NEW YORK - Miguel Gonzalez loves pitching in important games. The bigger the crowd and the stakes, the more he welcomes it.
He’s just doing it in the U.S. this year. That’s the only real difference.
“That’s what I’ve been doing for the last eight years here and in Mexico, especially,” he said earlier today during a conference call with reporters. “I have a little bit of experience in the playoffs in Mexico. I just stay within myself, make good pitches and try to get guys out as fast as possible.”
Sounds like a plan.
Gonzalez will start Game 3 of the best-of-five American League Division Series Wednesday night in the Bronx, with a chance to give the Orioles a lead and push the Yankees to the brink of elimination.
Gonzalez has pitched twice at Yankee Stadium this year, allowing four runs in 13 2/3 innings, walking one batter and striking out 17.
How has he done it?
“Adrenaline, confidence. And having (Matt) Wieters back there makes it easier for us to pitch,” he said.
“I try not to change anything and just be myself as I was throughout the whole season. I don’t try to do too much. Just stay within myself and follow what Wieters is going to put down. That’s what I’ve been doing the whole year.”
Gonzalez soaked in the playoff atmosphere from the home dugout at Camden Yards for the first two games of the Division Series. Did he notice a change from the regular season?
“Just the fact that the crowd was more into it,” he said. “I was a little disappointed at the last two innings we played in the first game at our home. The crowd was a little down, but yesterday’s game was great. The whole game. The crowd was with us the whole time, one to nine.
“Just having the opportunity to be here and be a part of the team and being in the playoffs, it’s been a plus for me. It got my adrenaline going, even though I wasn’t playing. Every inning, every out, every pitch was really important. Especially facing the Yankees.”
Considering the adversity that Gonzalez has faced, no one in pinstripes is going to rattle him.
“I did have my ups and downs,” he said. “It was tough. Playing in the minors for seven years and being on the disabled list for two years - once for having that knee surgery in ‘08 and Tommy John surgery in ‘09, back to back. It was pretty tough on me, but I stayed within myself and kept working. I did what I had to do and it paid off. It’s been fun ever since. When I got called up this year, and even playing with the Triple-A Norfolk Tides, I just went out and had fun and things changed. From one year to another, you never know where you’re going to be, and I’m really happy where I’m at now.”
Thoughts of quitting crossed Gonzalez’s mind, but he kept going, his family providing the necessary pushes.
“My family has always been a big part of me and it’s all about baseball within my family,” he said. “I thought about (quitting), but I was like, ‘What else am I going to do?’ I love playing baseball and this is what I want to do. I want to keep going and keep trying to do my best. Just perform, which is what has been happening this year and I’m really happy with what’s been going on throughout the year.
“It’s been a long journey for me and I’m really happy.”