Good pitching beats good hitting
I’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.
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?
You 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
Kenny 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
No 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.
Biggest game of the year
That 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.
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.