|Jason Giambi embraces Jason Isringhausen after Thursday's win.
NEW YORK -- The American League Division Series moves to Oakland for Game 3 Saturday, and the A's couldn't be much more confident. They haven't lost at Network Associates Coliseum since Aug. 24 against Detroit, and they're riding an Oakland-record 17-game home winning streak.
A's first baseman Jason Giambi attributes the success at home -- Oakland is 52-20 there since going 1-8 on its first homestand -- to smart pitching.
"It's a tough ballpark to hit in. It doesn't look that big, but it plays big, especially at night," Giambi said. "The fog kind of rolls in and our pitching staff, those young kids that we throw out on the hill, they are as good as anybody out there. ... They do a nice job of pitching in the ballpark, the way they pitch the ball away so it doesn't really travel. Especially with the three outfielders that they have out there; it plays a big part in the game."
That was one of many topics Giambi touched on while entertaining a pregame press conference for a good 20 minutes Thursday. Alternately engaging, evasive, serious and silly, he basically padded his excellent national reputation by taking on all comers.
On Manager Art Howe's role in the team's in-season turnaround:
"Like I've always said, Art Howe is the greatest manager in the world for this team. He's really let us become the players that we've become. It takes a lot of trust for a guy to call in a player like myself and goes, 'All right, you're the guy, you're the team leader, you're going to take this team by the reins and you're going to police it. And I'm going to be the manager, but you guys have got to run it internally.' And because of that, it's really taken on that type of personality where we have a lot of fun. And I know the media likes to play up the frat-house clubhouse thing, but at the same time, I think that's one of the biggest reasons why we came out of that 8-18 slump; because we didn't panic.
"We had a meeting within ourselves and started talking about the things we needed to do, stealing and hitting and running. And some of the younger hitters were putting pressure on themselves to fill the holes of [departed] Randy Velarde, Ben Grieve and Matt Stairs, and before we knew it, we got the ball rolling again and there was never really any panic. Art is an incredible man."
On whether he's enjoying this postseason more than last year's:
"There's no doubt about it. We didn't come in here this year with blinders on because we really didn't know what to expect. None of us had ever really played in the postseason. It's that term that everybody likes: Once you get here, you get hungry for it every year; you want to get back here because that's what everybody in this game plays for. Salaries are nice, but getting in the postseason and getting the chance to try to win a ring, that's what it is all about.
"That's the first thing you hear out of guys' mouths that were greats in the game but don't have a World Series ring: 'I wish I had one.' So coming to New York, I definitely think it would have made a different series if this would have been our first one coming into New York, playing the first game of the series here. We got our feet wet last year, and I think it made a big difference [in Game 1]."
On whether playing in Yankee Stadium energizes him:
"Oh, definitely. I love to play here. You know, the biggest thing is I've always loved the game and the people who have played it. I know a lot of the old players. My dad was a huge Mickey Mantle fan. I've always studied the game. I really believe that if you are going to love something and enjoy what you do, you should know the past and the players. Being able to talk to Reggie [Jackson] yesterday and things like that -- and the fans, the fans are what this game is all about. They love their players here. They are very knowledgeable of the game. You know, moving [baserunners] over, they're applauding where maybe other places are like, 'Oh, you made an out; you stink.'
"It's a lot of fun, especially the history. You see the plaques in centerfield; to think Babe Ruth and Mantle and DiMaggio and all those guys have played on this field is pretty exciting."
On how he feels about Barry Bonds suggesting Giambi could someday challenge the new home run record:
"I don't know. Barry's unbelievable. Same with Mark [McGwire]. I like to call those guys cartoon characters, because they do -- him, Sammy (Sosa) guys like that -- it's unbelievable what they do. That's a great compliment from an incredible hitter. I have never even thought about it. But I had a lot of fun when I was hitting in that home run contest in Seattle [at the All-Star Game]. You know, Barry just had one of those years where he was locked. He's hitting first-pitch knuckleballs out of the park; that's ridiculous to walk up and hit one out. So I'm even honored that he would even mention that in the same breath."
