We’re still standing

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We finally got our first lead, and it wasn’t exactly easy, but we made it stand up. We won Game 3 of the NLDS the way we’ve won so many games this season, with quality pitching, defense and just enough offense.

Chris Young gave us an exceptional pitching performance, and I expect the same from Woody Williams on Sunday. We didn’t go into the postseason to win one game — we’re going to give it all we have to take this series back to San Diego and give our fans a Game 5. I can imagine how PETCO Park would be rocking on Monday.

We were talking before Saturday’s game, and I was saying you can’t win three games in one day. You have to focus your energy and attention on what’s in front of you and forget about everything else. I think we did an excellent job of staying focused on each and every pitch.

We were excited going into the series, with high expectations. Obviously, those first two games didn’t go the way we wanted, and here we were staving off elimination. But we got what we needed, and now we move on to face a great pitcher, Chris Carpenter.

It’s definitely the ultimate challenge. I wouldn’t be against not facing this guy, to be honest. The thing that makes him so great is he throws every pitch with utmost concentration. He doesn’t let down. He holds runners on, fields his position well, does everything that goes into being a great pitcher besides having phenomenal stuff.

Carpenter really had his breaking ball going in Game 1 at PETCO, and it will be interesting to see if he stays with his pattern or changes it. It’s a game of constant adjustments.

When we get opportunities against Carpenter, we’ve got to capitalize. I expect us to get some good at-bats, and hopefully we can come through and score some runs.

Speaking of great pitching, Chris Young really wanted the ball. He was excited to pitch in this game. He’s the nicest guy in the world, but on days he pitches, he turns into a different person; he’s as tenacious as anyone. I can’t say enough about the year he had — and the way he responded to this challenge. He’s right at the top of the list in so many statistical categories, and he showed why in the way he went after the Cardinals.

That sixth inning, when they had runners on first and second and Albert Pujols and Jim Edmonds were coming up, that was a turning point in the game. Striking out Pujols was huge. I loved how C.Y. went after him. Then Edmonds got into a pitch and drove it toward the fence in left-center.

I saw the ball pretty good and got a good break on it. But the sun was a factor. I had it in my sights, but it kept carrying and got in the glare. Fortunately, it came out of the sun and I saw it again right before I caught it and hit the wall. I hit it pretty good, but I’ll be ready on Sunday.

I thought we did a good job against Jeff Suppan, making him work. I was trying to get on base, create RBI opportunities for the guys in the middle of the order. It ended up being a good day, with three singles, a walk, a stolen base.

We kept getting runners on base, and it was a little frustrating not scoring more runs. But Russell Branyan got the big two-run double, and Geoff Blum drove him in with a sacrifice fly, and our pitchers took care of the rest.

Hoffman
It was great seeing Trevor Hoffman get in a game and finish it out. I was thinking about that Friday night, how it was going to be a crying shame if we couldn’t get Trevor into a game after the year he’s had. That would have been very disappointing to all of us.

Being the perfect team guy, Trevor wouldn’t have said a word about it, but I know he’d have been a little hurt if he hadn’t been able to participate. I’d like to see Trevor closing out another one on Sunday and push this series back home.

We know we’re capable of doing that. We just have to go out and play the game and make good things happen.

Don’t give up

Xaz6lspx1_1

There?s no holding back now. You play this game, Game 3 of the NLDS, with everything you?ve got. You hold nothing back. You play with abandon, but you?re smart about it, too. Play hard, play smart, leave it all on the field. It?s the only way to approach a challenge like this.

I?ve always believed we?re at our best when we?re playing aggressive baseball, running the bases hard, playing with heart and passion. That?s what I?m looking for when we face Jeff Suppan, on Saturday at Busch Stadium. We?ve had some success against him, and while that means nothing on the scoreboard when the game starts, it can always help a player to have a positive history to draw on.

