October 2009

A great season, but the end is never easy

toriifistbump550x275.jpg

It’s tough, man. The Yankees beat us. They’re a good team over there. We battled those guys, made a couple of mistakes and ran into a big-game pitcher, Andy Pettitte, in Game 6. They pitched well all through the series and beat us, fair and square.

We had to overcome a lot of obstacles this season. Losing Nick Adenhart, a young guy we all cared so much about, that was too tragic for words, really. We mourned and stuck together and got a lot accomplished this season. I’m proud of all these guys, for the character they showed and the way they performed through all the adversity.

We had a great season. There’s nothing to hang our heads over. We had a big mountain to climb here in New York. We got over one mountain in Boston and played those guys tough. We played some of the best games I’ve ever been a part of in my career — some of the best games all these guys have played in, I’m sure.

toriifrustrated275x375.jpg

The Yankees have some of my favorite players, so I’m going to be rooting for them in the World Series. Why not? I’m an American League guy. Always have been, so of course I’m pulling for our team.

If I had to point to one thing as the difference, I’d say maturity. They have a lot of seasoned, smart players. They’re very mature. They know how to execute and play the game. They’re the beast of the East for a reason. Those guys are going to be tough to beat in the World Series.

I’ve been battling the Yankees since I was in Minnesota, and it looks like I’ll keep battling them. They’ve got all those guys signed for years, so that mountain will be there. We have a lot of guys who learned and grew this season, and they’ll be better off for it.

Looking back, we didn’t play Angels-style baseball in this series. We made mistakes that just aren’t like us. We should have been better defensively, for sure. But baseball’s a crazy game. Anything can happen. It could have turned our way, but it didn’t. We just have to move on.

It’s going to be an interesting winter, with so many free agents, so many decisions to make. I have a lot of faith in our organization doing whatever it takes to be successful.

Right now, it’s just tough, really tough. You play for so long, with so much passion and energy, and then it’s over. We’ll have time now to reflect and think about what we accomplished, and I think the guys will have a lot of pride in the season we had.

It was a challenge, right from the start, losing Nick and having to go forward and dedicate ourselves in his memory. I know he’s proud of the effort we all put forth. When it’s all said and done, the relationships are what matters, and this was a wonderful team to play for this season, from our manager, Mike Scioscia, all the way through the ranks.

I want to thank all of our great fans for their support and devotion. I want you all to know that we appreciate how you stood behind us, and we’ll try to reward you by going a little deeper, a little farther, next season.

toriikneeling550x275.jpg

Heaven — and Game 6 — can wait

yankeestadiumrain.jpg

We figured all day there was going to be a rainout. Trust me, we hate there’s a rainout. We want to keep playing. You hate to lose your rhythm. It’s kind of good right now.

But there are some good things about this. We’ve got John Lackey available for a Game 7 on three days’ rest if we get by Game 6. I’m pretty sure that bulldog will want to be out there. You know John, how he loves to compete and hates to come out of games.

Tomorrow’s supposed to be sunny. I’ve got a chance to go out and work on my sun tan in New York. Just kidding. I’m looking forward to another historic baseball game for me. These games are a lot of fun — the past, and in the future.

saunders.jpg

We’ll start Game 6 tomorrow, go on to Game 7 on Monday. We just want to play. I didn’t pack for an extra day, so I’ll have to go buy a shirt tomorrow.

Seriously, all you can do is keep working on your swing, keep your rhythm going, come back tomorrow and play with everything you’ve got. This team of ours is very adaptable. We’ve got a lot of athletes, and you want athletes to be running around on a nice surface, not all sloppy. So from that perspective, it’s a good thing we’re not playing tonight.

I like our guy Joe Saunders, being from the East Coast. He loves cold weather. He’s not like some of the guys from warmer climates. Joe is cool. He’ll be ready to go. And we’ll have all our other arms ready to deal behind him. You bring everything you’ve got to a game like this.

It’s exciting — very exciting. The Yankees and Angels, playing for the World Series in the Big Apple. I can’t wait.

Back to the Bronx for more thrills

Toriihighfive550x275.jpg

We earned ourselves another trip to the big city, to New York. It wasn’t easy, but we made it happen. I’m so proud of this team, the way it keeps coming back.

The Angels are for real. I don’t think anybody can doubt that now.

Man, I was going crazy out there in the seventh inning. They scored six runs to take the lead, and we came right back to get three and then held on. Hey, nobody said it was going to be easy, right?

