October 2009

Ready to Rock

I found out earlier I’m headed to the Pearl Jam concert tonight at the Spectrum.

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I’m a Pearl Jam fan. I’ve actually met them before, because Kerry Wood knows them, and I played with Kerry in Chicago. I’ll watch the concert and go home. In fact, I’ll probably be in bed before I will be in bed after our game tomorrow night. So I get to go see one of the best bands of all time and still be in bed at a normal time. Not bad.

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I’m expecting a loud and raucous crowd tomorrow night for Game 3 (and Games 4 and 5). The crowds were really loud last year, but I think they’ll be even louder this year, because it’s the Yankees. That’s nothing against the Rays, but it’s the Yankees. So I think our fans will be ready.

I actually agreed with Jimmy Rollins when he said the crowds weren’t that loud at Yankee Stadium. Of course, we’re enclosed in the bullpen, so you can’t hear as much. But the only times they really got loud were after home runs. They didn’t get loud for base hits or anything. If we get a base hit tomorrow, I think this place is going to erupt after every hit. I’m expecting that.

Leaving New York Tied, Feeling Good

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We feel good about where we are right now.

The Yankees’ big question mark tonight was which A.J. Burnett was going to show up and pitch? The guy that struggles throwing strikes or the guy that can dominate anybody? We saw which one showed up. A guy with a purpose. He was good. He went out and did exactly what he was supposed to do. He threw first-pitch strikes after first-pitch strikes. He got his breaking ball over the plate. That was huge. When you’re throwing 95 mph and you have one of the best breaking balls in the game? It’s tough to beat somebody like that.

But like I said, we feel good about where we are.

I said the same thing in LA. You want to leave with a split to take away home-field advantage. That’s what we did. We took home-field advantage away. We won the first game, and they came back to play a great baseball game. Of course, we would have loved to have won tonight, but we didn’t. But we know we’re coming back to Philly for the next three games with a crowd that is going to be LOUD.

Cliff and Chase Are Great

Ryan Madson and I typically lace up our shoes in the sixth inning of every game.

I looked at my feet in the seventh and my cleats were still untied.

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I guess I knew I wouldn’t be needed last night in Game 1. Cliff Lee was awesome, and I’m not even talking about his defense. The guy throws a complete game against the Yankees, who hit a ton of home runs at Yankee Stadium. He walks nobody. He strikes out 10. He throws a complete game. Incredible. Things were going so well for him that I told Jimmy Rollins earlier that if we didn’t have a DH he probably would have gone deep, too. It was that kind of night for him.

I remember texting Kerry Wood the day we traded for Cliff.

“What is Cliff like?” I wrote.

“Just wait,” he texted back.

After Cliff’s first game in San Francisco, where he threw a complete game, I went back into the clubhouse and checked my phone.

“Told you,” Kerry wrote.

And I heard earlier that Chase Utley is the first left-handed hitter to hit two homers off a left-handed pitcher in a World Series game since Babe Ruth. That’s ridiculous. You know the best part? Chase couldn’t care less. Honestly. Chase has been the leading vote getter for the All-Star team and you’d never know it. He’s the first guy at the field every single day. Literally. But we have a bunch of guys like that in this clubhouse. That’s why I like playing here so much.

Welcome to New York

There’s no doubt we’re in New York.

We took the train from Philadelphia to New York yesterday and there were people just waiting to boo us at Penn Station. That was funny. They love their Yankees. It’s definitely different than last year. If you win the World Series against the Yankees, that’s ideal. Don’t get me wrong, last year was unbelievable. But it would be great to tell your grandkids when you’re 60 that, yeah, I played in a World Series against the Yankees and we beat them. That would be great.

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I saw the picture of Shane in the New York Post today. It’s funny, but it’s not really funny. They’re poking fun of the guy, and what did he do? Geez. Everybody seems to pick on Shane, and for no reason. The guy just plays hard every day. I know there’s this Philadelphia vs. New York thing going on, but it’s hard to think of this as Philadelphia vs. New York. We think of this as Phillies vs. Yankees. And tomorrow it’s Cliff Lee and our lineup vs. CC Sabathia and their lineup.

But I’m ready to get this going. I spent last Thursday night in the hospital with the flu. Don’t worry, it’s not swine flu. Now I just have a head cold and a cough, but I’ll be ready. I think we’re all ready.

We’re Back!

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I had my fast shoes on last night.

I said earlier that one bad thing about being in the bullpen when your team clinches a division or a series is that because you have such a long run from the bullpen you miss the big pile up. So when Ronnie Belliard hit that fly ball to Shane Victorino for the third out in the ninth inning I took off my warmup jacket. Now, you’re not supposed to do that until the final out is made, but I knew he was going to catch it so I was ready to hurdle the fence and run onto the field.

