He gives every man that takes the ball and gets on that mound the feeling that they're the best out there. Not just the best right now, the best. He speaks very clearly to them. They know that they can throw anything they want with conviction. And it's going to get stopped. You saw that repeatedly today with the number of balls that were blocked through the first five innings, and a few thereafter. The game calling and the ability to come up with a Plan B on occasion, which we've had to do, he's got in his back pocket, he's not afraid to pull it out and go. He's very creative back there. He's solidified everything we've done from behind the plate.
Q. Skipper, can you talk a little about Russell's offensive contributions tonight? A little less subtle than the other night when he hit two over the fence, but important nonetheless.
CLINT HURDLE: Oh, very important. You're in situations there with runners at third and less than two outs and you're looking for something to get up in the air to move somebody. I think the time down after the season gave him an ability to catch his breath a little bit. I have no he's better than a .220 hitter, better than a .230 hitter. I think the wear and tear kind of wore him down this year. He has offense to offer the team multiple ways. You're seeing it now, as you said, with the big swing the other night, and then tonight with situational hitting, performing and getting some things done.
And he just loves to play. He's a backyard ballplayer like a lot of those guys. He loves to be in those spots. He has tremendous confidence regardless of the outcome.
Q. Clint, the Cardinals tied the score twice tonight and almost immediately your guys battled back. You talked about after losses how they shower well. What exactly are they doing in game to kind of bounce back from the tie scores and keep going on?
CLINT HURDLE: The quality of our at bats has shown up the last two nights throughout the lineup. We've given ourselves opportunities and chances, whether it be by a walk or a situation where you extend an inning. We've had some two out RBI's. We're just playing a much better and solid offensive game the last two nights. It's pretty simple.
When the score is tied, you have to score. You're not always able to do that every night. But you have to find a way to get on, make something happen. We've been road blocked ourselves late in the eighth. We were able to push through that and create an opportunity and still plate two more runs. It's not like we're trying harder than the other team. Sometimes it does come down to execution, it comes down to pitchers. You're getting a handle at the plate and what you're able to do with them.
Q. Francisco not as sharp as he has been in the past couple of games. When you are thinking about some of the jams he got himself into, can you just speak about his ability to be able to remain calm and then have his teammates back him up to get him out of there?
CLINT HURDLE: Yeah. He didn't have his best stuff tonight. In the numbers situation, he had to go in there and make sure that he made pitches where we have to make plays. There were a few walks involved. I think just two walks, one hit batter. Many three ball counts. I think eight on the night. So that was challenging in and of itself.
The fact he never gave in, he didn't give up the big inning. They did get two in the fifth and he labored through his delivery and he got out of the stretch. I think as important as anything that happened, he said he had enough in him to go back out for the sixth and give us a very efficient inning so we can go the way we went out on the bullpen to finish it off.
Q. Do you allow yourself the luxury of thinking about the significance of the position you're in to basically be able to close this at home and having played well, as you said, the last two days after not playing well the first game?
CLINT HURDLE: You know, we'll just get ready to play tomorrow. Where it takes us, it will take us. We're focused on playing clean baseball. We're trying to play smart. We will always play hard. We try and play smart as well. We've worked extremely hard all season, so we're earning our way. You have to continue to earn your way here especially late in the postseason. Not much is given to you.
We'll have an opportunity obviously tonight to go out at home and win a ballgame. Obviously, if that happens we'll be in a much better place moving forward.
Q. Clint, do you feel Pedro Alvarez is relishing the chance to play in a big stage like this the way he's performed in this series so far?
CLINT HURDLE: There's not a guy out there that's not relishing this opportunity. Then when you have some success and you do some significant things, obviously you get talked about than some other people. Very impressive at bat tonight late left on left after a challenging start to the game. He is a very competitive young man, and he really doesn't let one at bat fall into the next. You might get the same result, but he's able to move from at bat to at bat from inning to inning on defense. You saw him make a really nice play early in the slow roller. All facets of his game he pushes himself extremely hard.
He's trying to make adjustments. And I think we're seeing a lot of those adjustments more so this year than maybe we have in the past and we're seeing some in the postseason. So yeah, they get your attention.
Q. Clint, Kelly had given your offense some problems early on in the first couple of starts against Pittsburgh. In the first inning it took him 28 pitches to get out of that inning. You talked about situational hitting. How important was it to jump ahead of him doing it that way?
CLINT HURDLE: With this crowd here, you like to get out early. Because it's impressive, the fact that we were able to make him work. After him having some non taxing innings against us in the past, to get the count up to 28 he showed what he wanted to do early. Actually had better fastball command down than we've seen from him in the past. He was pounding the zone down.
As the game went on, the fastball elevated a little bit. Went to the breaking ball early that's because of Wainwright's breaking ball. We were able to work a number of offensive counts. We didn't always get the results we wanted. We worked hard to get in the position for someone to show up. Byrd did with a two out knock after a couple of guys had worked their way on. That played out well just to give us a push out of the plate.
Q. Charlie Morton was in here earlier saying he learned to simplify his approach over the season. What have you seen from him that gives you even greater confidence in him? Especially the last 11 starts have been pretty good.
CLINT HURDLE: A lot of mound maturity. A lot of personal maturity. We got him away from I think at times overwhelmed by left handed batting averages against him in the past couple of years. He's going to give up a lot of groundballs. When you give up a lot of groundballs, balls are going to sneak through the infield. I do think that kind of got stuck on him. We got rid of the cutter, basically asked him to get rid of it. Nailed the sinker. Spot the four seamer. Throw the breaking ball which has become a nice weapon for him and also a split change. He's kept it simple. He's throwing more strikes. When that sinker is on, it plays well in this park. Actually anywhere, but really well in this park. I've never seen him as confident as he's been this year. He's pitched extremely well from time to time, given us some good games. The confidence on the mound standing on the rubber is a high for him.
Q. Clint, Mike Matheny referred to the Cardinals having to fix their eyes because it was tough to see early. Was that an issue at all for your hitters? And if Byrd was on the fastball in the first inning? And then how big was the at bat he had in the eighth inning after McCutchen was thrown out at third?
CLINT HURDLE: He has continually found a way to add to the offense whatever it takes. There's been some good at bats, worked some, there have been some walks, the barrel showed up. The RBI's are playing. All of it. He has been basically a hired gun. He's come in as an independent contractor on the offensive side of things and really shown up well.
The professional at bats he's given us, I think if anybody is relishing in the opportunity to play in the postseason, it's him. He's done a lot of yard work to get here. There's a large volume of work he's put behind him to get this opportunity. But we saw the quality of the work he's able to do. He's just continuing to have that type of success. And more often than that it's that type of confidence at the plate he never feels he's out at an at bat.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Clint. Congratulations.
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