Results tagged ‘ John Lackey ’

Humbling year comes to a close

ARLINGTON – This is where the long season ends, today, much too soon for us. It’s been a trying year. I’ve been humbled, and we’ve been humbled as a team. Nobody saw this coming, and we’re not going to let it happen again. When we get together for Spring Training, I want us all to remember how bad this felt. That will make us that much hungrier.

Looking back, we got beat down, starting in Spring Training. There was a lot of turnover, a lot of change. Four core guys left: Vladimir Guerrero, Chone Figgins, John Lackey and Darren Oliver. That’s a good piece of the club. And Gary Matthews Jr., too. He was an important role player for us.

It never really came together for us, other than that one stretch we put together in June where we played like us. The rest of the year, that wasn’t us at all. It was somebody else. We weren’t letting our talents flow. We were pressing, trying to do too much, trying to win games by ourselves.

When I signed here, I expected us to be dominant every year. We have to get that feeling back. One thing you can’t expect is injuries, and we had some big ones: Kendry Morales, Maicer Izturis, Jeff Mathis, Joel Pineiro, Jason Bulger. We lost key guys, and I think it kind of knocked us off balance because we didn’t have as much depth as in the past.

This is the first time in my career since 2000, when I was 24 years old, that I played on a team that didn’t have a winning record. With the Twins, we were always in contention. In 2005 I broke my ankle and we didn’t make the postseason, and we didn’t make it in 2007 even though we were fighting for it and got close. Then we made it my first two years here and were two wins away from the World Series last season.

This is a humbling season for me. Sometimes you have to be humbled. You get spoiled sometimes with winning. I have been slapped in the face and the team’s been slapped in the face. I’ve been winning my whole career, and I’m not used to this feeling.

Things don’t always work out the way you plan. I had sports hernia surgery on Nov. 27, and it took me time to get to where I could do my rehab. When I got to Spring Training, it was like I had to learn to run the bases with it again. I had a lot of catching up to do, and the truth is, I didn’t feel the same, like myself, until recently, in August and September.

It all went back to May of 2009 at Dodger Stadium when I crashed into the wall making a catch on Matt Kemp. Then I hit the wall hard in San Francisco a few weeks later, and my groin got really bad. I always try to play through injuries – that’s just who I am – but this was bad. I had to sit a long time, and when I came back I wasn’t right but I gave it my best shot.

Playing center field requires a lot of running, and it seems like I was doing even more than normal this season. My old explosion wasn’t there. I didn’t feel like myself going after balls. I could still make plays, but it wasn’t me. That was something that really hurt me. I always told myself I would retire if I couldn’t play center field, but life is about revising things. It’s like when I said I wasn’t going to get married until I was 25, and I got married when I was 21. Life happens, as they say.

Anyway, I always thought I loved center field more than the game itself. When the decision was made to move me to right field and play Peter Bourjos in center, I found out I loved the game more than center field. That was big. It was hard for me to give up center field, but I knew I had to do it. It improved our defense. Peter is showing what he can do out there. He’s not a finished product, and that’s what’s scary – seeing how good he is already and knowing that he can get so much better.

When Pete got here, I liked that he asked me questions. That let me know he really wanted it. He’s into the game and understands the game offensively and defensively. I wouldn’t put too much on him too soon – let him play and learn and grow. This is just the beginning for him, and I know what that’s like. When I started out in Minnesota, I had guys like Kirby Puckett and Shane Mack to show me things. Now I can do that with Peter, like I did with Denard Span while I was still with the Twins. Now he’s playing some good center field.

It’s funny, it wasn’t until the end of August, the beginning of September, that my legs started feeling a lot better. I felt like I had some burst again, and I was getting down the line better. I think that moving to right actually did help me save wear on my legs. In the long run, that can be a really good thing. Next Spring Training, I’m going to be primed.

We learned a lot this season through the humbling we took. Now we have to turn it back around and be the Angels. That’s all. Just be the Angels, who we are. That will be enough. I’m excited about coming back and getting back to the top, where we belong.

You can catch me on MLB Network with some commentary during the postseason, and I’ll try to be enthusiastic and upbeat. But you know me: I’d rather be on that field, helping drive the Angels toward our ultimate goal. Wait’ll next year.

Angels: Built to win

ANAHEIM – It’s great to be back in our park, back home. We got everything accomplished we needed to do in Arizona, and now it’s time to get ready for the real thing. We’re looking forward to seeing the Twins on Monday, so we can get this show started.

I know there’s been a lot of attention focused on the guys we lost this winter – Chone Figgins, John Lackey, Vladimir Guerrero, Darren Oliver, Gary Matthews Jr. But that’s the way the game is. Guys move on, and you adapt. We’ve made some great additions, and I’m really excited with the team we’ve put together here.

Of course, it hurts losing teammates who were friends. A guy like Figgy, he was a respected man in the clubhouse, a leadoff guy who scored more than 100 runs and saved a lot of runs with his glove. He played the game right. But he got a great deal in Seattle, just like I got a great deal here. I’m happy for Figgy, but he’s on the other side now, and we’ll compete against each other with everything we’ve got.

