October 2006

Time to reflect


Human beings are emotional people, especially when they deal with something as emotional as this. And it’s been a very emotional season. We’ve had a change of destiny so many different times. I think that there’s going to be more reflection. I know there’s disappointment obviously right now, but there’s going to be more reflection on how special the year was, as opposed to how disappointing it was to finish like we did. But I don’t think guys look at it as a disappointment the way we finished. I can’t speak for everybody else and how they’ll react to the result of the series, but I’m sure that as time goes on, there’s going to be a sense of reward for all the work that we put in.

It’s incredible to believe the season’s over. I guess that’s the risk you take. We knew going in tonight obviously that if you lose, you go home, and if you win, you keep on going. It’s tough to come to the realization that there is no tomorrow, but like I said before, as time goes on, it’ll soak in that we did some pretty awesome things this year. As a team, we probably in most cases went beyond our goals. We certainly achieved things that people didn’t expect us to achieve. And with the result that we have now, the next goal is to go ahead and win the whole thing.

I guess after we get home and pack our things and walk out of that clubhouse for the last time, once we do that, that’ll be the closure. And then it’ll be time to take a little break. It’ll be a little bit shorter break this year now, and we like it that way. But after that, you get back to business, prepare for next year and make a run for it.

It’s funny. Last year, you’re talking about just getting to .500 at this time. And here we are, making goals of winning a world championship. It sure would’ve been nice to get it done this year, but we’ve got a good core coming back. We’ve got a good team coming back. We’ve got a manager that we believe in. There’s a belief system here that you can’t take away. It’s going to be a fun spring and there’s going to be a lot of expectations going into next year.

Win or go home

It’s a tough one, obviously, to lose. And it puts us in a difficult situation to come back and do this, but Skip reminded us it’s one game at a time, bottom line. We know that, and we know where we’re at with it. And it starts with tomorrow. If we win tomorrow, we go back home, and we play two at home and we’ll be in pretty good hands getting back home. It’s up to JV to set a tone tomorrow and we go from there.

It looked like the team we’ve been playing like this postseason for the first part of this game. We just couldn’t hold onto it. Just a couple situations. Grandy slips out there. It’s been raining here pretty much for a day and a half straight. Those things happen. Every little thing, it’s magnified and it’s a huge moment, and it can turn into a huge moment, too. But it can all turn around tomorrow, too. Momentum can totally shift. We know that. I’ve seen it. And it’s certainly happened before in the postseason, so we’ll see what happens.

We certainly would like to get out there tomorrow. Even though momentum’s on their side right now, these guys can go back out there and step up and do well. Nobody’s panicked here. We know what we can do. We’ve done it all year, but now it’s win or go home, and we know that. But this team’s achieved so much, and we’re not ready to wrap that up yet.

Good pitching beats good hitting

Nate_2I’ll probably be able to think back to the thrill of pitching in a World Series game. I mean, let’s go win this thing and it won’t matter. But my moment was during the national anthem and the flyover, and then it was business.

When you’re pitching on long rest, some guys might be rusty, some guys not. For me tonight, I wasn’t rusty. I felt fine. I did what I could. We’re playing National League baseball right now, and our manager’s going to manage in National League style. I understand completely why I came out of the ballgame.

Good pitching beats good hitting. I know that. When I’m out there and I’ve got all my pitches working, I’m going to give my team a pretty good chance to win. I had three pitches I was throwing for a strike tonight. I lost a few because of grip reasons. Chris Carpenter made pitches. He had four pitches for a strike, and the way he was throwing tonight, it was going to be tough to score on him.

The inning they scored the two runs, the first-pitch single then Albert Pujols, that was a slider that slipped out of my hands. It wasn’t even a strike. It was off the plate. It slipped out of my hand and spun around out there. He slapped it down the first-base line. I would’ve rather walked him than give up the double. The walk with Scott Rolen, then I get a ground ball from Ronnie Belliard, then I get a ground ball from Jim Edmonds. I really felt like I had a pretty good chance of getting out of that inning.