Toriirundown375x275.jpg

That ninth inning got to me. My knee started hurting me. That hasn’t happened all year. I guess it was the intensity of the moment. My heart was beating fast. It was very exciting — especially when Erick Aybar got under that last popup by Nick Swisher on the 3-2 pitch by Brian Fuentes and it was finally over.

We came out and played our game. We were aggressive right from the start. I’m not giving away any strategies, but A.J. Burnett, last time we faced him in New York, got ahead of us pounding the strike zone. We came out taking some good swings after Chone Figgins worked a walk to get us started.

Bobby Abreu stroked that double to center, which put two guys in scoring position. I got something I liked and drove it past Derek Jeter for two runs. That’s a good feeling, us getting off to a good start like that. Then Vladimir Guerrero and Kendry Morales came through with hits, and we’re up 4-0. I’m sure John Lackey liked that.

But we knew four runs weren’t safe, not against that team. Lackey pitched great, man. I had a good view of that 3-2 pitch to Jorge Posada that was called a ball. It was a good pitch, man. People are asking about Lackey reacting the way he did, but if you don’t react on a call like that, you shouldn’t be here. It’s a natural reaction, nothing bad or hostile about it. He thought he threw a strike and didn’t get the call, and it was big. I don’t blame John for reacting like he did. Any competitor would have done that.

That was a fight, a battle to the finish. Those guys never give up, and neither do we. That’s why this is such a great matchup. There’s a lot of mutual respect here, I think.

We know they’ve got Mariano Rivera in the bullpen, so it’s important to get early leads and hold onto them. That’s what we need to do against Andy Pettitte in Game 6 on Saturday. We’re looking for another good effort by Joe Saunders, who really pitched well in Game 2 against Burnett in New York.

Joe is cool, and he likes the weather cold, being from Virginia. I’m pretty sure he’ll get that kind of weather again. I don’t think it’ll be in the 70s, like it is in Southern California this time of year. But let’s not get started about the weather again. The cold didn’t beat us those first two games. We didn’t make plays we usually make. We didn’t play like the Angels.

Tonight, when we had to — we were the Angels, the team we’ve been all year. We’ve been on a mission to win this for Nick Adenhart’s family, and that mission continues.

We got what we were after, a return trip to New York. Now we plan to make the best of it and force a Game 7. But it’s one game at a time, one inning at a time, one pitch at a time.

I’ve got a headache right now. This excitement is getting to me. I can use a day to relax and get ready for another battle in the Bronx.

Toriidugout550x275.jpg

Mountain climbing time

Well, we’ve got a mountain to climb in Game 5. No getting around it. We’ve just got to get there, get to the top somehow. It is a mountain, though, no question about it. A big one.

If they win, it’s over. Yankees go to the World Series, we go home. Simple as that. Down 3-1 in the ALCS, I wouldn’t say I’m frustrated. Mad is more like it. We know baseball. It can turn around any time. We’ve got to go out there and try to climb that mountain.

Everybody is asking me how they’ve shut down our offense. They’ve go CC Sabathia and Mariano Rivera. And A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte, and a good bullpen. CC and Mariano, need I say more? But that doesn’t mean we can’t get something going, get our offense rolling again. Sure we can. We need to take it one at-bat at a time, play the way we have all season, and get this thing back to New York.

They had their big man going last night, and we’ve got our big man going tomorrow night. John Lackey, man, I’m comfortable with him out there. He pounds the strike zone, like CC did last night. We didn’t play good defense behind Lackey in Game 1 at Yankee Stadium, and we can’t let that happen again. We’ve got to be on top of our game. We’ve got to play better than that.

People talk about pressure, but we don’t have any pressure down 3-1. We’re just going to go out and play the game the right way, and hopefully that’ll take us back to New York for Game 6. The pressure’s not on us. I don’t buy that at all.

We’ve been trying to get back to our game since the start of the series. We know we can do it. You don’t sweep Boston without being good. We have to get that aggressive mindset and play free but also smart.

It’s been rough offensively. We just haven’t been getting the big hit when we need it. Smooth Bobby Abreu was saying that we’re trying to do too much with runners in scoring position, that we’ve got to relax and hit the way we did during the season.

Bobby knows best. I think he’s on the money. We can’t force things. We have to be disciplined and get pitches in good spots and drive them. We need to be aggressive but play with intelligence at the same time.