Of course … no pile! I think I’ll have to hope we have one next time.

This was a pretty surreal moment last year, but I know what we’re doing now. It’s a different feeling for me because last year I got traded here in August. I was a bit player. This year I’ve been here all year, and I feel like I’ve done a good job because Charlie has put me in good position to succeed.

No National League team has played in back-to-back World Series since the Braves in 1995-96. I know they won one and lost one. We’d like to change that. We’d like to do what the Big Red Machine did in the ’70s.

But that’s looking ahead. We’re going to enjoy our next couple days off, or however many Charlie gives us.

Keeping Loose for Game 5

We had a voluntary workout today at the ballpark, so I showed up to throw.

If I was 25 and not 37, my arm would feel fine tomorrow if I didn’t do anything today and just laid around. Even though I threw last night in Game 4, I still came out to get the blood moving. I rode the bike for 30 minutes. I did my shoulder exercises to keep everything strong. I made about 25 to 30 throws from about 100 feet. I got fully loose. I could have walked on the mound and started throwing and be loose for the game in eight to 10 throws. That’s the luxury of being a reliever — you get loose real fast. Or at least you learn to get loose real fast.

But I know you’re still thinking about the ninth inning last night. Matt Stairs’ at-bat was huge. Jonathan Broxton is peppering 98, 98 mph fastballs up there. I didn’t know his ball moved that much, but it does. His ball moves and tails, and I’m not sure he wanted it to. The first ball was in and the next three were all away. I guess they weren’t going to let Stairs beat them again. But then the ball to Carlos Ruiz, I didn’t know Russell Martin had set up away and Broxton threw the ball in. His command was off, and all of a sudden Jimmy Rollins got a hold of one to win it.

Somebody in the clubhouse described our celebration as 25 Little Leaguers running onto the field. Nobody runs to home plate except in a walk-off. I think that made it even more special last night. It was the kid in everyone coming out. It was total, utter excitement and joy coming out of 30-year-old men. You don’t see that too much. It’s cool. Honestly, at that point you’d like to take a step back and watch it. Chad Durbin was in the bullpen and he said he just watched us jump over the railing and run onto the field. He said to watch that unfold was really cool.

In the bullpen we always high-five each other after a win. You don’t just sprint in. It’s actually kind of a bummer when you’re in the bullpen when you win that way. In Game 5 of the World Series, everybody was hoping they could pitch, just so they could be in the dugout for the final out. Because when you’re out in the bullpen and everybody is celebrating, you’re trying to get there as fast as possible. Hey, I’m not fast. I can’t run. The pile had started to break up once I got there. So if I get a chance to celebrate again, I’m going to run faster. I’m going to put on my fast shoes.

A Great Win, A Great Moment for Jimmy

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So where was I when Jimmy Rollins rocked the house last night? I was sitting on the bench. In fact, I was the only one sitting down in the dugout.

After I pitch I always sit. I take a seat on the bench and I drink some water. I usually go into the clubhouse when we’re at home and we hit in the bottom of the inning so I can ice my shoulder and elbow and everything. But it’s the ninth inning and it’s the playoffs, so you’ve got to stay out there. When Matt Stairs walked and came out so Eric Bruntlett could pinch-run for him, I got up and walked down to high-five him. Then I went back to my seat. Carlos Ruiz got hit by the pitch and then when Greg Dobbs lined out, I looked around and I was like, “Wow, I’m the only guy sitting down right now.” But I couldn’t move. I had to stay in my same seat. Everybody yells, “Same seat! Same seat!”  You’ll see guys remember how they were leaning against the railing in the previous at-bat and say, “Oh, yeah, I was doing this,” and get in that position. It’s so funny. Most of us do that. Pitchers, especially.

When Jimmy got the hit I jumped out of my seat and almost jumped over the railing before Chooch even hit third base. You start to see everybody else filing out and you’re like, “Can we go out yet? Can we go out yet?” Then you just go out. We were out there before Chooch scored because we knew he wasn’t going to be thrown out. Chooch didn’t even have to slide, but he said he slid just to get dirty.

I don’t think it could have been a better guy to get that hit. Jimmy has been here the longest. He’s been through his ups and downs, but he stays even keel all the time. He doesn’t get too excited. He doesn’t get too down. He’s fun to have around.

The ending to that game was crazy.

We know we haven’t won the series, but we’d like to do it at home. But this was fun. This is such a fun team to play for, and this was a big reason why.

Cliff Lee: Just Phenomenal in Game 3

Amazing.