I?ve been asked a lot about the 2004 Red Sox, how that team was able to come back after being down three games to none against the Yankees and go on to win that ALCS and then the World Series against these Cardinals. Again, there are things you can draw on from your life experience, and I think what we can learn from those Red Sox is that it really never is over until it?s over. That team never stopped believing.

Being affiliated with that team, having people remember my stolen base and talk about it all the time ?- its historical significance in New England -? that?s one of the great moments of my life. I was part of something special with those ?Idiots? in Boston, something I?ll never forget.

There?s so much truth in that old expression ?- You gotta believe. Without that, you have no chance in a situation like this. I like the chemistry on this team, how guys really and truly care about each other. There are no ego issues here; it?s all about playing together and winning together.

We want to keep this season going. I know I don?t want it to end, and I?m sure all the fellas feel the same way. Nobody ever wants a good thing to end, and this has been a real good thing all season long.

I?ve said this all season, and I believe it now more than ever -? this is a special bunch of athletes with the ability to accomplish great things. You look around this clubhouse, and you see proven great players all over the place ?- players with great character, too. That?s why I have such a good feeling about this. I?m confident we?ll rise to the occasion and get back in this series.

Etinqmyb1_1

I feel confident with all of our starting pitchers ?- it?s been one of our strengths all year — and Chris Young has been as dominant as anybody in the league down the stretch. Chris is a fascinating guy. Obviously, he?s extremely bright, having gone to Princeton. He?s also the nicest guy in the world. But on days he pitches he?s a different character. I mean, he really gets his game face on. The guy loves to compete.

Being a great basketball player at Princeton, good enough to play in the NBA before deciding to pitch for a living, that gives you some insight into C.Y. He?s an athlete; he brings an athlete?s mentality to the mound. I love that. It?s kind of like some of us, Brian Giles and myself, Ben Johnson, with our high school football backgrounds.

An athlete lives for moments like these. It?s the challenge, putting it all on the line. Saturday is one of those days. Cheer for us, if you love the Padres, and don?t give up. Because you know we?re going to play it with everything we?ve got, heart and soul.

This team has come back all year, and I?m confident we?ve got at least one more big comeback in us.

Hitting the road

Dive

This wasn’t what we had in mind, obviously. I really felt we were going to bounce back and win Game 2 behind David Wells, and Boomer did his part. We just couldn’t break through against Jeff Weaver and their bullpen.

It can’t get much more frustrating than one run in two games. I don’t really understand why we have these rough times at PETCO Park, but maybe the best thing for us now is getting on the road, where we’ve consistently played our best baseball.

We’ve talked all year about how resilient this team is, and there’s a good reason for that — it is an incredibly resilient baseball team. I look back to so many points in the season where we could have packed it in, but that didn’t happen. And I don’t expect it to happen on Saturday in Game 3 behind big Chris Young.

This guy has been a great pitcher for us all year, especially on the road. There’s no particular reason for that, I don’t think, but when a guy hasn’t lost a game on the road, it just kind of builds a momentum, I think. But even with Chris at the top of his game, the way he’s been down the stretch, we still have to figure out ways to score.

We’ve had success in the past against Jeff Suppan, and we played well at the new Busch Stadium when we were there on our last road trip. We won the first two games of that series and had a lead behind Young in the third game before Albert Pujols hit that three-run homer.

They’re a good ballclub; we knew that coming in. No surprises there. They’d had some injuries late in the season, but they’ve got their whole club back together, and those guys know how to play. But so do we, and we’ve shown it all year.

Obviously, they’re getting the timely hitting and making plays defensively as well as pitching lights-out. Put those factors together, and it’s winning baseball.

Tag
I thought we’d get some momentum going when I made the throw home, and Josh Bard made such a great play to get Juan Encarnacion trying to score in the second inning on Ronnie Belliard‘s hit. But we just couldn’t get our offense in gear for some reason.

Weaver was good, and his confidence seemed to grow once he got out of that first-inning jam, leaving two guys on. He was ahead all day after that and kept throwing his curveball. It wasn’t like Chris Carpenter in the first game — overpowering, electric. But Jeff had good command of the strike zone with his breaking ball and made pitches when he needed them.

