Q. Terry, the importance of closing out a team when you've got them on the ropes.
TERRY COLLINS: Well, I mean that's what our plan is. Our plan is to close them out (laughter). But I'll tell you, last week when we were getting ready to play the Dodgers and we had a workout here and we had a coaches' meeting, we said in order to win this, we're going to have to beat Clayton Kershaw twice or Zach Greinke twice and that's a big order. It's a big order for any team, and so we aren't overconfident by any stretch. We know we gotta go and do exactly what we did the other night and make him work. When he makes a mistake, we better put a good swing on it because you're not going to get a lot of them.
So the guys are fired up about it. It's a great challenge. The only thing that helps us a little bit is we did just see him a few days ago. It doesn't make it any easier but at least he's somebody you're used to seeing recently.
Q. How much of a luxury is it for you to be able to call on Juan Lagares after he hasn't played a couple of days and know you can put him in there?
TERRY COLLINS: We're very lucky. We have tremendous makeup on our team, including Juan. You know, we always talk about the veteran guys. Juan Lagares comes in every day and does the same things that he did last year when he was just a young rookie getting his chance to play. He goes in center field every day, he shags fly balls, takes balls off the bat. He's in the cage working. Anytime we have extra batting practice, he's on the field because he wants to be ready, and that's certainly something to look at in the future that you know this guy's there whenever you need him.
And he was excited to play yesterday, and he showed us that, you know, we all think still the ceiling is very, very high for him. So we're glad he's in there. He's in there again today because, hey, we're going to ride that horse while he's hot.
Q. All the young pitchers haven't had playoff experience, but they all show poise and really veteranness, for lack of a better word. You've had a much smaller sample to see with Matz at this level. What makes you think that he can have the same amount of poise the other guys do?
TERRY COLLINS: Well, Chris asked me a similar question. I thought it was well thought out, and I will tell you the approach was, you know, even though it's not the Major Leagues, even though it's not in front of 46,000 people, this kid has pitched two championships season in a row, he pitched a championship game. He has a feel to go out there and pitch -- again, just because it's in front of 2,000 doesn't mean it's still not important; it is important. But this guy knows how to go out on that mound. We talked about the other day even though the days that he hasn't pitched a lot, but a couple of times he didn't have his best stuff. He's still limited damage. So right now we're saying, hey, if you can give us five or six innings and limit the damage, you gotta like where we're at.
And I still think he was our best guy. We know if he goes out there and he commands his stuff, he's hard to hit. So that's why we picked him, and I think he'll be just fine out there tonight.
Q. Terry, Cespedes was telling me yesterday that the couple of days that you guys had off maybe affected the offense but now that you guys are on a roll, and we could see that yesterday. Do you believe that to be true?
TERRY COLLINS: I do believe you need to play a lot. I think playing gets you ready on a daily basis. One thing you concern yourself with obviously when you're playing a lot is the fatigue factor. I think the days off gave guys some rest. I saw the other day in Los Angeles before Game 1 the best workout I've seen in a long time. Guys had energy. They were doing things.
But when you're out there playing and you're rested, yeah, I think you can start seeing the offense get better and better the more games we play. But those days off leading up helped us.
Q. Terry, how much more special was that environment last night for you, just because of everything this franchise has been through since the last time it made the playoffs?
TERRY COLLINS: You know, since I've gotten here, alls you heard was about the New York Mets fanbase and how huge it is and how excitable they are and how passionate they are. Saw it last night. We saw it against the Nationals. And that's why, I mean, we have tried to say in the last couple of years. We understand the frustrations when you're not winning. It's New York, gotta win. There's no second place.
So you know, but we had to say, listen, it's going to take a little time. It doesn't happen overnight. And they stayed with us, and last night was very fun, for everybody. I mean the enthusiasm, the energy in the ballpark, you know, you can't get down about it. That's why even when they scored three runs, we get a single and the place erupts. And so the energy comes right back, and it's going to be fun tonight. It's going to be fun again tonight, and that's what I'm saying, you know, we're hoping that Steven goes out there and pitches like he knows how, because here's a local kid going out there and pitching for the team he grew up watching. It's going to be a real cool scenario, especially if he pitches great. It's going to be really a fun night.
Q. I actually have two quick ones. One is on Wilmer. You've spoken about the fact that he has played as often as he had, 96 games for you this year. There's a reason for confidence in him. And I'm just wondering, the numbers bear it out, but what specifically have you seen his defense improve over the course of this year? And just for you personally, it seems like you've managed with a lot of urgency in these playoffs. I'm wondering who you're leaning on, who you talk to ahead of time for advice coming in?
TERRY COLLINS: Well, first on Wilmer, you know, my job, part of my job is to make sure the players understand I have confidence in them. That's first and foremost. They have to know I believe in them. And then secondly they have to believe in theirself. And early in the year when Wilmer was the shortstop and he made a few errors and the world was crashing in, you know, we tried to keep running him out there, tried to give him certain nights off. And then when we moved him to second base, where he likes to play, I think he relaxed. And then after that when we made some of the changes, you know, he got sporadic playing time at shortstop and did fine.
And I just think right now, with what happened to Ruben the other day, I think Wilmer said to himself, I gotta be the guy. I've gotta come through. And I think when you have that kind of an attitude, I think it changes the way you get yourself ready and stay focused, and you're not worried about making a mistake. You're worried about, hey, look, I've gotta be the guy. It's what I said last night, and fortunately it worked out, I wanted the first ball hit to him. I told Ron Darling before the game, in a perfect world the leadoff hitter is going to hit him a ground ball, and we're going to get this out of the way. And that's what happened.
As far as me, I'm old. Sense of urgency is right now (laughter). I either get this done right now. I don't have a lot of shots. So it's pretty big for me.
