Tales from Bard on life in the playoffs
Angels Stadium was loud, the plane ride home was long
Boston Red Sox reliever Daniel Bard is ESPNBoston.com's postseason correspondent. He shares his experiences of pitching in his first playoff game, what the difference has been in the first two games of the ALDS, what to expect in Game 3 and his own personal highlight so far.
As told to Louise K. Cornetta
The plane ride out to Anaheim was long. It's like a six-hour flight. For the playoffs, they allow your family to travel both ways, which is unlike the regular season when they usually just come back. So a lot of fiancees, girlfriends or wives are with us. We didn't have TVs like we normally do to watch movies, so that made it a really long flight.
Everyone was kind of antsy and ready to get things started. Some of the things that come up off the field in the playoffs are ticket requests. I'm dealing with them by saying no a lot. We have to put in requests a week in advance. In L.A., my fiancee was out there, that was the only person. I had a couple of people ask, but I really had no availability at all. In Boston, I bought my max, which was four or six, I can't remember. I have some family around here that may end up coming to the game.
The experience of my first playoffs has been pretty cool, even if we aren't happy to be down two games. The atmosphere out there was unbelievable. I made my debut in Anaheim back in May. I remember thinking this was the big leagues. This is that same park, but now it's on a whole other level. The way the fans are into every time a guy gets on base and everyone is on their feet the whole time. We had some pitchers' duels out there. For them to be that into it in a low-scoring game without a lot of offense is pretty intense.
After two losses, though, there hasn't been a lot to like about my first playoffs. I like that we have a Game 3 and that it's back home. We have probably one of the best home-field advantages in Major League Baseball. I think we all feel pretty good about it. I mean, this is not how we drew it up to lose the first two out there. We would have been happy to come back with one win on that trip. It's not how we drew it up, but everybody in this locker room is pretty confident in our ability and we feel capable of pulling off three in a row here. The first game out in the bullpen in Anaheim was weird. We only had five or six guys out there to start the game when we had 12 or 13 out there the whole month of September. It was getting pretty crowded, which was nice though. A lot of guys, a lot of stuff to talk about, but you've got to cut it back for the playoffs.
Definitely was weird not having Manny Delcarmen out there. He was in the bullpen with us all year and with the Red Sox the past couple of years. I always sat next to him all year out there. I miss having him out there. Hopefully, he'll be able to join us in the next round.
I was probably the most antsy out there, but not in a nervous way. The second I think I might have a chance to pitch, I start walking around, stretching, bouncing a ball, flipping a ball in the air. That's just how I am. I've done it the whole year. If I sit still for too long, I drive myself crazy. I try to keep moving around.
Now if you want to know who is the most talkative, I'd go with Billy Wagner. Wagner likes to talk. He's a funny guy and very entertaining. He's a great guy. There's a lot worse people that could be talking a lot. Him and Takashi Saito. Saito is some good entertainment out there, too. He actually speaks decent English. You can hold a pretty good conversation with him. He's a riot. We have a good time with him.
I've been trying to keep my pregame routine the same for me. We still have to be out to shag and we're still doing our lifting two days a week like the relievers did the whole season. Just trying to keep things the same, so my body feels the same. You don't want to change too much. If there's a routine, there's a reason it's there. There's a reason it's in place. There's a reason it works. So I just try to stick with it and keep things as regular as possible.
I got to pitch in Game 1. I threw the eighth inning. It was a different role than I've been pitching in. We were down five late in the game. Which is fine, I know roles change in the playoffs. Certain pitchers are used at different times just to keep a team in the ballgame. It was a good situation to get my feet wet. Coming in down five, really my job was to just get us back to the dugout. Give our hitters a chance to put up some runs. Really, that's what I tried to do. Came out, threw strikes and tried to treat it like any other outing. Honestly, my nerves weren't anything that bad for this game. The noise level was a little louder. I warmed up, got out there and struck the first guy out. The place got really quiet. That was awesome. That was the highlight, shutting up 50,000 people, that was pretty fun.
I didn't keep any mementos or anything, just memories. The biggest memory I have from my first playoff game is hard to say because it came in a loss. I think it was good to get a scoreless inning under my belt before coming into a game where I was protecting a lead. Really, the confidence it gave me to say that I can perform on this stage. Once I'm out there, the biggest thing is reminding myself it's the same game, nothing's changed, just a bigger stage. I slept the whole plane ride back. We left L.A. around midnight West Coast time and landed around 8 o'clock Boston time. I took a nap when we got back and will be trying to get to bed early, but it's going to be tough. On Sunday, we have to get to Fenway early. We have an early stretch around 9 a.m., which is really going to feel like 6 a.m. for most of us. It's a pretty quick turnaround. I'm not a big fan of the scheduling. Oh well, we'll make it work. The Angels are dealing with the same timing we are. We're down 0-2, how am I feeling? Pretty tired from the flight. But really, we always play well at home. We have like the best or tied for the best home record in baseball this year. We know that. The Angels know that. It gives us confidence. Our hitters are very comfortable in this ballpark. I think it will be a good way to jump-start things for us.
Timely hitting has been the difference in the first two games. Both teams, that's four good starts, two on both sides. Josh Beckett pitched unbelievable in Game 2 and they get a timely triple with two guys on. He pitched a great game and Jon Lester pitched a great game the night before.
We didn't get a couple of timely hits and they did, and that was the difference. Those guys made two or three mistakes all night and that turned out to be the difference. That's just the way baseball is sometimes.
I'm not thinking about what happens if we don't win on Sunday. I just prefer to think about what the possibilities are in trying to win. I saw some stat on ESPN that was something about how the Red Sox have been down 2-0 in division series and come back to win more than any other team. I think it just says something about the character of this organization. Obviously the fans are a big part of it, just that never-give-up attitude. I know we haven't given up. We've got high hopes and a lot of people that believe we can do that. I'm looking forward to Game 3 at Fenway. I just want to see what the atmosphere's like. I know it's been unbelievable all year. We've got the best fans in baseball. Looking at the Angels in Anaheim, the way that went from a regular-season game to a postseason atmosphere and seeing how different that was, I want to see what this place is like in the postseason. I think it's going to be pretty special.