General thoughts: I just got away from my game plan of focusing on every pitch. I think I was nitpicking a little too much out there instead of just coming after them. A lot of times with an aggressive team, a pitcher will start to throw more balls out of the zone, and I think that’s what I did today instead of just coming at them with strikes and let them get themselves out.
There’s quite a few aggressive hitters with the Tigers, and I was throwing balls in the strike zone at that point. I think overall I threw nine out of 21 first-pitch strikes — not good. And then probably only about 53, 54 percent strikes overall, and I think that was the difference because when I come out commanding the zone early, I put teams on the defensive, and I don’t think they ever felt like they were on the defensive tonight.
Even early, when I was getting guys out, I didn’t have great fastball command. Guillen popped up a ball that was kind of in the middle of the plate, and I got away with some things. I threw some good changeups off the plate, but more than anything, fastball command sets up the offspeed, and if I’m not throwing the ball in for strikes or away for strikes, they don’t really need to worry about it. And I think tonight they knew that the changeup was the only consistent pitch I could throw in the zone, and Pudge hit a 2-1 change to the opposite field for a homer, and Inge hit a 2-0 change for a double to left-center. Both very good pitches, but we didn’t get to them by throwing fastballs in the zone.
They were gonna make me throw them strikes, and that’s just something I didn’t do. I think a lot of teams that face me, if they’re not swinging, it’s either because they’re trying to time me or because they’re going to make me throw strike one, and I didn’t throw strike one nearly enough, so I take full responsibility for the loss.
It would have been nice to come away, opening at home, with Game 1. But the reality is we didn’t. I think we got a good feel for what the ALCS is about, though, and hopefully we can go out there tomorrow and get a split out of this little series within the series and just take it back to their place. Obviously it’s not ideal, but I don’t think it’s the end of the world because it’s a seven-game series.
The bullpen was outstanding, and you could say that we didn’t have clutch hitting, but when I put us in a hole like that, it changes the momentum, because you never know. If it’s 0-0, maybe we do have some clutch hitting. It’s all about momentum in the playoffs.
I just have to pound the zone, simple as that. Everything felt good. My mechanics felt good, my arm felt live. I think it’s just a mindset of attacking them and making them inflict the damage on you instead of trying to nitpick and pitch away from contact, and I got away from that.
The layoff between series might have affected us a little bit. Whenever you have a few days off like that, you kind of start to maybe chill out too much, and having that day off Saturday was unexpected for all of us, but it’s something we have to rebound from now and not worry about it.
I would never bet against this team. First of all because it’s against the rules, but also because we’ve been through so much, and we’ve been counted out many times. If we can just refocus and clean the slate for tomorrow, I think things will start to look up for us.
I feel good about tomorrow with Esteban going. He’s probably been our most dominant pitcher the last three months of the season. He pitched great for us in Minnesota, and I’m looking for him to come out and get us back in this thing.
The crowd was outstanding tonight. The energy was electric, better than I’ve ever seen it. I remember in Game 3 of the ALDS against the Yankees when we had a chance to close them out, and it was a very similar feel. We probably had 20,000 more people then because the upstairs was open back then, but tonight we had 35,000 and they sounded like 55,000. That was pretty impressive, and I’m sure it’ll be the same for Game 2.