I made the pitch I wanted to throw to Edmonds. I was watching what he was doing throughout the at-bat, watching his swing. Threw a fastball, ran it up and in on him, and I got the ground ball. When I saw it off his bat, I couldn’t tell whether it was going to stay fair or not. If it did stay fair, I didn’t know if we were positioned close to the line or not. We weren’t, and the ball got down the first-base line. If it goes right to Sean Casey there, I’d be out of the inning.

When you talk about playoff teams, there’s a reason why they’re in the postseason. Certainly there’s a reason why the Cardinals are in the postseason. They’re playing good baseball right now. They really are. Even in their loss two days ago, they played a good game. But we’ve got Jeremy Bonderman on the hill Wednesday, and this team bounces back good. If we win tomorrow, we’ll be in a good position. I think there’s just as much of a challenge clinching a series as there is turning the momentum. It’s a big game regardless, and he’ll be up for the challenge.

Getting ready for the game

Not going to have a lot of family here tomorrow night. I’d have a lot more if I had a bigger bank account, but we had to simplify it. I think what the majority of them are planning to do is have a party back home in Wichita, and just watch the game on TV. My parents and my brothers and my grandma are going to be here along with my wife, and that’s going to be the majority of it. My mailbox is full on my phone. It’s just sometimes in these situations, the most challenging thing you have to deal with is tickets and everything else, especially when you’re pitching close to home.

It’ll be about two weeks between starts for me. I’ve thrown a couple of side sessions since my start in Oakland, and for a pitcher, it’s about feel. Obviously it’s different with hitters, and there’s a different type of intensity when you have a hitter in the box in this type of situation. But I feel pretty good. In my side session two days ago, it went really well.

It’ll be a new park for me, obviously. So when I went outside for our workout, I wanted to see the dimensions of the left-field wall, see how far I have to get it out there to get it over the fence. Hopefully, Carpenter doesn’t hang me a curveball or something. Just kidding. I don’t know how the field favors righties or lefties. Obviously, I wanted to see the grass of the infield, see if the ball scoots  a little bit.

We broke out the gum again last night. Tyson Steele, our assistant clubhouse manager, came down and had it going when he tacked on the extra run with Casey’s hit.

Back to even

Now, my start is basically Game 1 of a five-game series. We’re even, where we needed to be at night’s end. It’s going to be a tough game. We’ve got a Cy Young winner on the other end of the lineup card.

It’s inspiring to watch Kenny go out and perform like that. I just want to jump on that wagon a little bit and do a little bit myself. Pitching sets the tone, and Kenny set the tone. The rest of the team followed. We got a couple big hits early on there, and once Kenny got the lead, he didn’t let it go, which was huge. For him at this point in his career, he’s leaving it all out there. Shoot, he’s probably got another 10 years left.

We couldn’t add on early there, but more importantly, after they got out of bases loaded, Kenny went out there and threw up another zero. That’s what was big. Just keep the momentum on our side. I think that was the biggest thing. Getting that extra run didn’t prove really to be the difference. It was the fact that he went out there and put up not only the first zero, but several zeroes to follow.

I think it was fitting that Alan Trammell was here to enjoy this with his team. It was good to see Tram, good to see him smiling, and good to see him stand before the fans here and take the recognition that he deserves. It was a good moment to see, and I’m sure that he enjoyed standing out in front of them as well. I was looking for him, and I saw him standing over there, and I wanted to at least go over there and say hi to him. More importantly, the moment he was out there, that was his moment. He’s been part of the heart and soul of this organization, and it was just good to see fans react the way they did. Pretty good everybody that played under him went up there to say hi to him, give him a little handshake and a hug. It was a good moment.

Give Reyes credit

I think getting back out there, it was just an overall pretty flat game for us. It certainly wasn’t the kind of baseball we had been playing. We don’t use any excuses whatsoever, but they just beat us in all facets of the game. They hit the ball, and they had good defense overall. Obviously Reyes pitched a really good game. Gotta give him credit, because for the most part, he made his pitches and did a really good job.