It’s a mountain, for sure, but you’ve got to take it one step at a time. We don’t want this to end, and we don’t want to see the Yankees celebrate on our field. No team wants to watch that. Let’s get after it. Crank up the volume, fans, and get the Rally Monkey warmed up.

It’s time to get busy, time to go to work. Time to put on the mountain-climbing boots.

Let’s take it back to New York

ToriikneelingGetty550x275.jpg

Too much CC Sabathia. That was the story again. The big man showed why he’s one of the highest-paid and best athletes in our game. He pitched his butt off for the second time against us, and it’s obvious what we have to do now.

We have to win Game 5, after we take tomorrow off, and take it back to New York. That’s our whole focus now: Take it back to New York.

The Yankees are a good team, and they’re up 3-1. It seems impossible, I know, but it’s not. We’ve won three in a row before. I’ve got faith in my guys. We’re going to come out in this next one and battle like we always do.

This one tonight just got away from us. CC was dealing, right from the start. He changed his pattern on us. His fastball’s still 94, 95 on the gun, but it was his changeup that was keeping us off balance. He had it sinking in and out of the strike zone, fading away from righties, out of the strike zone.

ToriigrimacingGetty375x275.jpg

Sometimes you have to tip your hat, and that was the case tonight. He was coming after us with the first pitch in the strike zone. Now what are you going to do? Battle.

Alex Rodriguez is having a great series. He’s shorter with his swing, a lot more patient. He definitely wants it. You can tell. That guy’s a bad man, like Muhammad Ali used to say. I wish he was on my team.

We’ve got our big man, John Lackey, going in Game 5. John’s a bulldog. I’m excited to have John on the mound. He always battles, always keeps us in the game and gives us a chance.

We joke about the Rally Monkey all the time, but it’s on us. We’ve got to have faith in ourselves and each other and know we can get it done.

The media is asking me what I’ll say to the guys, but I’d never tell. I’m old school. I talk to my guys every chance I get. I’ll encourage them, and they’ll encourage me, too. I need it, too. That’s what a team is all about.

We’ve come a long way, and we don’t want to stop now. Our mission now is to take it back to New York. Take it back to New York and see what we can do.

Lets take it back to New York

ToriikneelingGetty550x275.jpg

Too much CC Sabathia. That was the story again. The big man showed why he’s one of the highest-paid and best athletes in our game. He pitched his butt off for the second time against us, and it’s obvious what we have to do now.

We have to win Game 5, after we take tomorrow off, and take it back to New York. That’s our whole focus now: Take it back to New York.

The Yankees are a good team, and they’re up 3-1. It seems impossible, I know, but it’s not. We’ve won three in a row before. I’ve got faith in my guys. We’re going to come out in this next one and battle like we always do.

This one tonight just got away from us. CC was dealing, right from the start. He changed his pattern on us. His fastball’s still 94, 95 on the gun, but it was his changeup that was keeping us off balance. He had it sinking in and out of the strike zone, fading away from righties, out of the strike zone.

ToriigrimacingGetty375x275.jpg

Sometimes you have to tip your hat, and that was the case tonight. He was coming after us with the first pitch in the strike zone. Now what are you going to do? Battle.

Alex Rodriguez is having a great series. He’s shorter with his swing, a lot more patient. He definitely wants it. You can tell. That guy’s a bad man, like Muhammad Ali used to say. I wish he was on my team.

We’ve got our big man, John Lackey, going in Game 5. John’s a bulldog. I’m excited to have John on the mound. He always battles, always keeps us in the game and gives us a chance.

We joke about the Rally Monkey all the time, but it’s on us. We’ve got to have faith in ourselves and each other and know we can get it done.

The media is asking me what I’ll say to the guys, but I’d never tell. I’m old school. I talk to my guys every chance I get. I’ll encourage them, and they’ll encourage me, too. I need it, too. That’s what a team is all about.

We’ve come a long way, and we don’t want to stop now. Our mission now is to take it back to New York. Take it back to New York and see what we can do.

The real Angels showed up today

Toriisliding550x275.jpg

This is what I’ve been preaching to everybody, what you saw today at Angel Stadium. What happened in the regular season doesn’t matter now. It’s guys people don’t focus on who come through and decide playoff games.

That’s what we saw today with Jeff Mathis banging those two doubles, driving in the winning run, and throwing out Brett Gardner stealing second before Jorge Posada’s home run in the eighth inning. That was a huge play that shouldn’t be overlooked — the pitchout and throw to get Gardner.

