October 2006

Biggest game of the year

RobertsonThat was exciting. The emotion I was showing, it’s pure adrenaline. This time of year, it’s get-it-done or go home, and no situation is as big as those situations could’ve been for them. It was just big for me to go out and get out of them.

I mentioned before that it’s not the first time this year that I’ve been in situations like that, so it’s almost like it was good training throughout the season to get out of big moments in big games. Obviously to date, this is the biggest game of the year for this team, getting Game 1 like that.

Really, the fourth inning was so big, just because of the momentum of the game. They could’ve got back on the board and got a little something going, like we did with the Yankees last week. We got right back in that game [last Tuesday] and we had them stirring a little bit. Not that we were comfortable the rest of way or anything like that, but it was just big to be able to get out of there with a zero.

That’s what it’s all about, man. I can’t really explain the feeling to be able to go out there in that situation and get the job done, and then going out there and getting through that fifth. They worked me hard. Those are five of the most taxing innings that I’ve pitched all year. I think I threw probably 25 pitches to Kendall alone. The guy, he just wouldn’t go away, and that’s the way some of their guys are. Now, there’s some of them that are a little bit more aggressive. They don’t have that whole team concept going of all being very patient, but I knew I had to attack them just like I attacked the Yankees. Even in my walks, the two to Kendall I went right at him; he just worked the count. I was going to be aggressive.

The funny thing is, I didn’t change a whole lot from my New York start. People are like, "Oh, gosh, what’s going on? Robertson’s starting. Look what happened in New York." It wasn’t about that. I went at them just like I went at New York. A few things could’ve gone differently — the ground ball that I should’ve fielded, maybe a pitch called my way, just a few things. And that’s baseball. You’ve got to accept it. I can’t sit there and pity-party about that. That’s just the way it went. But I still felt good about how I went at them. I didn’t shy away from them, and I didn’t shy away tonight. I went right at them.

For the team, and for Ingey to come out and have an offensive display. Not just Ingey, but Pudge, the guys that get big hits, and Polly and Grandy. Up and down the lineup, coming up with big hits, big at-bats, taking some pitches that we’re not necessarily known for doing, and we worked it. We worked the counts. Man, I’ll tell you what, it was just fun baseball tonight, all the way around, making defensive plays.

Craig’s catch was outstanding. I didn’t think he had a chance at it. I thought Bradley got on top of the ball a little bit. I saw some topspin. I saw it sinking hard. For Craig to get over and make a catch like that, he had to get his glove perfectly underneath before that ball hit the ground, because he got there at the exact same time. And that’s a big-time play. Those kind of situations in game, you never know what’ll happen. It gets by him and the guy gets a double out of it and a run scores. It’s huge. But I think the biggest moment of the game was second and third and no outs. That was huge.

When I’m yelling like that when I get out of those situations, more than anything, the moment’s big and all I’m trying to do is corral my emotions before I make a pitch. And then I get out of that situation, and then I let it all out. That’s basically what it is, because I don’t want to get too emotional before I make a pitch and then make a mistake. I’m trying to hold it back. The crowd was loud and people were throwing **** all over the place. It was a big moment, man. Once you get out of it, you’ve got to let it out. You can’t hold it in. There’s nothing better.

It’s almost as good to do it on the road as it is at home. At home, obviously, you get a different response. And there ain’t no way I can tip my cap to the people here. They might throw stuff at me. But it’s fun, man.

Back to business

It’s back to business. We’ve put closure to what we’ve done this past weekend. Guys are out there and they’re loose and they’re having a good time and they’re enjoying being here for the League Championship Series. But also beyond just enjoying being here, it’s going to be back to business come together. It’s just an exceptional feeling, especially not knowing coming into the season where we were actually going to be at this point.

Just like it was in the Division Series, there were scenarios for who would start Game 1 here. For the Division Series, if it was the Yankees, I was going to pitch Game 1, and if it was the A’s, I was going to have Game 3. This one here, obviously, I think it’s a situation where you don’t try to fix anything that’s not broken. The rotation that we threw out there before did very, very well. My results were obviously the least favorable out of the four outings, but it wasn’t for lack of approach. And I think that there’s a confidence going out there that any one of the four horses that have gone out there all year could start Game 1. We have potential No. 1 aces on this staff that aren’t quite that status yet, but we don’t consider us having a No. 1. If you ask us, we have four guys that can give us a chance to win.58auvq2b

Both times I’ve started here in my career, there’s a guy over there who had one swing of the bat that changed my whole outing. It’s going to be no different in a playoff game tomorrow. It could come down to one swing of the bat. It could come down to one defensive play. It could come to one pitch, as we saw in my first outing in New York. Those are the kind of moments that, before anything happens, there needs to be an evaluation of what I’m trying to do and understand who I’m facing and who I match up better with. I know that going into tomorrow. I know who I match up better with in their lineup. Whatever situations arise during the game, those the kind of things that I’ll evaluate while I’m out there and then go about my business.

