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A lot is going to be made of the fact that you're in a must win situation again for the second time in a week, and, you know, is it the same or is this one a completely different animal? I mean, the results the same the season ends if you don't perform but is this a completely different thing in your mind?
No, this is the exact same thing as what we had on Tuesday.
You know, Tuesday, you know, was a playoff game for us. This is the same thing. So win and we get a Game Four and get to get Gavin in there. Lose and, you know, we go home.
So, you know, we're going to approach it like we have the last three must win games we've had, and, you know, we'll see how it goes. But definitely going to try to approach it the same way.
John, what kind of problems does that Tampa Bay line up present to you? Obviously you're going to keep an eye on anybody on first base right? Is that a lot of it?
Yeah, I mean, I think they're very similar to Minnesota in that, you know, they have guys that do all the small things. They'll bunt, they'll hit and run, they'll steal. Middle of the line up you got to be careful. You know, guys can hit the ball out of the ballpark.
So, you know, really Minnesota and Tampa Bay are very similar and, you know, hopefully we can pitch the same way like we did the other day.
John, do you think these games bring out the best in you?
I mean, I like pitching in these kind of games. Obviously, we didn't want to be in this situation. We wanted to take at least one. And, you know, being in a little different situation than we're in now.
Definitely think I like being in these situations. I like, you know, being relied upon in a game like this. And, you know, I think I did pretty well the other time and hopefully I can, you know, continue to pitch that way.
As a pitcher do you feel a little more comfortable coming home with the weather getting a little bit cooler? Maybe the ball won't travel as far?
We definitely like playing at home. We like playing in front of our fans. You know, I think, you know, numbers don't lie, we play better here at home.
As far as pitching, you know, either way. I think I have some weird numbers I found out the last couple days where, you know, I'm better on the road, but batting average against me is better at home, you know. It doesn't make sense. I don't understand know how that works.
But definitely excited to be back home, and, you know, able to play in front of our own fans.
John, this is not known as a pitcher's ballpark but why does it work for you?
That's a good question. You know, I don't know. I think, you know, last year I struggled giving up the home run. I think I gave up close to 30 home runs last year and that was one of my main focuses coming into this year was keep the ball in the ballpark and have them hit the ball on the ground. For whatever reason I've been able to do that for the most part this year.
I think the cutters helped a lot and just being more comfortable on the mound, you know. And not trying to do too much, trying to locate rather than try to throw it 100.
You know, I think that that has a lot to do with it. You know, as far as pitching here rather than on the road, I don't know. But definitely I think it has to do with me keeping the ball in the yard.
John, one of the things all year I know Ozzie has been wanting to get you to go deeper and lower the pitch counts. Last Tuesday, was it Tuesday, you were able to do that. Was there something that clicked specifically that night that allowed you to go deeper and throw less pitches?
I think the first few innings I was able to establish command and command within the strike zone, you know, which, in turn, you know, Minnesota got a lot more aggressive as the game went on. Knowing that I was going to really focus on throwing the first pitch strike and, you know, I think there was some instances there where they were swinging at the first pitch trying to jump on it. And, you know, fortunately I made a good enough pitch where they didn't do much with it.
But, I mean, obviously I don't like coming out in the fifth and sixth either. I want to go deep. I want to get us into the eighth and ninth inning. But, I mean, definitely it's focus of mine just to be ahead in the count all the time and not have to give in to a hitter.
A.J. said he tries to keep you relaxed treat, it like any other game. Is that your mindset or do you try to ratchet it up given the circumstances?
No, I mean, A.J.'s right on there. Definitely, you know, try to stay within myself, try not to do too much. A.J.'s great for me. A.J. I don't want to say holds my hand but he kind of does. He's real good at recognizing whenever things are starting to speed up in my mind, and I'm trying to do too much. He is good at coming out there and slowing the game down for me. A.J.'s been great. He's been a huge help for me over the last two years. And, you know, I really enjoyed working with him during the games.
John, correct me if I'm wrong but did you tell us earlier in the year that you use to be a lot more superstitious and have you gone back to any of your superstitions since last week?
I mean, I don't know how many superstitions I've had. I mean, I guess I was a guy that, you know, wouldn't step on the chalk line and whatnot, but, I mean, heck I don't even know where I'm stepping any more walking out on the mound.
So, I mean, I don't know if it's, you know, some of the guys who are just real calm and relaxed around the clubhouse wearing off on me or if I've kind of grown out of it. Definitely don't have anything other than, you know, just trying to get to the ballpark a little early and get a meal in and, you know, watch the clock until it's time to go out there and play.
But definitely I think that's helped. I don't have as much on my mind. And so far it's worked out all right.
You use to be a lot more Turk Wendell type when you were even younger right?
I don't think I was ever that bad. (Laughter.)
I don't know. I mean, I guess my initial answer would be no. But there was some stuff that I guess I would do then that I don't do any more. Wasn't anything out of the ordinary I didn't think. But, you know, definitely some stuff that I don't do any more.
You're obviously aware of all the questions surrounding you and Gavin going into this season and you two guys have had breakthrough years. Is there anything you can pinpoint to that breakthrough year?
I mean, I think first and foremost just being out there, you know. The confidence level and comfort level going into each start was, you know, night and day from last year. Definitely not trying to do too much, and, you know, the cutters helped a lot.
Like I said before, you know, my biggest goal was to cut down walks and keep the ball in the ballpark. And I haven't looked at the numbers for the walks, but I know my home runs is about cut in half if not more. You know, it was something that, you know, I really struggled with last year and, you know, for whatever reason whether it be the cutter or just better pitch location and whatnot, I've been able to do that.
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