And what a day it was for my locker mate, Howard Kendrick. He came through like a champion. He had a rough postseason last year, but this year, it’s different. He’s playing with fire, like he’s mad. And I like that.

This was more like it, more like us. We played the game hard, and we played it right. What happened in New York, that’s not our baseball. Today, we still made some mistakes, but it was more like us.

We kept battling and battling, and we came back and won a huge ballgame. Now we’ve got to carry that momentum into Game 4 and try to get CC Sabathia, one of the best.

Toriigrimacing375x275.jpg

This game today had to be a huge lift for a lot of guys. I was so happy for Vlad Guerrero. He said he was going to do something special, and he did it with that two-run homer in the sixth inning. That was Vladdy being Vladdy, crushing a fastball.

He said, “OK, I’ve got something for you.” It’s all about confidence, like with Howie. He’s got it now. In the second half, after he came back from Salt Lake, he was as hot as anybody. The man is a natural hitter. He’s got the ability to do some great things in this game.

I’m not in the Yankees’ clubhouse, so I have no idea what they’re thinking or feeling. We don’t care about what they do. We only care about what we do.

We definitely feel we can ride this wave and take another one tomorrow behind Scott Kazmir. The guy pitched great for us after coming over from the Rays.

Mathis, he has a lot of heart. He’s an old football player — you know, like me. When you’re a Division I recruit by a school like Florida State, you know you’re an athlete — and that’s Mathis. He’s got that bulldog in him, and he wants to win.

The playoffs is a totally different adrenaline and energy. Guys people aren’t expecting to see come through always shine. Guys like Mathis and Kendrick, they’re dangerous — and they showed it. Kendrick’s home run in the fifth inning got us going, changed the mood, like we had a chance. And then Vlad unloaded his shot.

As for my at-bat against Mariano Rivera in the 10th inning after Mathis doubled … not much I can say about that. He got us. He did what he always does, throwing me nothing but cutters. He threw me one that was yanked, and I tried to stay on it and make something happen. I hit it to Mark Teixeira for a force, and he got out of the inning. He’s Mariano Rivera. That’s what he does.

Mariano, that guy’s just too nasty. It’s not fair. What we need to do is get leads and keep them. That way we won’t have to deal with him.

When we left New York, I said I felt something was about to change. That’s what happened today. The Angels showed up and played the game with passion and purpose. We’ve got a lot of heart on this team, and we showed it today.

Toriiflyball550x275.jpg

Looking for some love from our fans

toriiswing550x275.jpg

We played a good game; a great game, really, in many ways — an awesome game. It’s deflating, sure, but we battled and battled and battled, and it just didn’t happen for us. They took advantage of a mistake, and we didn’t take advantage of enough scoring chances.

Now we have to go home to L.A. and play a little better. It’s not over by a long shot. We’re not playing up to our capabilities. We need to do a little better, come through a little more.

toriirunning375x275.jpg

We had the lead when Chone Figgins got that big hit in the 11th, but Alex Rodriguez is a great hitter, and he saved them when he went deep. That’s what he does. He’s definitely one of the best hitters in baseball, and you know you have to pitch him tough.

Man, these games have been hard on the nerves. If I let my hair grow out, I’d have gray everywhere.

It’s loud and crazy here, people screaming for their team. And the Yankees respond to that. They got a lot of energy from their crowd in these two games, and now it’s our turn to go home and get that energy from our fans.

We need to get busy and take it one pitch at a time, one inning at a time. There’s a lot of baseball left to play, and we’re going to show we’re better than we’ve played in these first two games.

I’ve got a feeling we’re going to go home and it’s going to be a whole different scene in our place, with our fans, the Rally Monkey, all that Southern California energy working for us.

We’re all a little drained and frustrated now, but we’ll be ready on Monday. We’ll just check ourselves going home and take care of business. Nobody’s going to use the cold weather or the conditions for an excuse. We battled, they battled, and they took two games.

That’s done. Time to move on and make good things happen in our house. Gotta get going now. We’re out of here. See you all in Angel Stadium, and get ready to rock.

toriisliding550x275.jpg

Too much CC, simple as that

Toriibunts550x275.jpg

We had a bad night. Some crazy things happened, and CC Sabathia was on his game, and we got our butts beat. That’s all there is to it.

