It’s just about time for the playoffs. To compare this year’s Cardinals team to the only other playoff team I’ve been on, the 2007 Rockies, the clubhouse is similar. The guys get along similarly and the chemistry is similar. I think this team has stronger pitching, but we had a lot going for us that year as far as momentum. We basically played playoff games for the last two weeks of the regular season and that prepared us to play well in the first couple of rounds.
But overall I think this team is better. It just all depends once you get to those rounds, though, because everybody is playing well and whichever teams execute the best will move on. So thats our job, to try and execute and play well so we can move on.
It takes another step up when you go from the regular season to the playoffs. Every pitch is so extremely important to the outcome of the game. You can just feel the intensity and the speed of the game at such a high rate because everyone knows the importance of it. The players are more rested because weve had a few off days and everybody has the adrenaline going. Its a very high level of baseball.
It can be hard to sleep the night before the playoffs start. You want to get some rest but you also want to get out there and play. It can make for a little bit of restlessness, but I think we will be ready and prepared to play.
As the playoffs get closer, you will feel the excitement for playoff baseball and the opportunity to win a championship.
Im sure the fans will be excited, as will we, to see the kind of enthusiasm and intensity that the crowd will bring. It will hopefully be a big advantage for us.
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It’s a lot of fun to come to the park when things are going like this. As the season gets long, near the end, it makes the last month go by a lot faster when you’re playing for something and the team is playing well. I’ve been on teams where you’re just kind of playing it out, and that’s not a whole lot of fun. It seems to take forever.
So it’s nice to come to the park in the middle of September knowing that you’re playing for something bigger. We’ve just got to keep playing the way we’ve been playing, and hopefully end up where we want to end up.
I was on a team in 2007 that had a great run, when the Rockies came on strong at the end of the year. I think the parallel between that team and this one is that we’re finding ways to win. It’s not always the same way. It’s not always the same guys. It’s a team effort. Good starting pitching, timely hitting and good defense. That’s the recipe for putting together nice months, nice weeks of winning games. It’s different, but those are similar traits that the two teams have.
Speaking of the Rockies, I do still follow the them and how they’re doing. I enjoy seeing them succeed. I have some really good friends there, and it’s fun to watch them do well.
We’ve got three good teams coming to town on this homestand, and that’s probably a good thing. I think you can’t underestimate any team, because even when you play teams that aren’t doing so well in the standings, you’re going to run into good pitching. You’re going to run into good hitters. Every team in the Major Leagues has good players. But Atlanta, their pitching is probably as good as it gets in the National League, so it will be a challenge for us. And then Florida is also playing well, and obviously the Cubs are capable. So it will be a good test for us.
The magic number is getting smaller, but I think until you get to where you’re one or two games away, it’s hard to do the math of how things have to shake out and when and where it will happen. So until it happens, until you get a chance to actually be a day or two away from it, I don’t think many guys are really thinking about when or where we’re going to clinch.
We’re going back to some familiar places for me this week, to Los Angeles and San Diego.
We actually played at Dodger Stadium in Interleague Play this year when I was with Oakland. The Dodgers obviously have a great team, so it’s going to be a challenge, but I tend to hit pretty well at Dodger Stadium. PETCO Park is a very pitcher-friendly park, so that will be a challenge for us hitters. It’s all about winning games and finding ways to win but it will be two nice cities to go to. It probably won’t be too hot — we should have some nice and cool weather. That’s always nice in August to go out to some cool weather, so that should be good.
My family is still living at the hotel for now, but we are probably going to move into an apartment complex where some of the other guys live when we get back off this road trip. It’s been good. It’s been easy to get over here since the hotel is by the stadium. We’re going to go ahead and put my five-year-old in school here and finish out the year and go from there.
My family went to the St. Louis Zoo, they’ve done a few things like that, but we’ve pretty much been spending most of our time here at the park or just hanging out. Albert has a guy who lent us a car so we’ve had a car.
The trade was probably harder for my wife than for me. My wife has pretty much done everything. For me, I just picked up and moved on but she has had to go to California and pack up the house and get all of our stuff sent places. So she had the hard part of that. She’s done a great job of getting us all situated and now were in a pretty good now, most everything is done, and were just enjoying our time here.
It’s been a lot of fun lately. Obviously winning games is the most important thing. I was playing well before the trade so it was perfect timing. I was comfortable swinging the bat since the first day I got here so everything was just perfect timing, both personally and professionally.
The day that I was traded, we were in New York after coming in from the West Coast. So I got up pretty late because it was still pretty early on the West Coast. I got a text from my agent that said that it was getting close, that I was close to being traded to the Cardinals and he would let me know. He was about to get on a plane.
Not long after that, I got a text from Billy Beane to call him. So I called Billy Beane, and he informed me that they had traded me to the Cardinals and somebody from the Cardinals would be getting in touch with me about the logistics of getting to Philly that night. I was in the lineup and they were going to try to get me there as quickly as possible.
So from there, I basically went and said goodbye to some of the guys from the A’s and talked to the clubbies about how I was going to get some of my stuff there. They set me up on a train. So we packed all of our stuff and took a cab over to the train station and got on the train. A little over an hour later, we were in Philly. A car picked us up, took me right to the stadium and took my family to the hotel. I went straight in, got dressed, met with the media a little bit, went out and took batting practice, came in, got changed and played the game. So it was a little bit hectic. There was a lot going on. It was a full day.
After that, we came home to St. Louis, and being here has been fun. We’ve played two tough opponents so far in the Dodgers and Astros. We played four tight games against the Dodgers and won three of them, so it’s been fun. It’s been fun to go out and play at Busch Stadium. It’s been pretty exciting.
The fan reaction has been great. You never expect that kind of reception, but it doesn’t surprise me. The fans here are very knowledgeable about baseball and very into the game. It’s a great atmosphere here. Even when I was an opponent, the atmosphere here was great. It could be a regular-season midweek game against the Rockies, and there was still a great buzz around the field. So it’s been everything I thought it would be and more.