On playing well this year despite trade rumors and unresolved contract issues:
"I think that's been the positive thing about my year. It's been so gratifying, not having a contract, having all the rumors all year long of what's going to happen, this and that, and it never affected my play. It never affected how I felt about the team. We just kept pushing forward. So that's what I'm most proud about, that it didn't hamper my play and just proved to everybody that I can play through the turmoil. It's what you do on the field that really matters, and that's what I'm most proud of."
The start time for Thursday's game was pushed back to allow fans to watch President Bush's address to the nation. His session with the White House media was shown live on the giant outfield video screen, and the game didn't start until about 8:45 p.m. local time.
Fans at the stadium applauded certain statements, and they laughed along with the President during the few moments of levity. One thing they didn't do was complain.
"I was wondering what they'd do the moment I heard Bush was going on TV at 8," said Terry Jalaal, a Manhattan resident made a bold statement in wearing an A's cap to the game. "I think it's fine that they delayed the game."
"I don't think it was even an option not to show it and hold up the game," said Betti Raul of the Bronx. "When we're at war and the President is speaking about it, everything should shut down so we can listen to our leader."
Giambi spoke for the A's when he addressed the delay at his press conference.
"I think it's good," he said. "I think everybody is going to be interested in what the President has got to say; so it's definitely a positive thing. ... It's an important thing, the right thing to do. And I know we're all excited in the clubhouse to see what's going on at 8 o'clock."
IZZY BETTER OR NOT?
A's closer Jason Isringhausen led the big leagues with eight blown saves in the first half, but he's been dominant in recent weeks and was at his best in Game 1. In ripping his way through a 1-2-3 save with two strikeouts, Isringhausen drew raves.
"For me, that's vintage Izzy," said Howe. "He threw the ball the way he's capable of. We just hope he continues to throw it the rest of the way like that. He was outstanding, to say the least."
Then he saved Game 2 despite letting the first two batters he faced in the ninth reach base.
Isringhausen, a stand-up guy who makes himself more readily available for comment after bad games than good, doesn't necessarily see himself as having improved since the beginning of the year.
"I saved 33 ball games last year, I saved 33 ball games this year," he said. "I had more blown saves this year, but that doesn't always means you pitched bad. Sometimes I had some back luck that I didn't have last year.
"I feel like I've pitched pretty good the whole year, but if people want to say I'm better now, that's fine, too."
Tim Hudson has followed Mark Mulder in the A's rotation for most of the year. He's also followed Mulder's lead. At one point during the regular season, the pair of aces won back-to-back starts seven times in a row. Another time they put together a four-start stretch of consecutive victories.
It's continued here, where Mulder won Game 1 with more than six innings of solid work. Hudson followed with eight shutout innings in winning Game 2 on Thursday, and Mulder is at a loss to explain it.
"Well, the last couple months of the season, it's been kind of funny, because I'd get hit and then he would get hit the next day," he said. "But then I would pitch well and he would pitch well. So he kept getting on me to pitch well every time. You know, it's just sometimes the way a pitching staff goes. You feed off of each other."
BATBOY ENJOYING THE RIDE
Matt Weiss sat in the A's dugout at Yankee Stadium and spoke of the noise, the excitement, the undeniably cool vibe that comes with a playoff game here. Weiss, who shares Oakland batboy duties with Mike "Cliffy" Clavin, is on his first road playoff assignment and he's loving every minute of it.
"Awesome," Weiss said. "You can't even describe it. I was talking to my dad on the phone after the game last night, and he asked me if it was loud here. He said it didn't seem that loud on T.V.
"I told him, 'You don't even know loud.' The noise was incredible, on every pitch. And when they announced Derek Jeter? Amazing."
Weiss, 24, had been to Yankee Stadium once before as a young fan. The experience is completely different from field level.
"Night and day," he said after playing catch on the field with A's rookie Eric Byrnes. "It doesn't get any better than this."
Mychael Urban is the Site Reporter for OaklandAthletics.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.