These last-minute schedules are certainly something most of us haven’t experienced before, because it’s playoff baseball and things change in one day. I’m sitting there preparing mentally for the Yankees and then, bam, you’re on the plane the next day going to California going over A’s hitters. I’ve faced these guys four times in my career and I faced every single one of those guys in the lineup maybe except for the nine hole. I’ll go out there and make them beat me. I can’t beat myself.

The media coverage here is certainly something that we’re not used to, but we know it goes along with being one of the final four teams in baseball playing. You just have to deal with that. Whether we get the attention or not, all we want is what’s rightfully ours. When things are said about us and people remember us, we want to be remembered for the right reasons and not because somebody else didn’t play well. If you can’t play your best game this time of year, then you got beat. It’s not because you didn’t play good enough to win. That’s the biggest thing. We’ve earned what we got, and that’s why we’re here.

How sweet it is

Nate_1 This is something that not only we earned, but we deserved. What we’ve done this year, the position we got ourselves into, we needed to do this because how it ended in the regular season to where we’re at right now, this is what needed to happen. We needed the storybook to keep on rolling.

I’m so proud of Bondo. I told him before he even finished the game. I told him, "No matter what happens, brother, I love you to death and I’m as proud as can be." For him to go out there with the heart that he had and to follow up what Kenny’s done, it was incredible.

Really, the whole staff, the key to this series was that every pitcher that got on that mound attacked, and they left it on the field. If they were going to beat us, they were going to beat us with our best stuff. We attacked, went after them, and here we are.

The big thing people now understand is it’s the game of baseball. We played a Major League club last weekend. We played a Major League club this weekend. People said we were supposed to clinch it last weekend. We didn’t get it in. People gave us no chance this weekend, and we got it done. It’s the game.

This celebration’s a little bit sweeter. That was the one that got us here. This is the one that we’ve actually achieved something when we did get here.

Readying for Game 5, hoping there isn’t

Nate It’s a good feeling today. It would certainly be a lot better feeling taking those suitcases back off the truck. Last week we had to do this same kind of deal — pack if necessary. It would just be nice to be able to do it here at home, you know? I don’t want to call it redemption, because what we’ve done to this point is what people didn’t expect of us. But it might be the very thing that we need to take this thing to the very end. That’s the biggest thing. Keep on keeping on and keep the believing going. It’s just been such a roller-coaster in one week. Our last six days this season have been crazy.

Did losing last weekend end up a blessing for us? It could be. Expectations here haven’t been so high for a long time. If you can get down to the end of the season having a chance to win the division, even if we would’ve won that, I don’t know what kind of expectations we would’ve had. Once we slipped out of that, we went to the Yankees series and expectations were that we should’ve been done by now. It’s like another opportunity to prove people wrong. The playoffs were an expectation nobody had. Certainly beating the Yankees is an expectation nobody has.

I prepare the same win or lose today. I prepare as if there will be a Game 5, and I hope that there isn’t.

What a night

Blog Kenny was outstanding tonight. I told some of the guys, sitting there with Bonderman and Verlander, I looked over and said we could be looking at one of the best pitching performances in Detroit playoff history right here. I’m sure it matches up with a lot of the great performances they’ve had in the past, especially against that team, that lineup. There ain’t many teams in the history of the game, there ain’t many times when they’ve gone through a lineup like that in a playoff game.

That lineup is loaded, top to bottom. And what Kenny was able to do to get them to start swinging at balls out of the zone, he was attacking and getting ahead. But with what he has, he had to be able to still make a pitch and not make it to where it’s something that they can handle. I mean, on TV, when they put up the strike zone graphic, his pitches were on the line to just outside of it every time with two strikes. It was unbelievable, commanding pitches like that throughout 7 2/3 innings. To be able to do that in a game like that, well, it’s inspiring. That’s what this is all about.

It’s hard to believe it’s his first postseason win with over 200 wins in the big leagues and the credentials that he’s had. I mean, I’d take his career and quit with those numbers. Something keeps him going. I’ll tell you what, if he keeps on doing that, he’ll find himself getting another two- or three-year extension here in Detroit. He won’t have a problem finding another two or three years if he wants it.

The funny thing is here he is, 41 years old, and he ain’t showing signs of slowing down. And the style of pitcher that he is, it’s almost like he could just do it for five, six, seven years. It’s strenuous to go out and pitch and all that, but the only taxing he does is when he beats himself up for PFPs and things like that. He can make a game look that easy, and it’s not. You watch my game the other night, I’m fighting through my whole thing and I’m battling all the way through, and there’s seven runs on the board. He went scoreless for 7 2/3. It’s an amazing performance, and hopefully it’s something that we build from, take into tomorrow and see what happens. This could just be something special.