Sometimes you just have to tip your cap and move on. That’s what we’re doing. You give a team respect, but at the same time, we know we can beat these guys if we play our game.

People ask me all the time why we hit so much better on the road, and I wish I knew. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed playing at PETCO Park these past two seasons. It was mentioned that this might have been my final game at home in a Padres uniform — I’m due for free agency, it looks like — but that only was in my mind for a heartbeat before I moved on and started thinking about St. Louis and Game 3.

Obviously, we have to win. I  have no doubt in my mind, none whatsoever, that we can get two wins there and bring the series back home.

Taking it easy

Walker

Todd Walker at voluntary workouts Wednesday at PETCO Park.

It was a day of rest for most of us after a long grind, playing all through September with every game having a lot of meaning. We were told we could take Wednesday off, with a voluntary workout for guys who wanted to get some swings or throw some pitches, and we appreciated it.

I welcomed the time with my family. It isn’t easy this time of year to get a free day, and it really can be rejuvenating. It probably was even restful for Geoff Blum. Blummer has those four little girls, and I’m sure he had a great time with them, as we all do with our kids when we get a little break.

Wall
I feel good physically. I’ve been healthy all season, missing only 14 games from June 18 to July 5 with a knee contusion after I crashed into the wall at Anaheim going after a ball.

I feel like I’ve been more durable over my career than some people seem to think, and this has been my most productive season in most respects. I’ve set personal bests for runs scored (80), average (.293), triples (13) and steals (49) — and not making an error in 129 games, I’m pretty proud of that. I was part of what I think was a great outfield with Mike Cameron and Brian Giles.

Josh Barfield, they tell me, was at the workout, which doesn’t surprise me. When you’re young like that, with all that energy, it’s good to work it off. That kid never gets tired. But neither did I when I was his age.

Speaking of Josh, I’d like to point out how much respect I developed for him — and also for Adrian Gonzalez — over the course of the season. It’s never easy to be the new guy on a team, and here you had two guys who were basically rookies, even though Adrian played some for Texas last year. And the job those two guys did was phenomenal, all year long.

Josh_adrianJosh is very attentive. He’ll come sit with me on the bench and pick my brain, and I love that. I remember one game, when he wasn’t playing against San Francisco, and he was asking me all these questions about how to hit with two outs, how you change your approach, inside stuff like that. He absorbs everything and puts it to good use. I have no doubt he’s going to be a great player for a long time. I especially like the way he focuses and performs under pressure.

Adrian is like that, too, extremely serious about the game. He’s so smart, so advanced, it amazes me sometimes the things he does. Like that play in Arizona the other day, when he came up firing and got the out at second base to end the game -? the season, really. That was a play a 10-year veteran makes, knowing the situation, having a feel for what’s happening and reacting instantaneously. Just a great play. And he’s the same way with the bat, always studying, trying to improve.

We have a lot of veterans on this club, guys who have been around and know how to play the game right. I think that’s helped Josh and Adrian both. But you still have to go out and do it on the field, and they’ve been tremendous all season long. There’s no way we’d be here without them.

How do I feel about Game 2? Confident. I like our starting pitching every time out there, and this is no exception with David Wells. I look for a big game from Boomer — and the rest of us.

Keep the faith

Daveandmike_1 It is discouraging to lose the first game of the playoffs against a very good Cardinals team, but this is definitely a different Padres ballclub than last year. There’s no panic in here. This team has come back so many times, there’s no reason why we can’t do it again.

Even after Albert Pujols hit the two-run homer off Jake Peavy in the fourth inning and they got another run, I still felt we were going to win the game. That’s how confident I am in our ability to come back and score runs. We had the opportunities but just didn’t capitalize. That’s baseball.

Last year we were pretty much devastated after losing Game 1 to St. Louis, because there was a big drop-off in the staff after Jake Peavy. I don’t see David Wells and Chris Young as a drop-off.

