rocket volunteered, but he was actually way down in the depth chart. You don't plan for 18 inning ballgames. Those that followed me for the last couple years know I'm willing to use everybody I have to try to win the ballgame in nine innings. That's what we did tonight. Nice Sunday afternoon softball game where everybody got to play.
I think somewhere around the eighth inning, Rocket was down there. He was volunteering, saying, "I'm ready to go." We talked about it prior to the game. My pitching coach Jim Hickey and I, we had it laid out. We were at Qualls, we said Qualls, Lidge, Wheeler were going to have two, three innings, then Rocket was going to have it after that.
How long were you prepared to go with Roger, and did it ever cross your mind since there were no pitchers left that somebody other than a pitcher might have to go?
GARNER: Oh, yeah, we had contingency plans, and fortunately that didn't have to happen. But, you know, I think, I think this whole ballgame kind of is exemplary of what Rocket is all about. I mentioned it last night. I think our players are picking up on -- because when Roy got the lead last night, you saw different pitching than when he went on the mound.
The determination in Rocket, the only surprise I have today is he didn't hit a home run in that last at bat. That, I honestly felt like this is something that's made for, you know, a great movie, because the guy's going to go up there and he was not going to be denied today. He might have thrown 10, 20 innings, and I'm honest with you when I say that. I think he was prepared to do whatever it took. And that's the way the man is. I've never seen anybody like him; he's amazing.
So he was going to be out there the next inning?
GARNER: Yes, he was.
GARNER: Well, I think it was probably somewhere in the 10th or 11th inning I recalled the 16 inning game we had here. You remember that, I played in that game. I wasn't nearly as tired in that game because I got taken out in the 8th inning. There was a book written on it called "The Greatest Game Ever Played." I think there's going to be a sequel on it, this is going to be the greatest game ever played.
I can't imagine a better game with as much on the line as this game, and to have performances on both sides of the field that were as critical and as good as they were and have a game like this, it was -- it was unfortunate that somebody had to win or had to lose this game, actually. I'm certainly glad we won.
Did you have guys in positions they hadn't played before all season, such as catchers at first base?
GARNER: Actually, (Raul) Chavez was the only guy that hadn't played, I don't think, in a field position. Brad Ausmus has played in other positions, but these guys take groundballs every day. They actually enjoy doing it. I thought both Brad and Chavez did a nice job over there. Actually, Chavez signed as a shortstop anyway, so he moves well out there.
So I never felt uncomfortable with that at all. Never felt uncomfortable with it at all. And it worked out all right for us.
What were your thoughts when it was 6-1? Hudson was pitching so much better than he had been the other day. Did you think it was a lost cause or did you think you could come back?
GARNER: I said to Cooper, our bench coach, somewhere in the fifth inning, Cecil Cooper, I said it's going to take a couple of breaks and someone's going to have to bust one long. The way they were pitching us, that was Hudson that I had seen in previous years in the American League with good sinking fastball, keeping the ball down in the zone, and just didn't give us much.
And sure enough, we got something going. And Lance (Berkman) comes up with a big boom. Then of course Ausmus with a big boom, too.
Was it a difficult call to run for Berkman when you did, and how amazing is it that the guy who ran him ended up hitting the game winning home run?
GARNER: That's a good volunteer from Tennessee, Chris Burke is.
It wasn't difficult. I wouldn't have been able to sleep had we had a ball, you know their outfield is extremely fast and strong arms. If you get a bloop base hit, and we're fighting on, we fought to get back in the game. To get a bloop base hit in front of those guys out there, they're all aggressive, have great arms, if we don't have a chance to win a ballgame right there, I won't be able to sleep tonight and I won't like myself too much tomorrow.
So it's always a risk when you take out your big guns, Lamb and Berkman. But I wanted to take a chance. If somebody's going to hit the ball, it was going to be close, I wanted to have the best runner I had available to score a winning run, and it will go from there.
Have you ever seen Ausmus hit a ball that hard?
GARNER: Well, actually, yes. He hit that ball well, there's no question. But Brad has done a super job. The last half of this season, he's gone somewhat unnoticed in his contribution to the club. You know, other guys, Lamb has gotten hot, you know, Lance was swinging the bat pretty good. Brad just kind of slid under the radar. But he's been really swinging the bat well and come up with major hits for us. He's hitting down in the lineup, where it's not easy to hit when you're in the eight spot, people will pitch around you. But he absolutely tattooed it.
Pettitte is pitching the next game that you pitch here?
GARNER: Let me digest this a little bit. You might assume that and be correct, but let me digest all this before we go to the next level. This is much too fun now. Don't get me nervous again, all right.
If it had gone 22 innings and Roger couldn't have pitched anymore, what position player had you penciled in to pitch if you really, really had to?
GARNER: Jason Lane. He's a former pitcher. He pitched at USC.
Courtesy of FastScripts by ASAP Sports. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less