October 8, 2010
You might imagine that our flight home from Florida last night was pretty nice. Everyone was so happy after winning the first two games on the road. Tampa Bay is a good team. We did not take them lightly, and we still don’t. But our guys responded to the postseason pressure as if they’ve been doing this their whole lives.
I’ve been to the postseason a few times in my career, so I was ready to step in and give some advice if I saw guys getting nervous, but everyone was completely cool. Before Wednesday’s Game 1, Ron Washington and a few of the coaches talked in the clubhouse to the team. They said we had nothing to worry about because we were well prepared and had worked hard to get here and to just play the game.
And that’s what we did. Or at least pretty much. I was surprised to find myself feeling a little anxious right before going out on the field but once Cliff Lee’s pitches started popping into my glove, I was locked in. The butterflies went away and it was “Here we go.”
First games in a series are always kind of like a study – you’re studying the other team and they’re studying you. You want to see how they’re going to pitch you, how they’re going to set the fielders. You want to see what their pitcher has working for him.
In my first at-bat, I got a fastball straightaway and was able to line it over first base for an RBI. The next time I came up, he threw me a fastball and I fouled it off. I had a feeling he was going to throw another fastball inside. That’s what I got. I hit it over the left-field wall.
It felt great to round the bases right then. You never know how you’re going to perform when the chips are down, so I was very happy to be able to come through and help the team and give my pitcher a cushion. You can just see how pitchers relax once they have a few runs on the scoreboard. You can see it in their eyes. You see the confidence go up. Cliff Lee had it all going for him Wednesday after a giving up a couple hits in the first inning. He was amazing.
In the clubhouse afterward, you could sense that everyone was just feeling, “OK, we can do this.”
I went to dinner that night with my wife and her parents to a seafood restaurant on the water in Clearwater.
Then C.J. Wilson comes out Thursday and throws another great game, mixing up his pitches and doing his thing. We flew home needing to win just one game to clinch. Pretty good feeling.
Today we had batting practice and infield practice. Jamie took her parents to see Dealey Plaza while I was at the park. I’m watching the Phillies-Reds game now and will try to see the Giants-Braves. It was fun to catch the last four innings of Tim Lincecum’s great pitching performance last night. I’m so happy for him.
I’ll be back behind the plate tomorrow for Game 3. We never, never count any team out. We’re taking nothing for granted. We are not letting our guard down. But I have to say, it will be great to play at home in front of our great fans.
See you out there!
The Final Stretch
I’m on my way to the ballpark in Anaheim to play the Angles, my old team. I have such great memories of that 2002 season when we won the World Series. With the Rangers’ magic number at six, there’s nobody on this club who doesn’t believe we’re headed to the playoffs and, we hope, the World Series. We have the players and coaches to get there.
But you have to be careful about making too big of an assumption. You can’t take anything for granted. You have to keep playing with intensity during the last couple weeks of the season, even if the games don’t mean anything, because you want to hit the ground running once the playoffs start. Each series are so short that you don’t have the luxury of ramping up the intensity. It has to be there from the first pitch. And it has to continue for every pitch, every swing, every moment. Not many guys on this team have played the post-season so Vladdy and I and the few that have been there will talk to the younger guys about how one play, one lapse in concentration, can knock you out of the playoffs. Everything gets amplified.
I don’t worry about this Rangers team on that issue, though. The intensity is there on the field. And maybe that’s because everyone is so loose in the clubhouse. I’ve never been on a team that has more fun. You walk into this clubhouse, and everybody’s joking. They’re talking about what’s on the television or playing cards together. Even guys who seem kind of quiet, like Michael Young, is still joking with everybody. I’ve been in a lot of clubhouses and I’m very, very impressed with these guys. It doesn’t matter what color you are and where you’re from, we’re going to make fun of you and you’re going to make fun of us. It’s like a family.
If this is my last year of baseball, I’m so glad I’m spending it with these guys. Not only are they a lot of fun, they’re so hungry to win. The lack of hitting in the last few games is probably due more to pressing than to letting our guard down. Hitting is the key to this team. When we hit, we win. Yesterday we pitched well but we couldn’t get anybody home. Pitchers can keep you in a game but only hitters can win it.
Of course, not having Josh Hamilton in the line-up hurts. The whole year he’s been the backbone of this team. He’s such a key part of our success. But we can’t sit back and moan about it. We have to battle and find ways to win without him. It helps that Josh is in the dugout with us, cheering everybody. Just his presence makes a difference.
We finish up in Anaheim tonight then fly to Oakland for a four-game series. We could clinch in Oakland. We’d rather do it in Arlington but we’ll take it however and wherever we can. I’m looking forward to seeing old friends and neighbors from the Bay Area. Jamie is already there with Jayda, so for me this weekend will be a little like being home.
See you when we’re back in Texas. Thanks for checking in.