I don’t want to hear about the cold weather. That had nothing to do with it. It wasn’t that cold. When you get that adrenaline flowing, the cold weather is not a factor. In April, it’s a different kind of cold. This is the playoffs. I don’t believe in cold weather in the playoffs. This was fun.

We made some plays that were out of character. We play the game right. That’s not us, but it happens in this game.

We had a miscommunication on the popup that fell at the feet of two great defensive players, Erick Aybar and Chone Figgins. I had a ball hit something and jump me when I was charging Derek Jeter’s single in the sixth inning. Things happen, you go home, think about what you need to do, and come back with a good attitude.

Toriirunning375x275.jpg

What we need to do now is get Game 2 and go home 1-1. That’s what our mind-set is now. There’s nothing we can do about this one. It’s over. I’ve always said you’ve got to have amnesia in this game. I’ve been saying that my whole career. Let it go, move on, make adjustments and get after it next game.

CC was good, man. That’s why he makes all that money. He’s one of the best in the game, and he was dealing tonight. He was ahead of everybody. He had his offspeed working, his fastball working, everything.

We got four hits in eight innings, so that’s pretty much the story there. He was coming after us and throwing strikes.

I tried to put a bunt down in the sixth to get something started, and CC showed his athletic ability, his basketball skills, to make the play he did. As for whether I was safe or out, it doesn’t matter what I saw. The umpire called me out, so I’m out. I can sit here and cry all I want, and I’m still out.

The Yankees played good, aggressive baseball. I’ve been saying that all season. They go first to third, make things happen. They’re not just all about power. They play the game hard, and they play it right. They’re a good team, but so are we.

This is a seven-game series. This is just one game. I think we’re going to come back. Get Game 2, and everything changes.

Our manager, Mike Scioscia, is so positive. He knows it was out of character, the way we played tonight. He talked to guys, told us we’ll come back. That’s what I like about him. I love him, actually.

ToriiHunter550x275.jpg

Even wet, just happy to be here

We’re just happy to be here in the Big Apple, rain or shine. It’s been coming down all day, and a little chill in the air. Hopefully, we’ll get enough decent weather to play some baseball and get back home in good shape.

Facing the Yankees, the favorites, is kind of like facing the Red Sox. People said we weren’t supposed to win that series, but we had other ideas.

We were happy to play the Red Sox. We never said one word that we didn’t want to play the Red Sox. That all came from the media. We wanted to play anybody. We’re just happy to still be playing with a shot at the ring.

When I was younger and with the Twins, it was awesome going out and playing center field at Yankee Stadium in the postseason. They beat us in 2003 and 2004, but we were all minimum wage guys.

This team is a little different. We’ve got an owner, Arte Moreno, who wants to win as much as we do. When we went out and got Mark Teixeira last year at the Trade Deadline, I screamed, I was so happy.

Teixeira is the enemy, of course, but he’s a good dude. I really liked him when we were teammates, and I think he helped guys with his approach. Bobby Abreu has been doing that for us this year, helping not just the young guys but everybody. He has great at-bats. You don’t want to go up and swing at the first pitch after he’s had a seven-pitch at-bat. It trickles down, the domino effect.

We have a lot of leaders on this team, veterans who have been around, guys like Chone Figgins, Vladdy “Mula” Guerrero, John Lackey, Brian Fuentes. And Bobby is one of them. He’s a great leader.

People think he’s quiet, but Bobby’s not as mellow as you think. He is funny. He has everybody cracking up in the clubhouse. He’s so much fun off the field, but when he steps between those lines, he’s focused, man.

As for the Yankees, what can you say that hasn’t already been said? They always have one of the best lineups. It’s nothing different than in the past. You look at my old buddy CC Sabathia, Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Tex . . . so many great players. Those guys are impressive over there. I like them as a team. They play the game right, the way we do.

As for the Angels beating the Yankees in the playoffs twice before, in 2002 and 2005, I wasn’t here, so I don’t have a lot to offer about that. We played them even this year, five wins apiece. There was a lot of scoring, a lot of yelling, and some quiet times. Yankee Stadium, old or new, it’s always exciting to play here.

As a kid, you grow up watching games at Yankee Stadium, and how here you are, in the postseason. The regular season doesn’t matter now. It’s all about what you do now.

I’m sure I’ll be as excited as ever running out to center field in Game 1, all that adrenaline pumping. It’s a dream come true, playing on this field, in the ALCS, with a chance to beat the Yankees. I think we can do. Let’s hope the weather cooperates and we can go out and see what happens.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.