To be honest, we had a week off, but it’s like everything seemed like it happened so fast today. It was the first time for a lot of guys, certainly for me. You want to have a chance to sit back and enjoy it, so throughout the game you might take a moment to take it in. Of course, you’d rather take it in being up 7-1 than down 7-1. Driving in today, I realized what I was coming to the ballpark for. It was pretty awesome. We’ll be alright.

We thought we might have a rally going there in the seventh. We’ve obviously been capable of it in the past, and once one guy gets something going, we feel like others will follow along. Even in the ninth, we felt like we could put a few runs up. I mean, this offense and this team is confident enough to know we can go out and do that. Tonight, we just didn’t string enough hits together. We didn’t have that many in the first place. We still had some pretty good at-bats. There were some balls that were hit hard right at guys. But they beat us. They played a better game than us tonight, bottom line.

I think there’s urgency in every game. There’s urgency in every pitch, especially where we’re at. And I think that we understand what’s at stake. Guys aren’t going out there knowing that it would be a bad thing go down 0-2 heading to St. Louis. That’s not something throughout the season we’ve allowed to press us. We don’t do that. We’ve done pretty well being able to re-adjust, and I think we’ll go out and do that tomorrow.

Getting ready for Game 3

Every decision our skipper, Jimmy Leyland, makes has a purpose behind it. It’s all about matchups, bottom line, just like against the Yankees. If it had been the Mets in the World Series — they have a lot of left-handed hitters — and it probably would’ve matched up a little bit different. But now we have the Cardinals, so I’ll be pitching in Game 3. We have four legitimate starters going out there who are capable of helping us win.

I’ll be pitching at the new Busch Stadium for the first time. I think if I go out there and look around me and see the guys playing behind me, I’ll feel pretty comfortable. It’s tough to get a feel until you get out there on the mound. It won’t take long for me to adjust. If you ask a pitcher, we all recognize mounds that we like a little bit more than others. Once again, of course, I’ll be pitching on the road, but it’s a mind-set of going out there, taking it all in and getting rid of it all. They’re not friendly environments. Never played in St. Louis before, so I really don’t know what it’s like there. But I think that if you can pitch in New York on the road, you can pretty much pitch anywhere. Comerica275

It’s been a long wait for us this week. I think the biggest thing was that it just opens up time for more phone calls to family and friends. I spent a lot of time on my cell phone. It really actually kind of helped in the off-the-field preparation stuff. Now, it’s time to get that on-the-field preparation stuff finalized today.

It’ll be interesting facing the Redbirds, because there are Cardinals fans in Wichita. They’re a Midwest team, and not very far in Wichita. I will have a following in St. Louis. As soon as people find out that I’m going to be pitching in St. Louis, if they can get tickets, they’ll be there. If they’re friends of mine, I don’t think I’ll have anybody rooting for the red of the Cardinals.

It kind of hit last night how close the Series was to starting. I was checking out the NLCS score while I was picking up my brother from the airport. Instead of it being an 8-0 blowout, where you know who’s going to win late in the game, it was a 1-1 ballgame going into the eighth inning. It’s nice to know, because I was either going to be pitching at home or away. For me, it was a lot different. There were certain guys, I think, who had a better idea when they were pitching for sure. I wasn’t one of them; I was either at home or on the road. Since the last regular-season series against Kansas City, I’ve been wondering where I’d be starting each time, where I’m supposed to pitch and who I’m pitching against. It makes it exciting. Typically, in the regular season, you always know who you’re pitching against. But every single time I’ve started in the postseason, I haven’t known for sure. It’s been fun. Now I have to be ready to hit in Game 3 at Busch.

How awesome is this?

Tigers_2You know that was Gum Time. Kenny started throwing out packs to the fans when we had bases loaded. Actually, my first pack that I had in was when we got the two runs. Threw a pack up to a fan. The next inning, we got one run, tied it up. We double-dipped tonight. We double-dipped. But we definitely had it in the bottom of the ninth when it went out.

