10/06/11 8:59 PM ET
An interview with Willie Bloomquist & J.J. Putz
By / MLB.com
Q. Willie, I guess just my question is, the other series the road teams have won some games, but not in this series, it's all been home teams. And just what do you see playing out, maybe why that's occurred so far or is that surprising to you?
WILLIE BLOOMQUIST: Well, I think we played well at home all year and so did they. No really rhyme or reason why.
Obviously for a road team to come in here, I think sometimes the time of game has a little something to do with dealing with shadows and whatnot. Both teams still have to play in the shadows. So it's really not an excuse for a road team not to be able to win here. But it's just the comfort of playing at home.
They have obviously great fan support here. We have a good fan support back at home. Maybe it's just the comfort thing. That's how we play and that's how we do it.
Q. J.J., your thoughts on the Michigan-Northwestern game this weekend? Ian coming back for Game 5, how confident are you?
J.J. PUTZ: Extremely confident. He's been our force all season long. If you could draw it up any other way, I don't think you would. I think Ian is the guy you want on the hill in Game 5 on an elimination game like this. I think everybody in our clubhouse is excited to go out there and see him do what he does.
Q. Willie, Ron came in here just a minute ago and said that he thinks the momentum has shifted to you guys. You think you have a good chance to win this ballgame. Do you feel like momentum plays any role in Game 5 at all?
WILLIE BLOOMQUIST: Well, I think it certainly doesn't hurt. But it's obvious that the first two games obviously had all the momentum and we were able to put a stop to that when we came back to our place. Winning those two games at home was huge for us to get on a winning roll and get that feeling back again.
I think we're definitely confident that we know that we can beat them. We've experienced the atmosphere here already and the playoff atmosphere, which is obviously second to none, it's outstanding. So it's going to be a lot of fun tomorrow. I think definitely momentum plays a part in it, so we're confident in that much.
Q. This club is kind of specializing coming from behind this year. What's that all about, where does that come from?
WILLIE BLOOMQUIST: I think that's just how we play. We're a bunch of guys that play hard the whole game, whether we're behind or ahead. We've just kind of taken the approach that we're going to play hard no matter what the situation, no matter what the score. And we've certainly been no stranger to being down big in games and coming back and figuring ways to win.
It's similar to how the series has gone so far. We got down early and dug ourselves a little bit of a hole, but we're figuring out a way to crawl out of it. We're back in position now and it's either us or them. So it's going to be a lot of fun.
Q. Willie, what did you note about Gallardo in that first game start, how tough he was and what do you expect tomorrow?
WILLIE BLOOMQUIST: He's obviously top of the line, top of the rotation caliber, got an exceptional fastball, low to mid 90s, good late-breaking stuff, good slider and curveball and also a change-up that they'll throw up there, too. He has four-plus pitches that he can get you out with. When he's down in his zone he's awful tough.
We're going to have to have a good game plan, a good approach against him and hope that we can get some pitches that we don't miss. He'll put up the challenge, but we'll be up for it.
Q. J.J., what impact do you think having played a couple of games in this environment here, what did that have on you guys tomorrow?
J.J. PUTZ: I think we kind of know what to expect. A lot of guys it was their first time in the postseason, myself included. I don't think anybody really knew what the atmosphere was going to be like here. And I think playing a couple of games here definitely kind of puts us at a little bit of ease knowing what to expect as far as from the crowd standpoint. And we have that confidence of winning the last two coming here with a little bit of momentum.
So hopefully the guys will be a little bit more relaxed. They won't be as kind of caught off-guard as the way they were the first couple of games here. And hopefully they can settle down and give Ian a nice little lead early on. I think it's going to be important for us to get off to a good start and let Ian just settle into his game.
Q. J.J., just individually, these weren't save situations that you pitched in, but did you get a real sense for what the postseason is like, and what pitching in that kind of situation is?
J.J. PUTZ: I think so. I know it wasn't a save situation, like you said. But with our backs against the wall like we were, we had to win both of those games.
Definitely felt the pressure of pitching in that type of situation. And I think that just being able to get in there, Gibby thought it was big for us to get just any kind of work we could in the postseason. I think it was definitely big for us to get out there and just get a couple of innings under our belt. I'm anxious for tomorrow.
Q. Seems like a lot of people maybe are saying the pressure is on the Brewers. It's their season. What do you think about that?
WILLIE BLOOMQUIST: I think pressure is all what you put on yourself. They were saying that about us a few days ago, too. Just a matter of how you deal with it.
We're a team that has obviously been in situations before, call them pressure situations, I don't know what you would call them. But in a pressure situation where our back's been against the wall we've been able to come back.
