Craig Breslow’s Playoff Blog: A big step, but not ultimate goal
|10.09.13 at 5:20 am ET|
Red Sox left-hander Craig Breslow will contribute regularly to this blog throughout his team’s postseason run. In addition to his work on the mound, the eight-year big leaguer is also the founder and executive director of the Strike 3 Foundation, a charitable agency that heightens awareness, mobilizes support, and raises funding for childhood cancer research. To learn more about the Strike 3 Foundation, and its new Play It Forward program, click here.
Did I ever imagine a moment like this when I was pitching in college? No. When I was in school, I had enough worries about trying to get Harvard guys out. Then, my thoughts on my professional future were simply that I knew I loved playing baseball and I wanted to play for as long as I could.
A year ago, could I have imagined what this was like? That was very different, of course. I felt like over that time, I had established myself as a big leaguer, but I didn’t really feel like I’d contributed to a playoff team. This is the first time where I feel like I’ve had a pretty significant role on that type of team.
In that regard, Tuesday night proved meaningful not just in my career but in terms of what we are doing — and, more significantly, where we are heading — as a team.
As great and efficient an outing as Jake Peavy had, I couldn’t have imagined that I might be in the game as early as I was, in the bottom of the sixth inning with two outs to face James Loney. Jake had a great start. He probably could have gotten Loney out himself and eventually gone the distance for us, but obviously John Farrell liked the matchup and it worked out.
Still, Jake was so efficient and deserves a ton of credit. There were a couple innings where the Rays threatened, but for the most part, he was under control, getting ahead, throwing strikes — a great outing.
Even though there was some surprise on the basis of how he was pitching about coming into the game when I did, I get myself ready at the same time of the game regardless of what the situation is. When I struck out Loney, I was prepared to return to the mound for the seventh inning, and when the team did what it has done so many times throughout the year — grinding out at-bats, eventually putting runs on the board to take the lead in the seventh — I recognized that it was a significant part of the game for us to shut down the Rays and maintain our momentum, at a time when the Rays had Evan Longoria, Ben Zobrist and Desmond Jennings coming to the plate.
I felt good throughout my outing. Jarrod Saltalamacchia and David Ross obviously called a great game. We were able to read swings pretty well. We felt like we could go away with the two-seamer, and then when the time was right come in.
Early in the count, when I was getting ahead with fastballs, I felt like those were pretty good pitches where, if I had gotten contact with them, I liked my chances. I think that I would have been able to keep the ball on the ground pretty well, but for whatever reason, the pitches were fouled off or maybe taken, and it gave me a chance to get deeper into the count and then to incorporate my slider and changeup for swings and misses.
I feel like I’m usually pretty poised and composed. But in these kinds of situations, with what’s at stake, you’re feeding off adrenaline, off momentum. There were some times where it would have been pretty easy, I think, for my emotions to get the best of me, including when I walked off the mound after striking out Jennings, my fourth straight strikeout.
Obviously, it was a great feeling. Until the ball is taken out of my hand, I try not to reflect on what an outing was like for good reason, but I felt like that was a pretty pivotal point in the game — where they were in the lineup, obviously the dangerous bats that they carry. When I scream like that, it’s kind of nonsense. I was definitely overcome with emotion and had to recompose and put myself back together to go out for the next inning.
John and Juan Nieves checked to make sure that I could return to the game for the start of the eighth. But I wasn’t going to come out. If you’re going to ask me if I’m OK, I’m going to say yes.
I got Delmon Young, then gave up an infield single to Yunel Escobar where Xander Bogaerts made an unbelievable play simply to glove the ball, let alone nearly to throw out Escobar from his backside. He’s just a great kid, eager to learn, works hard and I think he’s going to be really good. He showed incredible poise both in the field and in his two at-bats.
Taz came in and faced one hitter, striking out a dangerous hitter in Matt Joyce, and it was a huge out that paved the way for Koji to come in and get four outs as opposed to maybe extending him a little bit more. Then, Koji was what Koji’s been all season, closing things out.
So what did it mean for us to be able to celebrate beating a very good Rays team, winning the Division Series?
All of us understand the significance of this and recognize what it means. Obviously, this win permits us a chance to move onto the ALCS, and it’s worthy of a celebration of our collective achievement.
We’ve got 25 guys who prioritize winning a game over any kind of individual accomplishment or accolades. The result has been a lot of wins. Guys talk all the time about how the only thing that matters in the postseason is winning, but I feel like for 162 games, that had already been the case.
There’s such a workmanlike approach to this team — on top of being able to party like none I’ve ever seen. We recognize that our ultimate goal was not to get to the next series. We will approach the upcoming workouts and whatever else we do this week the same way we did all season.
This is a point, a step towards an ultimate goal but not where we want to be. For me this is uncharted territory. Every win that we get, I’m going to relish it. This is great. But hopefully, this is just one step in the next few. I’ll be able to reflect on the whole thing when it’s all done.
And hopefully, that’s not for a while.
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