I’ve got a ton of confidence in Erick Aybar taking over as the leadoff man. He’s a young guy with tremendous talent coming off a big year. And he can fly. He’s going to be fun to watch on the bases. With another year of experience with his mentor, Bobby Abreu, Aybar should be even better.

Bobby’s one of the best leaders in the game, and I’m so happy he’s back. You could see his influence last year in how much Aybar and Kendry Morales and so many other guys improved during the season. Bobby even helped out veterans like Figgy and me in a big way by showing us how to be more disciplined and selective at the plate. Everyone learned from watching Bobby and listening to him.

Lackey was a bulldog, one of the reasons I wanted to come here, but he got a great deal in Boston. We signed Joel Pineiro to replace Lackey in the rotation, and I’m impressed with Pineiro. You’ve got to like a guy who throws strikes and keeps the ball down. He should get real deep in games with our defense behind him.

With Pineiro, Jered Weaver, Joe Saunders, Ervin Santana and Scott Kazmir, we’ve got five solid starters, five guys who will give us a chance to win every night. We’re built to win with that rotation and with a deep bullpen. We’ve got some big arms out there, and this is Brian Fuentes’ second year in the American League. That always helps, getting that first year to figure things out.
 
Hideki Matsui is the guy I call the Quiet Assassin. He’s as clutch as they come, in a quiet way. I’m really looking forward to seeing what Hideki does in our lineup. He’s a pro, like Bobby, and you can never have enough of those guys.

Morales was born to hit. I call him Captain Caveman and Bam-Bam. He’s solid, strong and he always wants to use that stick and hit. And he’s good down at first with the glove.

Hitting behind Aybar and Bobby, and in front of Hideki, Morales, Juan Rivera, Howard Kendrick, Brandon Wood, Mike Napoli and Jeff Mathis, Maicer Izturis. That’s a lot of talent, a load of weapons.

Brandon Wood, his thing is to play defense and do his part. Let us have the pressure. That’s why they’re paying us. We just want him to relax and play. He’s got it in him to hit at least 20 homers, with 70-plus RBIs. If he does that, he helps the team tremendously. The way he’s played third base, he’s been impressive.

Everybody knows what Izturis can do – pretty much whatever you need. He’s versatile and clutch, the kind of guy every winning team needs. Kendrick is going to do some really big damage this year. He’s my pick to click. I definitely feel he’s one day going to win that batting title, if he can just stay healthy.

With the kind of talent we have in front of me and behind me, I should be in a good position to drive in runs and score a lot of runs. All I have to do is stay on the field.

I was on my way to my best season ever when I messed up my groin crashing into walls last year. I really feel good now – once I broke the scar tissue sliding this spring, I was good to go. I don’t even think about the sports hernia surgery I had last winter anymore. I’m ready to get after it.

I think we’re built to win the division. There’s a reason why the Angels have won the AL West three years in a row and five of the past six. These guys know how to compete, how to win. I thought we had a great year last season, considering everything we went through losing Nick Adenhart. We’ll never forget Nick, what he meant to us.

This team has a lot of heart. Our mission this season is to take it all the way. We can’t wait to get started.

 

Heaven — and Game 6 — can wait

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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.

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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

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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?

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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.

Feeling good and staying hungry

We’re going to Boston feeling good about being up 2-0, but we’re staying hungry. We won’t be satisfied until this is over. We’re going to enjoy these two wins, but we know how dangerous the Red Sox are, and we’ve got a job to finish now.

So many guys came through in this second game, but you have to start with Jered Weaver. Man, he was dealing. I’ve got a great view out in center field, and he was on his game, just like John Lackey in Game 1. Weaver’s been doing it all season, and he really brought it out on the big stage. And that was great to see, after the way he’s performed all year long for us.

We’re having fun, playing our game. It’s something we’re talking about. Let’s have fun and let our God-given ability take place.

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Josh Beckett is a big-game pitcher, one of the best. It’s not easy to beat a guy like Beckett. His ball was moving, like usual, but we had some great at-bats and scored some runs.

How about Vladimir Guerrero, going the other way for a big hit and then drawing that walk to get our seventh inning started. We were having a lot of fun with Vladdy over that. The big man really came through. He’s a Hall of Famer.

Then Howard Kendrick comes in to run for Vladdy and steals a big bag. Beckett’s quick over to first, so it’s not easy to run on him. Howie got a nice jump and beat it cleanly. Then Maicer Izturis, who hadn’t even played for about a week, walks up and does what he does – he slammed that huge base-hit to center field for the lead.

Maicer is one of those quiet guys people don’t pay much attention to, but he can play the game. He does it all, and he’s a guy you want up there in a big situation, because he’s so cool.

Big Mike Napoli goes old school and takes a pitch in the back, and that keeps it going. And then Erick Aybar — what a season he’s had — he goes up and crushes that ball to center field, and he’s flying to third base. That’s the way we play the game, hard, aggressively. Aybar’s not scared. He loves to compete.

We know all about the Red Sox. Those guys are not going to let up. They’ve been down before and come back. We can enjoy this now, but starting Sunday, forget that and go out and play the game.

The next one is at noon on Sunday, East Coast time, and we’ve got a day to get adjusted and be ready. I might have a cup of coffee before that one. Hopefully, we’ll all get some good sleep and be ready to go.

 

 

A night to dream about

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.

 

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