Q. With what your guys can accomplish tonight, do you sense there's any antsiness, anxiousness? And have you had to speak to them about it or are they on an even keel right now?
TERRY COLLINS: I think they're on an even keel. I mean they're excited. They have to be. But again, I turned -- one of the things that -- you know, I answer a lot of questions in these press conferences and a lot of it is, Are you going to talk to your team? I don't talk to my team that much. One of the things where I think I've changed is that's their space. That clubhouse, that's their space, and I'm going to turn it over to the veterans in there. I'm going to turn it over to the veterans to keep them loose. I'm going to turn it over to the veterans to keep them ready and keep them running on an even keel.
So I think tonight those guys are in there right now, and they're talking about different things, and I think they're going to get themselves ready to play and come out excited. I just told our beat guys, something happened last night and nobody talked about it, that tells you that the spirit is in this team: Cespedes beat out a routine ground ball at shortstop to start a big inning. Huge play. Late in the game he almost beat out another one. If you don't think these guys have raised the energy level and what they're going to do, that showed me, hey, look, these guys have kicked it in a notch. And I think tonight will be just another example of that.
Q. Kershaw was in yesterday. He said he crossed paths with you. He had nice things to say about you. What do you remember about the first time --
TERRY COLLINS: I gave him a lot of money at one time. (Laughter).
Q. And how has he developed since the first time you saw him?
TERRY COLLINS: Well, I told you guys the story. When he first signed I was the Minor League director at the Dodgers, and when he first signed he threw his first bullpen in Gulf Coast League. After he came -- and I don't go down to the bullpens and watch those things; I let my coaches. And Rick Honeycutt was the Minor League pitching coach, who's the Major League coach here. And I saw Rick after he threw, and he came over and said, Have you seen this kid throw? I said, no. And Rick looked at me, and said, Oh, wow. Turned around and walked away.
Now, how much has he developed? If you see this guy work and you know his makeup, he was bound and determined to be the best in the game from the start. He took every challenge that was in front of him and met it and exceeded it. He zoomed through the Minor Leagues, and now he's the best pitcher in the game. So I'm not surprised by it. If you get to know him, you know, just like yesterday I asked him, are you going to pitch tomorrow? He said, I don't know yet. And right before batting practice started, he walked over to me and said, "Hey, I didn't lie to you in the outfield. I just was told I was going to pitch tomorrow." That's the kind of kid he is, like I care. Like I don't think he is pitching today (laughter). I could have told him he was pitching today (laughter). I could have beat Don to the punch, to the line.
But that's the kind of kid he is. He's a special, special guy with a special talent. It's fun to see him out there. I don't relish facing him but it's fun to see him out there.
Q. Is there any aspect of your managing now that doesn't involve playing or not playing Conforto that relates to player development, even in this setting?
TERRY COLLINS: Well, I've said it all along, Michael Conforto is going to be a very good player, and next year he's going to be an everyday player. When we brought Michael Conforto to the Big Leagues this year, we brought him up here because we wanted him to face -- we needed a left-handed bat in our lineup against right-hand pitching. We had Cuddyer. We had Lagares. Cespedes was here. We had Uribe. We had lineups that we were going to face left-handers. So we said, you know, we told them, Look, you guys are going to face righties and you're going to face lefties.
At this particular time, player development is going to take a little bit of a backseat. Okay.
Q. Is there anything other than Conforto that touches on player development in this setting, in this playoff setting?
TERRY COLLINS: I guess, I don't understand what you're saying. I told you I'm old. I'm not really reading into it.
Q. Do you use or not use a particular player in a situation because it's not good for him?
TERRY COLLINS: No. No. No. Look, I'm going to put any player in a situation where I think he's the answer to help us win a game. And you know, if it's Michael -- last night I knew he was going to face a lefty, but I looked at my bench and I said, I think this is the guy to pinch-hit here. And I knew that he was going to see Howell, but I didn't care. I just thought this is the guy I thought could help us win the game. So I didn't care that he hasn't seen a lot of lefties. I just didn't think it was fair to start him in a game because he hasn't seen lefties very much.
But player development at this particular stage, just like tonight, I mean this is a young guy pitching. He's got a few things. But there's a lot of things and part of it is you know what, down the road, he's going to get a lot out of tonight. It's going to make him better. And if he pitches like we know he can, we're in good shape.
Q. What's the biggest thing Kevin Long has brought to the table this year?
TERRY COLLINS: He's smaller than me (laughter). The key part of the signing.
He is a passionate, passionate guy in what he does. He is one of the most prepared hitting guys I've ever been around. He watches countless hours of film. He breaks down every single at-bat all year long.
When we're done hitting, Kevin goes up and watches the video of the inning before and picks out not just perhaps the mechanics of the swing, but how they're being pitched, how can we get to this guy. And Pat Roessler is a carbon copy of him, and I tell you, our guys are ready to go when the game starts. And I think his passion to be a hitting coach, which is a hard job, and these guys all buy into it. They buy into everything he does. He's got some drills they do and they talk lingo during the game about these drills. And he's made a huge impact on our offense.
Q. Terry, Utley's appeal apparently is Monday.
TERRY COLLINS: Yes.
Q. Just your feelings on, you know, the fact that he would be available for the whole series, regardless of how long it goes.
TERRY COLLINS: Fred, I guess I would echo what Sandy said yesterday, the fact that they felt the play was unnecessary and they did what they did was enough. It was enough for us. And now we've moved past it and you gotta get ready to play.
Q. Terry, behind Matz today, what do you do? Is it Niese? Does Colon after pitching a couple, is he available?
TERRY COLLINS: Colon is available. Niese is available. You know, we got Robles. Clippard had a couple of nights; he's ready. So we're fine behind him.