In the sports world, I don’t care who’s out there, who would think that we could be doing this? Especially what we talked about coming into this series, there were a lot of questions about how we’d respond and this and that. From Game 1, every player that has performed on this team, on that field, has left it out there. Every one of us has left it out there. We lost a game, but we were in it, then we come back and win two really good ballgames.

We’ve always talked about starting pitching keeping them in there. We did that just enough yesterday, and today he was commanding from the get-go. They hit a couple balls hard, but that’s the thing about performances like tonight. If you can get a couple balls that are squared up hit right at somebody where there’s a play made, it’s a momentum-changer. Maybe a guy hits a little knubber and it goes into a hit, or maybe a guy finds a hole, and then it starts something. You don’t anything starting with this lineup over there. Once they get it going, they get rolling. Every time they seemed like they tried to get something rolling, he shut the door. He turned into a strikeout pitcher. I mean, he punched out eight guys. That’s big time. That’s a special pitcher there. I told him after the game, honest to God, I used to watch Tom Glavine growing up and I’m sad that Kenny was never a part of the Braves to get on TBS so I could watch him. Because I admire the way he goes out there and how much of a professional he is and how much he has invited each and every one of us into his life. He’s very open and a heckuva teammate, kind of a big brother.

As for Gum Time, I was throwing packs up to the fans in the stands. A couple of them were calling the innings for the rallies, so I had to give them some props for that.

It was really fun, a really fun night. We’ve all enjoyed it. Man, that was awesome. That is the atmosphere you dream about playing in front of and being a part of. It was different. This fan base tonight was different from this season. There was a different emotion. There was a different feel. There was a buzz that wasn’t present in the past. Not saying that there wasn’t a buzz, but it was certainly a different type of feel. Even the faithful out there, I think we made even more faithful. Some of the most faithful Tiger fans out there, I think we’ve expanded that area tonight. I think last weekend is way out of their minds. We’re in a position to do something really special, but we’ve got a lot of work to do. It’s not going to be easy.

Gum Time strikes again

Nate_robertson That was Gum Time in the seventh. That was the only time we put it in. After all the times this year, we thought, "Why not?" It was a tie game.

Jamie Walker got a big double play there, got us out of that inning. It was time. If it came down to the battle of the bullpens, we’ll take our chances. We had Walker in there already, and you have Joel Zumaya, Fernando Rodney and Todd Jones out there. In a tie ballgame like that, get it done and see what happens. Threw it in before the inning started, told Bondo, "Get ‘er done." He said, "You call it, you stick with it." Once we got some guys on, it certainly was put in, and it was a good situation. Marcus led off with the hit. Get him over, get him in. That’s all we needed. We haven’t had any exciting comeback stories here for a while, but what better place to do it than the playoffs against the Yankees here? Guys just came out when we could’ve just died.

The bottom line of the heroics and the rally is certainly attributed to the confidence of our players coming up with big hits in big situations — very difficult, backs-against-the-wall situations. It was big to get the split here, going back home now finally with some momentum. You know, we haven’t had momentum in a while, and now we have it. Very big, and that’s what this game’s about. Hopefully we can jump out, and you never know in playoff games. They’re going to be tight. They’re going to be tough. Every little play and pitch matters, as we’ve already seen. Hopefully we won’t have to go to Gum Time, but you know what, it works when the game’s tied, too. We need a rally. We needed something going and got it going and scored. That was huge. You have to have a couple breaks. Just like today, some balls were hit right at our guys, some balls that might’ve been hit decent. The thing is, you have to have those things happen, just like the other day when I pitched and there weren’t a whole lot of breaks. Everything that they hit seemed to scrape over a wall, go when a guy’s covering second base and gets by shortstop, seeing-eye ground balls, the one that I don’t field, all the little things that could’ve gone another direction.

Last night could’ve been very detrimental. Even if you’re down 2-0, this team’s not going to die, but I will say this much: Having to stick around and go through what we had to go through, changing hotels, getting the luggage up and back down, just turning around the next meeting, a lot of guys didn’t get a ton of sleep. To come out and win a ballgame like that is huge. It could be a moment, you know?

I hope we get a big reception in Detroit. I hope people try to understand. We got swept at home by the Royals, and then to come here and split, you can’t explain it. That’s baseball. Just understand that there are some things about baseball you can’t explain. If they can deal with that, I’m sure we’ll have a very good reception. The biggest thing for our fans following back home is that this gives them a little spark, something to feed off of. I’m sure the atmosphere will be very electric. It’ll be good that we get home at a decent hour today. We’ll be ready.

On to Game 2

Nateblog A new day, a new game.

