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.
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.
I’ve never been a part of a game that felt any better than this. The way we came back, the way we just refused to go down, it was just amazing to be in the middle of something like that.
I can’t tell you how good I feel for Vladimir Guerrero. This has been a very rough season for him, with all the injuries he’s had to overcome. To see him deliver like he did, driving that game-winning hit against Jonathan Papelbon, was unbelievable.
This guy Vladdy is a Hall of Famer in my book. He’s an all-time great hitter, and a great teammate. I think that’s one of the reasons why everyone was so thrilled to see him get that big, big hit. Because he’s been so great for so long, and people were starting to doubt him. Who’s doubting Vladdy now? Who’s saying he can’t hit a good fastball?
There were so many big moments. Erick Aybar got it started with his two-out hit, then Chone Figgins worked a huge walk against Papelbon. Bobby Abreu comes up, and he’s a guy you want hitting in that situation, cool as can be. He drives one off the monster, and now we’re only one run down.
I was ready to hit, looking forward to it, but they walked me intentionally. Was I surprised? I can’t really say. Their manager, Terry Francona, knows what he’s doing. He’s a smart guy.
So is my man, Mike Scioscia – manager of the year! No doubt.
I’m happy they did walk me now, because of the way it turned out, but I really wanted to hit in that situation. It’s what you live for as an athlete, and that’s why we’re all so happy for Vlad.
The big man came through in a big way. Hits don’t get any bigger than that one. He’s not a guy who shows much emotion, but he was smiling over there at first base like you rarely see him. I was pointing over to him from second base, and I could just feel his joy. It was one of those magical moments.
This team has so much character, I can’t say enough about the heart of these guys. We have been playing for Nick Adenhart all season, and I know he’s proud of us now. Nick loved the game, everything about it, and this was as good as it gets, beating the Red Sox in Boston. I’ve got a lot of respect for that team over there, how good those guys are. That’s what makes this so gratifying.
No more talk about curses!
We beat the Red Sox in their house!
As for Nick, I like what our hitting coach, Mickey Hatcher, said. If Nick’s up there writing the script, it’s a masterpiece.
We’re going to celebrate this, but we know we’ve still got work to do. We don’t want this to end.
The Twins, my old team, are still alive. I’m not going to lie. I’m pulling for those guys against the Yankees. Hey, I raised some of those guys on the Twins team. How could I not be pulling for them?
Whoever we play, we’re going to be ready. We’ve got everything we need on this team, young guys with energy, smart veterans, pitching, hitting, defense, speed. And athletes. Man, we’ve got some athletes. We just have to go out and keep doing what we do.
We got the first three wins. Now we need four more to get to where we want to be, the Fall Classic.
Enjoy the ride, everybody. I guarantee you we are. I just need to find some goggles that keep the champagne out of my eyes.
I couldn’t sleep the night before the series started. You just want the game to be here. Then it’s finally here, and you go out and play, get a big win, and it’s just an incredible feeling.
What you do after a game like this is you go home, dream about it, get up tomorrow, and come back and do it again.
Sure, it’s a big win, and my home run felt great. But it’s just one game, and we know how good these Red Sox are. Nobody has to tell us.
The first thing I want to mention is the crowd. Man, it was loud. I’ve never heard Angel Stadium get that loud. That was exciting.
It was a great duel starting out between two of the best, John Lackey and Jon Lester. Lackey was Lackey. He came through big with his A game when we needed it. And Lester, man, he’s tough — one of the best lefties in the game. He throws hard, and he brings that slider down at your feet.
In my second at-bat, when I walked, he actually hit me on the back foot with a pitch. I looked back at the umpire, Joe West, but he didn’t see it. So I stayed up there. Right now, my big toenail is sore.
When I came up in the fifth, we had runners on first and third. It was a good hitting situation. Erick Aybar doubled, and Chone Figgins bunted him to third. Then Bobby Abreu walked. Four walks in one game – can you believe that? That man is too much.
I took a pitch from Lester and then he threw a two-seam fastball. Bobby was running, and I saw him going. I hit a mistake, I guess. I usually pop it up. Truth is, I didn’t know where the ball was. I closed my eyes and swung.