How does that describe Cliff Lee? That was a pretty special pitching performance, and a pretty good pickup. If Ruben Amaro were here right now, I’d pat him on the back. Cliff fits in with this group of guys so well. He’s just like the rest of us. 

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He just goes out, does his job and plays as hard as he can. He’s like everybody in here. It’s kind of funny. Usually you’ll get this guy or that guy who is different or separate from the team. He just fits in with the rest of us.

Clubhouse chemistry is huge. If you get three or four guys who are standoff-ish from everyone else, it creates a little animosity, you know? It creates a little separation. There is no separation here. If you need anything, everybody here is willing to help each other out, on and off the field. If you needed help moving, you could ask just about anybody on this team. Every team is like a family, but this is like a big one. It really is. That’s how I feel about it, anyway. I know for people like myself and Paul Bako, we were thinking this might be our last year. But he’s having so much fun and I’m having so much fun that you have to think about it. This was going to be it for me. But then you start to play with these guys for a full year and you realize how fun this group is to be around. It makes you want to continue to play. Obviously, it’s huge that we win. That’s obvious. But even if we lose a few games in a row during the season, which we did, you still can’t wait to get to the field the next day.

We bust on each other all the time. You can do it to anybody. It’s that type of group of guys. You can mess with anybody, and you have to be prepared to be messed with. We’re as loosey-goosey as you can get in a clubhouse and still obey the rules. Nobody breaks the rules. Nobody is above any rules in here.

So it’s great that Cliff not only pitches well, but that he fits in so well, too. And I’m sure Cliff wanted to finish the game tonight, but we do have more games to play. And the fewer the pitches the fresher you can be. You never know what could happen.

Looking Up, We Got A Split

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I’m sure everybody back in Philly is upset about what happened today, but we’ve got to look at today’s loss differently.

We came into a place that is tough to play and split. That’s how we feel. Do we think we could have won today’s game? I believe so, but Vicente Padilla threw a very good game.

Jim Thome was 0-for-7 in his career against me when I faced him in the eighth. I just left a slider over the plate. It didn’t break. I watched the video and it just cement-mixed spun up there and he hit it. It was bad mechanics. My arm was down low. It should have been higher. If it’s up higher I drive the ball down and get that break. If I throw a good one he either rolls it over to first or swings and misses. He just filleted it into right field. He didn’t even hit it that good.

We’ve got a 4 1/2 hour flight home. We’ve got a workout tomorrow. We have Cliff Lee on the mound in Game 3 on Sunday against Kuroda. That’s not a bad situation to be in. If we had gotten our butts kicked twice in a row, I think it would be different. But we played two good games against a really good team.

We’ll try to relax on the flight home, eat the nasty food on the plane and move on. We split. You’d love to go 2-0 on the road. 0-2 stinks. But we’re going home to play three with our fans with a split.

Wear your winter coats and be ready. We’ll need you.

Red Bull and Game 1

It got a little intense out there, didn’t it?

Especially for me. I drank a Red Bull in the fifth inning and said to myself, “Man, this thing didn’t do anything for me today.” And then I started warming up in the eighth inning and the Red Bull kicked in hard. When I got on the mound I was like, “Whoa, man. I’m wired right now.” I had to step back. Sometimes you get that much adrenaline going …

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… I actually think that’s what might have happened with Madson tonight. He has the stuff to close anywhere in any situation. His stuff is great, but sometimes I think he gets so fired up that he tries to go harder. That’s the one thing I learned a long time ago — take that breath and relax. You pitch in the big leagues because you’re good at what you do. You’re not here by accident. Nobody is here by accident. Everybody is here because they can do this job. Sometimes you have to step back and trust your stuff and take a deep breath and relax. I don’t want to sound all Yoga instructor on everybody, but I took it before and it seems to work …

… I actually was pretty relaxed in the ninth. I think if the first two guys would have gotten on, I would have faced Loney. But once Brad got the double play, I was like, “OK, I’m done.” I wasn’t going to leave the mound, but I knew I was pretty much done because they had used their pinch-hitters. I basically just stood on the mound and listened to the fans yell at me until Brad finished it off.

But winning this first game is big, especially in a seven-game series because we still have three games at home. Tomorrow will be a huge game now. Going to our park with our fans for three games? The possibility of being up 2-0 would be really cool.

And I am very much looking forward to watching Pedro pitch in the postseason tomorrow.

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I actually grew up a Dodgers fan. I lived here the first 15 years of my life. My dad is a huge Dodgers fan. When I played for the Giants it actually was hard for my dad to root for the Giants. He’d root for me, but he wanted us to lose, 1-0. He’s rooting for me now, but he’ll tease me and say he’s rooting for his Dodgers. I know for a fact he wants us to win and he wants us to be successful. He just doesn’t want us to play the Dodgers.