The reason I still held my head high last night is I don’t know if my line justifies the way I pitched. I know that if a couple things changed, a whole lot of things could’ve changed. That’s what’s so intense about the playoffs. In a situation like the third inning, if I make a play, if I make a pitch, it just changes everything. It’s one little thing, and I think that’s the reason I didn’t feel crushed. I didn’t feel like there’s no way I can beat these guys. I feel like I have a chance, a great chance to go in there and do well against this team. Just a few little things could’ve gone a different way, and it’s a whole different ballgame.

When you have those kind of nights against the same club more than once, you’ve got to just keep on keeping on until you can chalk up one of those in the win column. You have to believe skip didn’t just give me the ball in Game 1 because he flipped a coin. They believe I can go out there and win. I believe I can go out there and win, and that’s the attitude you have to carry. You can’t carry the attitude that you’ll go out there, pitch well and lose. You have to believe that it can get done.

That’s what was so strange about last night. The way I felt out there, I went into the game feeling really, really good about how this thing could unfold, regardless of the atmosphere. That’s all a good team needs is just one little spark, you know, and we’re very hopeful of that tonight. We’re very hopeful to bring back a split to Detroit.

We’ve got a series to play. There ain’t no white-flagging it if we don’t win tonight, but if we go back to Detroit with a split, we have a chance to close it at home. I feel very strongly about how we match up with our pitching staff as opposed to theirs. I really feel very confident in that, not taking anything away from them. I mean, it’s pretty hard against the lineup they have, but I think it does come down to pitching.

That’s why it was such a crushing blow last night, that ground ball in the sixth. The third was a big inning, and you want to eliminate the big inning, but once we got to the sixth and we’re only down by two, if you can get into their bullpen before it gets to Rivera, they’ve got great arms down there, but I’ll take my chances with our bullpen matching up against their bullpen. It was a heart-breaker, that ground ball. What can you say? A couple guys got on when I made pitches. I went and watched it again today. The three pitches that ended up with two runs on the board, I made them and put them where I wanted. The results were not so good.

Last night, before the game started, I saw the cameras flashing, the jets flying over, people going crazy. If you can just get beyond that and get to your first pitch, then there’s a focus. You can rid yourself of the atmosphere and focus on the hitters. And I was at that point last night. I really didn’t feel the crowd rattling me. Even when they started kind of rolling me a little bit, I still was attacking, getting first-pitch strikes, getting ahead in the count, just going right at ’em. If Verlander can do that, it would be wonderful to see Verlander in his prime form. It would be awesome to see him be able to reach back and pop a triple digit if he had to and snap that curveball. If he can do that, there’s nobody that’s going to stand in there comfortable. I don’t care who you are. It would really be nice to see him have one of his special nights. He’s capable of having a very special night tonight. He’s had some rest and hopefully charged his battery a little bit. He’s got to control it and get it going at the same time.

Now we’re experienced

Mlbmedia1_31241513 We certainly showed some grit tonight. We played a pretty good game. We really did. There’s so many things that could’ve changed, little tiny moments, but this team will be all right. We played a tough ball game.

I think that the playoff atmosphere here, it is different. I know that after the announcement of the players and the F-18 jets flying over, there was an emotion there that I’ve obviously never felt before. It was exciting, man. I got a little weak in the knees. I was out there in the bullpen watching. And when all the pregame stuff was all said and done, I felt great about going out there. The guys were excited, too. It was certainly not just like a three- or four-game series that you would have in the regular season. It was special, and I’m glad we had a chance to see it.

The big thing was I’m just proud of the way the team went about their business today and played a good ballgame in this situation. We had a tough weekend. We could’ve just had a meltdown here, and we didn’t. There was no mental breakdown. There was just a bunch of guys playing hard-nosed baseball today. We didn’t shoot ourselves in the foot. They beat us, bottom line. They beat us.

But the atmosphere here in Yankee Stadium is probably second to none for playoff atmosphere, just the mystique of it all and the history. It sure would be nice to get Game No. 2 tomorrow and go home with a split. That would be really big coming home with a split.

I felt really good about the game after we scored three, and then me going out there and getting a little shutdown inning after we scored. I just felt like we were going to flip it around. That sixth inning, that wasn’t supposed to happen, in my mind. It just happened. It’s tough. You go out there your whole career, you go prepare yourself to make pitches and you know what you’re trying to do with guys and you make pitches and they still get you, it’s tough.

Fortunately, we turn around tomorrow and come right back here. The big thing is, the experience of the first game of the playoffs, for everybody that hadn’t been there before, it’s all said and done. We got our feet wet, so we can kind of shove all that aside, come back tomorrow. Now we’re experienced. Hopefully I’ll get another chance in Game 5. Actually, it would be better if I didn’t get another chance and we get the next three.