Running the bases, the crowd going crazy, the adrenaline was pumping so hard, it was unbelievable. I wish everyone could know what that feels like. It’s hard to describe. Just an unbelievable experience. I was running the bases and talking to myself, kind of like when I played football in high school. `Do what you do,’ that kind of thing.
When I got in the dugout, I was so excited I spiked my helmet. It was just one of those moments, a tremendous release.
This is special. I rank it way up there. But it’s just the start.
We played the way I know we can play in this first game. Now we have to keep it going. I try to lead by example. I don’t know if I’m going to hit a home run – you can’t just tell yourself to do it. You just react and play the game, have faith and confidence that you’re going to get it done.
What I like about our team is that the guys brought the dog with them. You can’t be scared, or you’re never going to make it happen.
We have to keep believing in ourselves and keep playing the game with passion and playing smart. If we do that, I like our chances.
This is my sixth postseason, and it’s a whole new season. It doesn’t matter what you do in the regular season. It’s all about who wants it more. You see guys who hit 30, 40 homers, drive in 100 runs, and they don’t do a thing in postseason. You’ve got pitchers who dominate in the regular season and don’t win in the postseason. It’s the same game, but different.
I think guys here learned from last year, losing in four games to Boston. I’m not saying any names, but I can hear it in their voices, see it in their eyes. It’s totally different. The younger guys have that bulldog in them now. It’s what I was waiting to see, and I’m seeing it now.
I love this time of year. It takes me back to high school football in Pine Bluff, Ark., when I just wanted to go out and hit guys. I still want to hit — just a different kind of hitting.
Even though it’s the same game, the adrenaline and hype of it take you up to another level. You’ve got to block it out, go out and have fun. I don’t think anything needs to be said. We finished off on a good note, winning seven of the last eight, and we’re carrying that momentum into the postseason.
One thing about the playoffs – you don’t need any coffee. You don’t want to get too boosted up. I hurt my knee jumping up and down on a play last year against the Red Sox where I thought I was safe – and I wasn’t. The adrenaline was going crazy on me. I’m drinking straight water. Pure adrenaline is going to take over for you.
My whole focus is on the Red Sox, of course, but I’ve got to say, that Twins-Tigers playoff game was awesome. I watched it at home, and I caught myself every once in a while cheering for the guys I used to play with in Minnesota. They battled through it and got it done, and to do it without Justin Morneau, one of the best pure hitters in the game, and Joe Crede, that was impressive. But I know those guys, how much heart they have, how they battle.
Now they go on to New York. In 2003 and 2004, the Yankees put it on us. Hopefully, they can get it done. I texted most of the guys after it was over and told them how happy I was for them. It was a roller-coaster ride, and I was really excited for Alexi Casilla, getting the big hit, and of course for Joe Mauer and the rest of the guys.
Now they just go on straight adrenaline. The Twins probably have momentum, coming off a playoff game, a great win, but that’s a good team they’re playing.
The Twins are probably the closest team to us in their style. They’ve got a batting champion in Mauer, and they always play hard. I think we might have a couple more athletes. Put us on a football field, and we’d win. We have some old quarterbacks on this team – John Lackey, Jeff Mathis, Scott Kazmir, myself. Mathis would be our QB. He was a division I recruit, by Florida State.
I’ve got a lot of confidence in Lackey in Game 1. John’s a bulldog who wants the ball every fifth day. He’s not afraid to throw strikes. The passion he has on the mound, when he comes into the dugout, either he’s upset or excited. I always like our chances when he’s out there.
As for our offense, you can’t say enough about what Bobby Abreu has brought to this team. Bobby’s whole thing is swing at strikes – whether it’s the first pitch or the last pitch you see. It’s simple, but it’s hard, especially for young guys and a hitter like Vladimir Guerrero, who’s always been so aggressive. Vladdy’s Vladdy. He’s been playing and doing it his way for a long time. And he’s a Hall of Famer.
