One of those nights

Angels_275_100307_1We gave it our best shot, but Josh Beckett was on his game, making pitches when he needed them, and he got some plays from his defense, too.

I wanted to come out and set an aggressive tone in that first inning. I hit a ball pretty hard and it got through for a hit. I?m running, stealing second, when Orlando Cabrera bounced out. I?m running again, stealing third, when Vladdy Guerrero hit that ball hard that Mike Lowell handled at third. That?s the way it goes. If a ball finds a hole, we get a run on the board, then who knows?

But you can?t take anything away from their guy. Beckett threw a great game. He was putting the ball where he wanted it. When a guy like that gets a lead, it makes him really tough. He kept getting ahead in the count, and you can?t get locked in on a pitch that way. Getting that lead gave him the opportunity to do that, and he took advantage of it. That?s the way it is with any good pitcher.

I thought both guys threw great games. It was a little rough for John Lackey in the early part of the game, but after that he settled down and was on his game.

I hit a couple of other balls good, but you know how that goes sometimes. They made plays on me: Coco Crisp in center in the sixth inning and the young guy, Jacoby Ellsbury, in the ninth. He?d come in for Manny Ramirez and made a nice play.

That was real disappointing, that play in the ninth. We had our big guys coming up, and we were only down by four. We were still in it. But he makes the catch, and then Vlad gets a hit … like I was saying, a break here and there, and you never know. But that?s baseball. You play the game, stay the same and move on.

We?re a resilient team. We?ll bounce back strong. You play all season to get here. You know you?re going to put everything you have in it.

Our mind-set? Come out to win. There can?t be any other mind-set. Do everything you can to win the game.

You know how I feel about Kelvim Escobar. He?s been a great pitcher all year, and I think he?ll come up big in Game 2. We just have to get in our game, get a few balls to find holes, and get a win.

This is a demanding and challenging game we play, but I love everything about it. I hate losing, of course, but being in the postseason, in this environment, this is what every player dreams about.

Nine good, hard innings, one win, and we?re in it. That?s all it takes. There?s no doubt in my mind we can get it done and bring the series home to our park, to our fans, all tied up.

Taking care of business

Another postseason, my fourth, and it?s as exciting as ever. It was a good season, despite some unexpected obstacles that we had to deal with. But we got through everything, and here we are at Fenway Park, hoping to take advantage of this opportunity and play the game the way we always do, aggressively and intelligently.

I?m confident in our starting pitchers, all of them. They can all get the job done. I go back to 2002 with John Lackey, our Game 1 starter. When I got traded to the Angels from the Rockies in ’01, he had just been promoted from Double-A Arkansas to Triple-A Salt Lake. We went on to win the championship in 2001, and then we were together at Salt Lake the following year. We had a dynamite team that year, and John got called up to the Angels. I did, too, a month or so later.

I could see right away that he had what it took. It was his work ethic, the way he went after it. He just had that something special that you look for in a guy. He had the athletic talent -? the guy was a good high school quarterback in Abilene, Texas -? and he also had the desire.

You?ve got a lot of respect for a guy like John, the way he gets after it. It?s been that way from Day 1. When you have the competitive edge that he has, you?re able to overcome adversity and dig deep. Whether you?re a hitter or a pitcher, you?re not always going to have your "A" game. The real test is how you respond when things aren?t going your way. That’s where his mental toughness comes into play.

Brita_4

The guys are feeling pretty good, confident. We know we can play with anybody. We just have to get into our game and make things happen. Just play the way we always play, and we?ll be OK.

Garret Anderson has a swollen eye from an infection, but he said he can see fine. Garret?s a gamer, a great pro and great player. He’s always sets the tone around here with his even-keel attitude. He?s everything you want in a leader.

It’s a shame that Junior, Gary Matthews, can’t play in this series with his left knee bothering him. We have a lot of depth, with guys like Reggie Willits and Nate Haynes, but I know how much it means to Junior to be in the postseason for the first time after all these years. He?s meant so much to us all year — his defense in center, his ability to hit in different parts of the lineup and have an impact.

Whether I?m in right field or at third base, it?s not a big deal. I?ve always been pretty adaptable, going back to my early years when I moved from position to position. As long as I?m in the lineup, I?m content.

That?s why this was such a strange year, missing the first month with two broken fingertips. I never had a hand injury before. After I got through that, I went into a good groove with the bat, but I then injured my left wrist swinging from the right side against the Yankees. That set me back a little, trying to regain strength in my hand.

We?ve had a lot of injury problems, but this is a tough-minded team. Our depth has been a huge part of our success. Our young guys and role players have consistently done the job.

Now it?s time to take care of our business. It?s all about winning now. We have tremendous respect for the Red Sox. It should be a great series.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.