It’s fitting that we went on a comeback. It’s just the way we’ve been doing it all year. It’s a bigger stage, obviously, but it was fitting. Very fitting.

Everybody works hard, but when it finally pays off, it’s a feeling you can’t describe. Coming from 2003, coming over in that trade and experiencing what we had with the 119 losses and then coming back, getting to this point, it’s rewarding. I think at this point last year, when I was watching the playoffs unfold, I think there were a lot of people who were still in disbelief that Chicago was doing this. It became such a story, and I think it’s the same way here.

One win away

RogersKenny was outstanding, bottom line. It’s so fun to watch, you feel like you’re going through every pitch with him, especially being a fellow pitcher on the staff. It’s fun to watch a guy go out there, know what he’s trying to do, executing pitches, doing it with confidence — especially Kenny, who has somehow added to a reputation of the successes that he’s had in his career. These are kind of chapters that are huge. Because these will be the ones that you’re remembered most for. Unfortunately, 200 wins, a perfect game, and all those things that he’s done and achieved, a lot of people don’t remember that he’s done a lot of stuff. But what he’s doing here in Detroit, he’s going to be eating a lot of free dinners here in town for a long time, I’ll tell you that much. He’s been an outstanding leader for the staff, especially the starters, but for the whole staff. Going out there and doing what he’s doing, it’s inspiring. You want so much to able to do that. The guy, in what people think is the back end of his career, looks like he’s right in the middle of it right now.

Everybody’s just following suit. You watch this team play, and we’re all playing with confidence. We’re all pitching with confidence. We’re all approaching the game with confidence, and it’s just all the way around. It’s not just the pitching, but pitching does set the tone, and Kenny was obviously the tone-setter tonight.

He’s intense, man. Sometimes he doesn’t show it as much as he has in the playoffs, but this is another season. We had our regular season, and this is where you win and go on or lose and go home. We’ve done so much this year to get into the position that we’re in, nobody wants it to end. You see that tonight with Kenny, and I can guarantee you tomorrow with Bondo, he’s going to let it all out there on the field tomorrow. Win or lose, he’s going to be out there following suit.

We’re not thinking about being one win away from the World Series. It’s funny, but it’s the way we’ve been all year long. It’s like you have a three-game series and you win the first two. Skip just doesn’t allow complacency to set in. You have a chance to go out and sweep tomorrow. We’re happy with where we’re at, obviously, but the things that he comes to us with is: "Hey, enjoy it tonight. Tomorrow you’ve got some work to do." There’s not going to be a letdown or overconfidence going into tomorrow. It’s business. Guys will be ready to play.

Double Gum Time

Monroe_pudgeNo doubt it was Gum Time tonight. I had two packs in. They had me miked up for the broadcast. Skip nominated me to get miked up for the game tonight. I don’t know how much coverage I had out there. I think I was the only one to throw it in, but down 3-1, why not? So I threw in a couple packs, get a little rally going. They actually weren’t in my mouth. Half of the gum was hanging out of my mouth. It was pretty ugly.

Anyway, we kept it going, got four big ones right there. That was a big part of the game. It swung the momentum and then we held on throughout the rest of the game. It was big.

To be honest with you, with the excitement of winning the game and the emotions you go through in a game like this, obviously we’ll enjoy the flight back. And I think guys will get tired. We’re going to have to try to find a little rest, because getting in at 5:30 in the morning is not going to be fun, especially with a 4:30 workout tomorrow. It’ll be kind of a quick turnaround. Hopefully we can get back on a sleep schedule. They’ll sleep quietly.

The one thing about Justin Verlander is he stayed aggressive, especially in a couple tough situations. I know they got four runs on him, but he stayed aggressive. Sometimes your line doesn’t necessarily reflect how you pitch, but the big thing was where the momentum could’ve swung, he stayed on top of it, which is important. I think the big thing was after the four runs that we scored, he put up the goose egg and made sure that the momentum stayed with us. If you go out and score four after you’re down by two, and then you go right back out there and give something up, that can really kill something.