Bobby definitely had a positive impact on me. I’ve been playing for years, but I’m getting better. Besides his approach on the field, another thing Bobby brings is the way he prepares himself. He gets here early, does his running, lifts his weights. Guys see that, and they want to be like Bobby. They know he’s always on the field.
The way Bobby carries himself, that’s another thing he brings to the clubhouse. He’s always relaxed, always singing. He’s a bad singer, but that’s OK. He’s suave. One of a kind.
I really like the way we set up with Chone Figgins and Bobby up top, then the rest of us. Those two guys know how to get on base and run the bases. Guys like Vlad, Juan Rivera, Kendry Morales, we’ve got some bangers in the middle. We have a lot of weapons.
I think we’re ready. Now it’s time to go out and get it done.
When I first came up to big league camp with the Twins in 1997, Paul Molitor was nearing the end of his career, and he had a big impact on me. What’s interesting is that I now see so many similarities between Molitor and Bobby Abreu, who has been such a great teammate this season.
Molly came over and didn’t talk about himself, what he’d done. He just talked about things that he thought could help me. It wasn’t like he was trying to tell me what to do – he was giving me options, things to think about. He wasn’t about changing your swing. It was about figuring out the best ways to use your natural ability.
One of the things Molly stressed was getting a good pitch to hit. Be aggressive, but also be smart. Don’t bury yourself in counts swinging at pitchers’ pitches. I’d been a very aggressive hitter in my Minor League career, and Molly stressed that I had a better chance of getting hits swinging at strikes.
He had so much information and was so willing to share it, I couldn’t understand why more guys didn’t go to him. Corey Koskie, Jacque Jones and myself, we all tried to pick his brain every chance we got. He was a DH in ’97 and ’98, at the end of his career, but we knew everything he accomplished – 3,000 hits, clutch hitter, World Series champion.
He had a short stroke and was aggressive up there. Back in those days, it wasn’t about on-base percentage and walks as much as it is now, and from my point of view that’s more about how the strike zone has changed than anything else. You look at old game film on MLB Network, and you’ll see strikes called that are balls now.
With Bobby, it’s the same thing here, working with all these young guys, as it was with Molly in Minnesota. Bobby will talk about hitting, baserunning, defense, anything you want to talk about. He knows the game inside-out.
He’s been a huge help to Erick Aybar, Kendry Morales, even veteran players like Chone Figgins and myself. Howard Kendrick, I’m sure he’s gone to Bobby. When you have somebody like that in your clubhouse, you take advantage of his knowledge.
One thing Bobby pushes is that you’ve got a better chance to get a hit in the strike zone – the same thing Molly talked about. With Bobby, he can tell you about it and show you how to do it. His approach up there is amazing. He has such great awareness of the strike zone and confidence in his ability to hit with two strikes. He’s always looking for that pitch he can handle, and when he sees it, he goes after it.
Something else about Bobby: He’s always been a clutch hitter. Just like Molly. When I was in Minnesota, Bobby was the one guy we didn’t want to beat us. Everybody knew what kind of hitter he was in the clutch.
It seems like Bobby is finally starting to get the respect he deserves with the media and fans. He’s always had much respect from the players. Everyone in the game knows what a great player he’s been for a long time.
When you think about it, it was that way with Molly too. Late in his career, people started looking at his numbers and seeing how great he’d been for a long time.
I’ve been lucky to play with two guys like that – total pros who play the game right and love to share their knowledge and experience.
I’ve banged into some walls lately, but I hit a different kind of wall after we beat the Diamondbacks, 2-1, in Saturday’s game when big Mike Napoli hit that bomb to center field. I came out of the shower, wrapped a towel around my waist and sat there at my locker for, I don’t know, maybe 30 minutes. Didn’t move. Couldn’t move. My legs were killing me.
If anybody came up and talked to me, I don’t even remember. That must be what a marathoner goes through. I was in a different place mentally, just sitting there for the longest time, daydreaming.
The fatigue ran through my whole body, but I felt it most in my legs. Mike Scioscia gave me today off, so I could get ready for the big series in Texas and play this team we need to run away from.
Winning the first two games here in Arizona made it easier for me to take a day. Plus, we’ve got Gary Matthews Jr. to take over in center, and he’s one of the best out there.
