Early on, dynamite from pitch one. Angles of the breaking balls, good location with the fastball, very aggressive. He pitched with intent, conviction. He executed. Martin just took him around wherever we wanted him to go with the hitters. A big game performance for Gerrit. He also mixed his changeup in well. Just what we needed.
Q. More so than the stuff that he had today, what did you see from him approaching the Cardinals for the first time, approaching a playoff game for the first time?
CLINT HURDLE: Just what we've been seeing all year. You saw a focused man that was ready to go. He was prepared. He had done his work. He has all the faith in the world in the game plan and trusting it. And when it came time to shove time and a couple at batters, a couple at bats got strung out on him. 3-2 at bats, you got a couple of called third strikes. There really was no give. He kept attacking them and made sure they were going to beat him with the bat. They weren't going to beat him any other way today, and he had good enough pitches today that that really didn't happen.
Q. Sort of along those lines, the at bat against Beltran in the sixth, it seemed like they hit a home run the inning before, had a guy on base. There was a lot of energy in the park, it goes to 3-2. I mean, obviously he -- what about his poise handling that situation?
CLINT HURDLE: Well, as we said, there's been a young, elite group of pitchers bust on the scene, and we're fortunate we have one. You don't get playoff experience other than getting to the playoffs and meeting those challenges and having those opportunities. You get to. Not that you got to. And that's one of the things that we continue to share with our guys throughout the season. It's not a got to situation; it's a get to. It's a mindset. I think he's embraced that as well as anybody we have with limited Major League experience.
The venue today, it's a challenge. You're down one game in the set. You're going against a guy that's won 16 games against a hot ballclub. All of it, you know? And as I heard Whitey say a long time ago, your momentum is as good as your next day's starting pitcher's effort. And we picked up some momentum when he hit the mound today.
Q. Did you see encouraging signs from Justin Morneau particularly with his ability to drive the ball the opposite way?
CLINT HURDLE: Yeah, he's been working hard. He hasn't gotten in a groove by any means or hot. He hasn't gotten the ball in the air at times. There are always challenges for you in this game. Coming into this environment, there might have been some times when he might be pushing the pedal a little bit too hard. Doesn't matter how many years you have. It's a different situation. It's a different group of guys. You want them to know you're here to make a difference, and then you want him to make that difference. I think he's finding better rhythm, better rhyme at the plate. He's going to help us and he already has in many other ways, and the bat is a big part of it.
We broke down his entire season and we saw what he was able to do in August, and, I mean, he hit pitches. He hit velocity, he hit all of it, it just hasn't played out as well for us at this point. But the intangibles and the fact that they get on track is going to help him a lot as well.
Q. You've often talked about how Pedro hits a ball like a few players you've played with or managed. Can you just talk about him doing it on a stage like this?
CLINT HURDLE: It's another young man we've got that continues to pave new paths. I mean, again, this is a show up game for us. We had to show up. Whether you're going to win or not, you don't know. But we've got to show up. We've got to show up prepared, ready to play, play clean, pitch it clean, catch it clean, have some good at bats when we needed them. We were able to do all of that.
Nothing better than Pedro getting his running hot right away. There is not a park he can't hit it out of. He can drive it out from line to line. He misses balls when they carry over the fence. He didn't catch the double today, one bounced out, then he catches it a little firmer and he rides it up on the hill. He's turned into a Major League run producer and a threat every time he walks up there.
Q. What kind of lift is that for the rest of the team when your pitcher knocks in the first run of the game after an intentional walk?
CLINT HURDLE: It's a lift, and unfortunately we're kind of getting used to it, because he's done it a couple times this year. He gave us a big swing of the bat in Chicago coming down the stretch. He's our best hitting pitcher. It's kind of funny, but, I mean, every time before he goes up, he wants another pitcher, he wants to know the fastball movement, he wants to know what the secondary pitch is. He takes it all in.
And he's made something happen on numerous occasions, but that was a real good feel for us when he hits that sharp single up the middle. And there's probably not enough defensive information on him right now to have any shifting, but they're probably starting to create some.
Q. Gerrit gave up some big innings in Triple A earlier this year, and I think he was averaging like 20 pitches per inning. Efficiency wise, being able to avoid those big innings, what kind of progress and what clicked there for him?
CLINT HURDLE: Part of it can just be making that next jump. I'm not saying that anybody takes things for granted ever where you're competing. But you're in a different environment. You're in a different environment. In Triple A you go through lineups and there might be three good hitters in the lineup. You come into the Big Leagues, everybody that walks up there can hurt you if you're not sharp, you don't pay attention and you don't locate.
I think as much as anything his attention has been -- he's had to raise his attention to another level. He gave up enough hits early that I think that also helped grab his attention in a couple of the early starts when he was riding it up there hot at 96, 97, getting the line back through the box.
And he figured some things out. The changing of speeds, the curveball, the location, and obviously having Martin behind the plate, I think, has been a big, big help for him as well on where go to spots.
Q. How important was it to get one game here at least and go home not down 2-0?
CLINT HURDLE: It's important, there is no doubt. You get in these scenarios and you lose two games, you go anywhere, that's a tough hole to dig out of. It can happen. We wanted to get a game; we got a game. We didn't lose sight of the fact that we had an opportunity today. We moved upon it. We've done this before.
This does not surprise us. We beat a good team. We played good baseball. You play good baseball, you got a chance to win. We didn't play good baseball last time. We had no shot to win.
And now we getting to back to our house, which has been a good place for us to play. And we'll have Liriano on the mound. So from that standpoint, we're set up as strong as we could want to be set up for Game 3.
Q. To follow up on that, Liriano has pitched so well at your place, how big is it for you to have him out there?
CLINT HURDLE: You know, he goes out and gives us the type of outing he has given us at home, we'll have a game that we'll have an opportunity to win. It's a very unique environment that's been building throughout the season. It reached a high point last Tuesday night. I anticipate us seeing more of the same when we get back.
But it's been a very, very good place for Frank to pitch just with the sequences of pitches, the ability to spin the ball, still ride the fastball, pitch the right handers in the big part of the park, the left centerfield notch out there. It's all worked out very well for him.
Q. Not that Gerrit was ever in trouble or anything, but in the sixth inning there when he walked, the one out walk and Beltran and Holliday are coming up and the crowd gets into it a little bit, and that eight pitch at bat with Carlos and he strikes him out looking. Is that sort of do you look at that as a statement that he really belongs on this stage? Did he step it up? Was that a key moment at all?
CLINT HURDLE: We don't put a lot of focus on making statements. We get outs. We score runs. We make plays. When you get results, it gets people's attention. So on this stage, obviously, it raises the attention level.
I didn't think there was anybody over there that didn't think -- St. Louis, they've seen the tapes, they've seen him pitch, they know he's got skills and his ability to compete.
But it was impressive down the field for me in the last three at bats, really. It took 21 pitches to face the last three guys. And, again, he stayed on point with conviction and was just going to keep going at them. And he did go at them, and he made a huge effort for us today when it was very much needed.