As far as if the Brewers are feeling pressure, I don't know, you'd have to ask them. I'm sure they're going to come out swinging and fighting tomorrow, too. We expect them to bring their A game. We expect us to bring our A game and the best team win.
Q. Willie, can you talk about Miguel Montero, the way he keeps your clubhouse loose, and the "snake"? It's one of the things that's made the series entertaining.
WILLIE BLOOMQUIST: That's beautiful what they do. It's fun.
Miggy is always keeping us loose and doing some things to keep us loose. I don't know who came up with that "snake" thing the other day. Might have been J.J. out of the pen --
J.J. PUTZ: No, no, no.
WILLIE BLOOMQUIST: I don't know who came up with it, but it's caught on like wildfire. Guys are doing it all over the place now. Who came up with that, that's just a mystery.
But that's Miggy kind of keeping us loose and doing what he does best. It seems to help out, because the guys kind of relax and do their thing when he's being himself.
Q. On the same type of thing, gestures, do you have any trouble with the Brewers' "beastmode" stuff? Some people said it's not professional, not respecting the game. Do you have any issues with it?
J.J. PUTZ: It's probably more against pitchers, than anything. I don't.
There's been teams in the past that have had quirky little things that just kind of works for them. My opinion is, you know, if you don't give up pitches, you don't see "beastmode." So it's our job to keep those guys off base. It is what it is.
It's no different than the guy pimpin' a homer or pimpin' a strikeout. It's part of the game. Guys have fun. I don't think there's anything wrong with it. I don't think they're trying to show anybody up by doing it, it's just something they do to have fun.
Q. Miguel was saying you were the one that didn't want to do the "snake."
J.J. PUTZ: He's a Sun Devil.
WILLIE BLOOMQUIST: You want to throw the fork out there, then maybe.
I don't know, I don't really have anything against it, I just don't do it. Once in a while if I happen to look over and everyone's doing it, you kind of got to give them a little something to get them off your back.
But it's just something -- yeah, it can get a little carried away if you let it, but that's what the game is evolving into, I guess. I don't know, it is what it is.
Q. Willie, your hits against Gallardo came on first pitches, if I recall. Is there any advantage to attacking him earlier so as not to let him get to that curveball and breaking stuff?
WILLIE BLOOMQUIST: You know, it's -- it can be, and it can't be at the same time. The opposite of swinging first pitch, if you make an out, then he's got an easy out, one pitch out.
But with him, if you get a pitch over the middle of the plate, you probably should be ready to hit it, because he doesn't leave very many mistakes over the middle of the plate. It's a matter of if you want to wait and be patient and get a good pitch later in the count or if you're early, go ahead early.
But for me it kind of depends on the field, how the flow of the game is going. If the pitch is what I'm looking for or if it's the pitch I'm looking for versus, you know, breaking pitch, if I'm sitting on that, or whatever, it just kind of depends on the situation.
An interview with Kirk Gibson
Q. What did it tell you about Ian, I guess he had come in and said he was interested in pitching on short rest, and ready to go. What did that tell you about him?
KIRK GIBSON: It's just that he wanted to pitch. And he thought he could help the team. I think it probably shows you that he's checked out the history of the postseason for a while and noticed that teams have options in many cases.
It's something he was motivated to do if we thought that that was the right thing for our team and he wanted to make sure that we knew that he was in.
Sometimes you come out and you ask a pitcher how he feels and they tell you okay. You try and look in their eyes and get a real feel for it. I think he was trying to let us know that he had a strong feel that he was prepared to do it if it was within consideration.
Q. What can you do as a manager to foster the kind of obvious camaraderie, spirit that your team has?
KIRK GIBSON: Well, it's a combination of things. I think we started out putting our team together, and when you pick up guys like J.J. and Willie Bloomquist, a lot of things we look into is makeup and character. And you try and forecast what they might give on the field and off the field. And you do your homework. We have scouting reports on everybody.
But I think the hardest thing, really, to have a clear understanding of is to understand what their true makeup is and how they can gel together and bring your team together.
I've been on several teams where there were the position players and then there were the pitchers. And you always want to try and not have that separation. You want to make sure they gel together. J.J. has done a great job. Willie has gone a great job in both those aspects. They broke that down right away. You just have to have fun with each other. You have to work hard with each other. You have to be able to jump somebody's tail.
We talked about not being sensitive early on in Spring Training. There's just certain things that you have to say, whether it's teammate to teammate or manager to team, it's not because nobody doesn't like anybody, it's just that we're trying to get through things that we need to change and get better at.
