NEW YORK - The first question directed at Orioles manager Buck Showalter during today’s pre-Game 4 interview session went as follows:
“What’s the mindset of your guys after last night?”
Showalter’s response: “To win.”
“Got to win a game,” he continued. “We’ve been in this position before, and you know, see how it turns out. Our guys are the same ... in a good frame of mind. I always take a little pulse check. Not a whole lot going on different. But no, I feel good about where they are mentally. It’s not the first time that they’ve had a challenge this year. Hopefully won’t be the last. Well, hopefully it is the last. But it’s a given that it’s, you know, it’s nine innings. Not moving the bases around. Sometimes you think they’re moving the fences around, but no, we’re looking forward to it.”
Here’s the rest of the transcript:
Q. Does the fact that you’ve already played one elimination game this postseason help you a little bit tonight going into this one at all?
SHOWALTER: “I’ll tell you when it’s over. I’m not one of those guys that says this means this will happen, that means that will happen. On the surface, yeah, Joe (Saunders) has been down this road before, and New York doesn’t have a corner on pressure. There’s a tough, tough environment in Texas, tough environment for the Yankees in Baltimore. And that’s why these guys do what they do. These are the best players in the world. Monica (Barlow) is one of 30 PR people in the country. That’s why they do what they do. It’s a select group, and they have the mentality that people don’t get. I’m proud of them. They amaze me every day by the things that they ... how they go about things.”
Q. You had mentioned that this team is used to the challenge. Are you thinking...
SHOWALTER: “So are the Yankees.”
Q. But are you thankful for all the opportunities you’ve had this year?
SHOWALTER: “Am I thankful for them?”
Q. As far as preparation for a game like this, that they have been there before.
SHOWALTER: “I can’t tell you that a manager is thankful for them. I’m thankful for the times we ended up in the W column, but not once did this club or anybody take it for granted or assume that that’s always going to follow to the next night and next night. And that’s why they’re able to keep doing it, because they didn’t assume and didn’t take it for granted. They realized why they did it, they played good defense and made good pitches. And that experience is good because you know they have a feeling why it happened. That’s what you draw from it, but it’s just a matter of executing that.
“You know, this is hard to do, and the other teams are good, too. That’s why I say they’re the best players in the world. There’s such a fine line here. When I first got to the big leagues, the thing that hit me is how quickly things can happen, good and bad. It’s a snowball ... you’re dealing with this number of quality players, it can snowball both ways.”
Q. It seems like every year postseason, somebody flips a light switch on and pitching starts to dominate like it hadn’t done all year. I think in the first 16 games of this postseason, eight of them were five or less runs were scored, including three in this series. Do you have any theory about why this happens in the postseason, whether the pitchers come to the fore, whether it’s more intense scouting?
SHOWALTER: “Well, us and the Yankees counting spring training, we’ve played them 20-something times. There’s not many secrets. Obviously, they’ve got a lot of weapons. I’ve said all along, hitting will tie this game, pitching wins. If you see how it’s evolved, the teams that are playing this time of year have good pitching. It’s a given. You may have some teams that hit a lot of home runs, some teams may have stolen a lot of bases, but the one common denominator for the teams that play this time of year, they catch the baseball and they pitch. I think it’s more about pitching than it is about struggling hitters.
“I think there’s a little more rest involved. This time of year you don’t worry about giving a guy five, six, seven days off because they’re a lot more in sync mechanically. They’ve pitched so many innings, and have had so many times out there, so many reps that rest only does them well. You see a little crisper fastball, a little sharper breaking ball. And I also think pitchers pitch every fifth day, our bullpen guys maybe every other day, hitters hit and play every day, and this time of year I think pitchers have a little advantage.
“You know, you go back to our first game with the Yankees at our place, that game was extremely well ... was it 2-2 or whatever it was before they had a big inning. That was a low-scoring game, too. The way the game works after you and I talking about this, there will be 20 runs scored tonight. I don’t know. We’ll go out there and see what the boys have in store for us.”
Q. On this particular series, so far anyway, the big hitters, the guys that have been there all year have not really been there so far.
SHOWALTER: “So far.”
Q. Last night was a classic example of two rookies at the bottom of the lineup basically scored the runs last night and (Raul) IbaÃ±ez was their big guy.