I’ve hit walls three or four times recently, and I’ve been feeling it. But I’m getting better. There’s a difference between soreness and hurting. I’m not really hurting. But my legs were definitely sore yesterday.
Our goal right now is to win series. You can’t win them all, I know, but that’s what we’re trying to do. I want to get my time off now and then before the All-Star break, like today, because I plan on playing the whole second half. We’ve got business to take care of, and I want to give it everything I’ve got.
We’re playing well, feeling good now. There’s a nice vibe in the clubhouse. It’s coming together. We’re playing the way we can – great defense, timely hitting, good pitching. We’re running the bases aggressively. Man, Erick Aybar was flying around the bases when he scored on that bunt yesterday. What’s more exciting than that?
I’m seeing speed come back to the game, and it’s great to see. We went through that period from 1997 to 2007, I’d say, where it was all about power. The whole focus was on home runs in the so-called steroid era. Now I can see it changing, with more focus on speed. You even see it on the highlight shows, Carl Crawford stealing six bases in a game, Dexter Fowler getting five. There are some guys coming into the game who can fly, like Fowler, Adam Jones in Baltimore. I love that.
We’ll find out soon how the All-Star Game voting turns out. It would be a great honor to be there in St. Louis, with all the great players. Even if I’m not voted in, I think I have a pretty good shot at making it as a reserve. I’m having a good year, and I honestly think I’m getting better.
What people don’t realize is I was raw when I came into professional baseball. I didn’t even know what a slider was. I was also a late bloomer physically. In some ways, I’m just coming into my own. Having Bobby Abreu here has been big for me. I’m more disciplined at the plate than I’ve ever been, and I can thank Bobby for that. He’s a master up there, and he’s a great guy to play with, because he’s so willing to share his knowledge. He’s also a really funny guy, helping keep things loose.
I live in Texas in the off-season, but I’m going to be Torii unplugged the next few days during our series with the Rangers. I can’t be dealing with all those outside distractions, so I’ll unplug all the phones and turn off the lights and just get my rest.
It’s time for us to take care of our business.
I called my mom today to wish her a happy Mother’s Day. I said, “I’m going to try to hit a home run for you, Mom.” I didn’t do that, but I took one away.
I’m pretty sure she’ll be happy with that.
Making a catch like that is a feeling that’s so good, so awesome, it’s hard to describe. I thought I had a chance when Miguel Olivo got into that ball, but I had a lot of ground to cover, because I was shading him over toward right center. He’s got some serious power.
There’s a lot that goes into making a play like that. You have to get to the wall, but not too close, and you have to time it just right. After the game, I went and watched the replay in the video room with Justin Speier, and he said I had some serious hang time on it.
I felt like I could have dunked, two hands, over Shaq. I felt like a wide receiver did a slant, and I took him out.
Man, that was awesome. It’s a very special win, coming back the way we did with three runs in the seventh, the bullpen doing a great job. Something like that can do a lot for a team.
When the game ended, Bobby Abreu and Gary Matthews Jr. came over and I was expecting the usual high-fives, but they both threw themselves into me and we had a three-way hug out there. It was just an expression of how great it felt, for all of us.
That’s the kind of moment you live for as an athlete, to challenge yourself and make a play like that, with so much on the line — and then to celebrate with your teammates.
I’ve made my share of catches like that, and this one ranks pretty high. But the best is the one on Barry Bonds in the 2002 All-Star Game in Milwaukee, when I took one away from him. That was on the big stage, my first All-Star Game, and it was an incredible feeling.
I take great pride in playing center field at a high level. I’m aware of some of the stat guys who are saying I’ve lost something, I’m not as good as I once was. Well, I just wanted to let you know I’m still me. I still can play the game. I know how to play center field. I still feel like I’m one of the best.
That’s not being cocky. That’s confidence.
People ask me what it takes to make a play like that, and it’s hard to describe. It’s just something that’s in you. You have to have the athletic ability, first, and then instincts come into play. I try to teach my sons how to do it, and they get a little frustrated. Maybe they’ll catch on.