The big difference this year is our starting pitching. When you’ve got David Wells going Thursday in Game 2 and Chris Young on Saturday in Game 3, you feel good about your chances. We’re looking forward to winning Game 2 and getting the momentum going.

Against a great pitcher like Chris Carpenter, all you can do is give yourselves opportunities. I’m just trying to have good at-bats, trying to make him work out there. He’s as tough as they come, and I’m trying to make sure he earns everything he gets. I thought we did a pretty decent job of that, but he was able to get outs when he needed them.

Slide
I was trying to get things started, do my job as a leadoff man, and was able to contribute singles in the first and fourth innings and a triple in the sixth inning against a tremendous pitcher.

The crowd was great all day; they were very energetic, waiting to do everything they could to give us energy. I really felt we were going to get something going after the triple, when I scored on Brian Giles‘ sacrifice fly, but they were able to do some damage control. That’s what makes Carpenter great.

Carp made great pitches when he had to, and then they made a couple of very good plays when they had to — Ronnie Belliard taking a hit and two runs away from Todd Walker in the seventh and Pujols taking an RBI single away from Mike Piazza in the eighth. That’s three runs we could have had there, and it’s a different game.

But, again, you have to give them credit for their positioning. Tony La Russa and his staff are always thoroughly prepared. That’s why they’ve had the success they’ve had.

In day games here, it can be tough to see with the shadows later in the game. It’s important to get a lead early in this park, and I think those guys know that as well. When the shadows come into play, it makes it that much tougher.

Nobody here underestimates the Cardinals, believe me. It’s easy to look at what they did in September when they tailed off, but you look at their lineup, what those guys have done in the postseason. They had professional at-bats, and  those were the guys who hurt us today, guys like Pujols, Jim Edmonds, Scott Rolen.

We’ve been a resilient club, especially during September when we had to keep winning games to stay in the race. We showed how we could come back after the Dodgers beat us that Monday night in L.A. with the home runs. We came right back and won the next night to go back into first place.

I have great faith and confidence in these guys.

Time for some unfinished business

Againstaz_1

It was an amazing end to a great season, holding on to beat the Diamondbacks the way we did. But our work is only beginning, in a way. We definitely have some unfinished business with the Cardinals after the way they swept us in the playoffs last year.

Last year, getting there was pretty exciting. We weren?t prepared to go any further. This year, everyone?s excited again about going to the playoffs, but this team is built for the postseason. There are no weaknesses here.

Nlds
We?ve played a lot of close games all year long, so that should prepare us for what?s ahead. We?ve also been playing our best baseball down the stretch, which is the way you want to go into the postseason. We had the best record in the league (19-9) in September, and they were all meaningful, pressure games, because the Dodgers and Phillies were able to keep the pressure on us all the way.

Meandadrian
We have a lot of depth, a nice mixture of youth and guys who have been there. You see guys like Josh Barfield and Adrian Gonzalez, how they?ve grown over the course of the year, and it?s great to be a part of that. Both those guys have come a long way and played huge roles for us. Having that blend of youthful exuberance and cool-headed veterans is what you want.

We?ve beaten some of the best pitchers in the National League -? Chris Carpenter and Brandon Webb on this last road trip. Hopefully, we?ll continue to do that. We?ve got a lot of different ways we can hurt you. All through the lineup there are guys who have had big years, good years.

Obviously, pitching and defense keep us in ballgames; we?ve got all the confidence in the world we?ll do whatever it takes to win games.

Highfives
I feel as good as I?ve felt all year physically. It?s been a very satisfying season in a lot of respects, but after the season is over is when I?ll be able to reflect on that, what it all means. Playing every day on a team like this and doing my job — getting on base, making things happen, playing solid defense ?- has been extremely gratifying.

This is a team in every respect. These guys really care about each other. The chemistry has been strong all season long. We?re very confident in our ability to handle any situation. This is a good baseball team.

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