SHOWALTER: “Well, Raul has had a lot of big hits for them this year. We shouldn’t feel like he’s picking on us. He’s done a lot of good things for them. Just a really good weapon to have on the bench, and he played and started a lot when they had some injuries that all clubs have. But that’s why we watch the games. Things that you think are going to happen don’t happen, and things that you don’t think can happen happen. I’ve got a good seat for it. It would be a lot more pure enjoyment if you knew how it was going to turn out before it started. But I think a lot of letting Chris Tillman come down here and take part in the press conference, watching Manny Machado’s face during the games, and a Ryan Flaherty, you take all that in, and you kind of live the game through their eyes, and you understand the joy they’re having. I was talking to (Matt) Wieters today about his son Maverick, new baby was here with him, and what kind of stories are you going to have to tell him about his first two weeks of life down the road? Those are things that you really kind of dwell on. The rest of it’s kind of it too shall pass. I’m getting pretty deep here.”
Q. You’ve been fond of saying since the middle of September that you guys are playing on house money because of the expectations that weren’t there. Can a team keep that mindset in a sudden-death game, or have they reached the point since they’ve had a celebration and they’ve moved through, that they also can see that there is something to lose tonight?
SHOWALTER: “I guess that’s a good point because they’ve had the celebration, they kind of know the other side of it. Yeah, but I’m not going to go down there and call them together and tell them, ‘Peter just made a great point, let me tell you about something you’ve got to be careful of tonight.’ Gosh, we haven’t heard that one. That’s another thing I might have missed. But yeah, yeah. I don’t think they’ve always been a half full ... here’s a sudden life. We all know anything can happen in a Game 5, and on paper, I’m sure some people don’t think we have much of a chance tonight. I guarantee that locker room doesn’t feel that way. They’re going about business as usual. But they know the reality of what tonight means.”
Q. Obviously, with Joe Girardi’s father passing, he had said that keeping busy was what he had planned to do, why he hadn’t told anyone. I know you were close to your father, as well. Can you kind of empathize with what he’s going through?
SHOWALTER: “Oh, extremely, yeah. It’s tough talking about it. I have a lot of understanding what ... talk about, well, I’ve been through that. Every situation is different like that. It’s part of life, but you’re never ready. I know you see the type of man that Joe is and seems to be, you know ... I talk about it all the time, we’re at the mercy of the mothers and fathers of the world, and I know you’ve got a pretty good idea what Joe’s dad must have been about. My dad passed away two weeks after I got the job here managing, and I think about him every day. I have a little special feeling for what I’m sure some form or fashion Joe is feeling.”
Q. Sort of piggybacking on that a little bit, Joe kept this under wraps for four days, found out Saturday afternoon in the heat of a playoff series. Can you even wrap your brain around that, and what that type of concentration it takes to do that while doing all of this, and then going out there to manage a game?
SHOWALTER: “Yeah, just getting normal life. I can tell you so many things that happened when my dad passed away like they were yesterday, the hour and the five minutes afterwards, it’s a whole different dynamic. I kind of found then getting to spring training and getting involved in the baseball business, the offseason, what have you, wasn’t quite the elixir that I had hoped it would be. But it was like it happened yesterday. I’m sure everybody has something very similar. Life is tough. It can be cold like that. Believe me, there were 30, 40, 50,000 people, whatever was here last night, I mean, that probably had great sympathy for it, but also wanted the Yankees to win, as did Joe and I’m sure his father.”
Q. A little less deep. I know Jim Johnson has pitched in all the postseason games. How available is he tonight?
SHOWALTER: “Very. Jimmy, will be another one of those where he’ll give me that Jim Johnson look and go, ‘Really, are you asking me that?’ No, it’s something that is part of what we do in pregame, which I’m sure every club does, where you kind of go around and talk to Darren O’Day and Brian Matusz and Jimmy. It’ll be a short conversation with Jim unless ... he has told me sometimes this year. I want him to be honest with me, a couple times, best-case scenario. When you get that out of Jimmy, we usually give him two. There’s so many things going on with pitchers and relief pitchers in general that you just don’t broadcast, that they go through physically. Putting your arm over your head and jerking it violently is not what God intended us to do with our arms. They’re going to have some aches and pains along the way.”