It’s like when Torii Jr. just missed a home run, the ball bouncing off the top of the fence. I told him to be patient, that he’ll be getting stronger as he gets older, and those balls will start flying over the fence.
There were some great signs for us this weekend. We swept a really good club in the Royals. I like what they’re doing. They play the game hard, and they play it right. Coco Crisp was a great pickup for them in center field, and they’ve got a lot of talent there. Big Olivo, he’s something to watch. He’s got a cannon for an arm, he can run, and he can put a charge in a ball.
He just hit that one in the wrong place today — and I was able to get there.
There was another play I made earlier in the game that was unusual. They had a man on first, Mike Jacobs, and Alberto Callaspo hit a sinking line drive. I came up and played it on a hop and got rid of it as quickly as I could, and we got the force out at second.
There’s an art to that. It takes a lot of practice. I threw that one three-quarters, and sometimes, if necessary, I’ll come sidearm with a throw to get it there in a hurry.
I grew up playing shortstop, and that’s how I play center field — like a shortstop. I love making throws on the run, holding guys from taking an extra base. After the catch, they had a man on first and Coco hit a single to center, and I was able to keep the guy at second by getting to the ball and getting it back in as fast as I could.
There are so many elements to playing center field. It’s my position, and I love everything about it.
Today was a great day to be in center field — and to be an Angel.
I know a lot of people are criticizing Gary Matthews Jr. for taking the stand he’s taking, wanting to play every day. People wonder how a guy making the kind of money he’s making can act like he’s not happy. I hear that all the time. You’re making all that money, how can you complain? What’s your problem? Well, that’s not fair at all, if you understand the mindset of an athlete. We’re competitors by nature, and we all want to be part of something special.
I understand perfectly how Gary feels. Gary’s an athlete. He grew up loving the game and playing for nothing. That’s what got him where he is, that passion he has for the game. The fact he’s now making a lot of money doesn’t change that. He feels he can play at a high level — and I agree with him.
We play the same position, and I know what it takes to get it done. Gary’s a terrific center fielder, and he can also play left and right. But we’ve got a lot of talent everywhere in this clubhouse, and even though that’s great for the organization, it’s not so great for some of the players.
You can’t expect a guy who loves the game to sit on the bench and be happy about it. I’ve always felt older guys who are near the end of their careers make the best bench guys, because they know what they can do and how to respond to situations. Younger guys just want to get out and play. Gary’s not a kid — he’s 34. But he’s not an old guy, either. He’s healthy again, and he wants to get out and show the world what he can do. How can you blame him for that?
Bobby Abreu is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. Because of the economy in baseball now, he had to take an $11 million cut this year, down to $5 million, to come play for us. He did it because he loves the game and wants to play baseball. He’s here every day, cracking us up with jokes, laughing, having a great time. I knew he was a great player, but seeing him every day now, i can see he’s a great teammate, too. He’s going to be good for this club in the clubhouse as well as on the field. Bobby’s a real pro.
I know what it’s like to be frustrated with your situation. I was the same way back with Minnesota. I’d be hitting like .450 in the spring, but they had Otis Nixon in center field in ’97 and ’98, and I couldn’t make the team, no matter what I did. It kind of messes with your mind when you’re young.
That’s why I’m always talking to Brandon Wood, Matt Brown, Sean Rodriguez, all these young dudes who can play but have established veterans in front of them. I tell them to be patient, that their time will come. I know how frustrating it is, but you have to keep working, keep improving — and be ready when your opportunity arrives. I tell them it’s the same game up here. That doesn’t change. What changes is the hype, the fans. It’s the spotlight, and how you handle it.
The talent level on this club is really amazing. Man, I look around and shake my head. We’ve got athletes all over the place. That’s why I feel for Gary. This guy is a premier athlete. I know it’s tough on him emotionally. It doesn’t matter if you’re making $500 million — you want to play. That’s true of 99 percent of the guys in the Major Leagues. Manny Ramirez is playing because he loves the game, loves to hit. I know Manny, and he lives for the game, the competition.
Gary is no different. He just wants to play. That doesn’t make him a bad guy, by any means. It makes him an athlete.