We have a whole team full of guys that have different roles and they approach things differently within their lives and within the game and how they prepare. But ultimately we're trying to develop a culture that it's all for the team. And we're willing to put -- and not be selfish -- to do what's right to help us win ballgames.
I said at the beginning of this series that we were going to win three out of the next five. And that's what they're here for. So if a guy doesn't pitch or a guy doesn't play or if I take Willie out for defense, he understands. The context is we're trying to win this series, and they all understand that. They all possess the will to win. They all possess the will to never give in.
And that's kind of what we talked about and developed together. And we hold each other to it.
Q. How do you kind of reverse this home field stranglehold that both teams have had in this series? We talked about the other series road teams won, but not so much here. But for you to advance together how do you do it?
KIRK GIBSON: We have to play better. We didn't play very well here the first time we were in here. And honestly, coming into this environment, we don't play many games here. It's not like we're playing in San Francisco, we play a lot within our division.
So you come in here, there's a full crowd. The shadows are a factor. How it evolves during the game is different.
I don't know, I haven't asked, but if you're a pitcher, you're seeing different things looking in there at the mound. I know there are some pitches that our pitchers threw and they did not see the ball. Fielders, same way.
So I think it's different. And just the dimensions. I think we will have an understanding more of what to expect this time. But ultimately it all comes down to the execution. All the things that we worked on all year, we went out in Spring Training to ad nauseam, every day, and we stuck with it, and we played poorly in spring to make sure we understood how we were going to progress through the season. And when we execute in all aspects of the game we give ourselves a chance to win.
The big thing is, is are you going to make the plays when it really matters. I think that's one of the strengths of our team is we have the ability to make big plays. Big pitches, big plays in the field, big plays on the bases.
And all any of us can ever ask for is a chance to win the game. When it gets all down to it, we've really concentrated on not getting bogged down in some of the negative things that have happened within any given game. And just with the belief that we keep grinding to the end, that if we do that, that we'll be good enough to move on.
Q. Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder had some success in those first two games, in Phoenix they didn't have as much. Was that a matter of game plan or execution on your pitchers' part?
KIRK GIBSON: I can tell you, I was just watching the game, one of the games on the plane over here, and it was against Ian Kennedy, and Ian threw him great. He followed the pitch off right in on his hands. He threw a ball right on the inside corner, and Braun threw his bat straight down and made a double.
That's good execution. That's good hitting. You've got to tip your hat on that. They hurt us here. Everybody bears down.
These guys, they come up with a game plan, they try to execute it every time. But sometimes that's not good enough. In the first two days it wasn't such. At our place it worked well. And we out-executed them. We out-pitched them. We out-hit them. It was just the reverse of what happened here.
Tomorrow we've got our No. 1 guy against their No. 1 guy. We all feel good. We feel good. They feel good. It's been a good series. And I think everybody respects what everybody does. And somebody is going to lose tomorrow. We're going to be confident that it's not going to be us.
Q. When you're making managerial decisions at key moments in these types of games, can you just compare the feeling of what it's like as a manager to come through in those situations versus playing on that stage and coming through with big moments, too; is there a similar feeling?
KIRK GIBSON: We all aim to succeed, whether we're a player, whether we're a manager. It's a similar process in that you're thinking things out and you're trying to figure out what you're going to go with, whether you're hitting or pitching. We have scouting reports.
Ultimately, though, you have to have the conviction of what you're going to do. And none of us feel good when we fail. That's what baseball is, it's dealing with failure and overcoming it.
So when I was a player I was -- I took it hard. But I was also very motivated and very determined to get them the next time. And it's no different as a manager. I think things out the best I can. I have a great staff. We share information along the way.
Sometimes we get out-executed. Sometimes guys just hit good pitches. Sometimes we get a bad hop. We get a tough call. But we continue to push on. Like you just can't beat yourself up over it. It's part of what we do.
Q. I know we talked a lot about the noise and the atmosphere and all of that. In terms of communication, you talked about that back home. Are you going to do anything differently?
KIRK GIBSON: I just think we'll be better prepared for it, yeah, I do. And I've thought about it and we'll try and make sure that we can -- we'll make sure everybody knows what's going on, definitely.
We've talked around through some of the players, as well. And the other thing is, teams, we've played them now here, this is going to be our fifth game in a row, so there's a familiarity with some of the things that go on. I'm not saying it won't be a factor, but we should be better prepared to deal with it.
Q. Any lineup changes for tomorrow?
KIRK GIBSON: I haven't thought about that obviously. Willie? Legs okay, Wilbur? Usually I check with Johnny McDonald to see -- he follows Willie around all day to make sure he's not hurting (laughter).
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.