Q. How difficult is it for your players to have to stand up and repeatedly talk about the same thing over and over again? Does that test the mettle of all young players in postseason?
JOE MADDON: It's just part of the job as I see it. We stand up there when it's always good, you've got to stand up there when it's not so good. I think that's the lesson to be learned there. I'm really proud of our guys the way we've handled all these different moments all season long from the beginning of Spring Training. Even like we talked about last year in the Winter Meetings when embrace the target just came to my mind, and then I tried to utilize it during Spring Training in the season. So all year we've been kind of that group that everybody's been chasing after, and I think our guys have handled it exceptionally well. So if they're standing up and answering the questions, I appreciate that about our boys, because you've got to do that. You've got to do that. Through good and bad, like I said. It's always a lot easier when things are going well. But I really like the guys that look good when things aren't going so well. I've always wanted to be around that group of people.
Q. Going back to '02, the decision to pitch Lackey that night in Game 7 when he had three days' rest and you had Ortiz, I think, was plan B there. Can you go back and resurrect what you guys were thinking and what he was like going into that and what made you confident in him?
JOE MADDON: Yeah, I think -- again, trying to recollect. I really believe a lot of it had to do with just him. We just had a lot of faith in him, in his make-up and how he went about his business. We just thought that he would be fine in that particular moment. We had a lot of faith in Ramon also, but we just knew there was something about John, again, being kind of naive in a sense, being a rookie, nothing frightened him, still doesn't. But at that point it was very important to feel that way about the guy pitching on that day. That was it. I think primarily we were going with the person as much as anything in that moment. I think we only went five innings with your big five because, we talked about this before, the bullpen was so good. But it was all about him more than anything.
Q. How important is it to have somebody like Jon Lester in a game like tomorrow which could mean that the Cubs could be eliminated or not or put you guys ahead?
JOE MADDON: Right. It's nice. It's comforting to know that he's ready to pitch tomorrow. He's been very consistent all season long. Been there done that too. He's done that in Boston. He's doing it here again. Yeah, when you watch Jon pitch, and it's pretty much been most of the season, especially in the second half, he's got this real calm demeanor and approach about him. The other day at home he wasn't his sharpest, but still gave us a strong opportunity to win that game, and we eventually did. So I like his mound demeanor right now. That's probably what I'm trying to say. His stuff's always about the same. But, again, just talking about Lackey in 2002, Jon Lester, present day, when he goes out there, you know he's going to be there. He's going to be in present tense. He's not going to be overwhelmed with the moment, and you like those kind of attributes from the pitcher on that particular day.
Q. You obviously had a lot on your plate here. I wonder if over the course of playoff runs present and past if you get a sense of how Hazleton follows along and what you hear?
JOE MADDON: Are you from back there?
Q. No, I'm not.
JOE MADDON: Well, I just checked in. My mom's doing good. And Beanie's going to watch the game tonight. I've got a lot of feedback. I got a buddy that was in and out of the Le high Valley Hospital a couple days ago. So Kaz was in and out, so I'm staying in touch with Kaz especially. The kids at the H.I.P. Center, we got this big TV through a drug bust a couple years ago that is now the source of entertainment there, so a lot of kids will be watching the game at the Hazelton Integration Project on Fourth Street. All my buddies, we stay in touch with all my buddies, Willie Forte with the B Street Band. Willie's going to play at our big event at Lafayette College in a couple weeks. So I stay in touch with all these guys all the time. And believe me, man, there's a lot going on in the bars back there. It's great. It's absolutely great. I'm going to get to go back there again for the event at Lafayette, and then at the event where we have our banquet for our project in December. Very closely knit group. They're wonderful, and they've always loved their baseball.
Q. You had so many options and so much versatility in your lineup. Could you just tell us a little about how you constructed it today, and did you consider resting Russell or Heyward who have been struggling?
JOE MADDON: No, I really -- today's lineup, the options again were Soler or Almora based on the left hand. But Jason's presence means a lot. I like looking out on the field and seeing him out there. He had a good game against this pitcher earlier this season, and so I feel good about it. Beyond that, Addison Russell, listen, it's not always just about, yeah, we have to score more runs. But it's not his fault we're not scoring runs. We have some really capable offensive players, and I'd hate to just lay it on one or two guys. Everybody in the lineup has to play and work. Addison and Baez in the middle of the infield is also very comforting when you look out there. So I didn't want to mess with that at all. At any moment they could all break loose and all of a sudden this turns into an entirely different direction. The matchup is actually pretty good with all of our guys today.
So we've just got to go out there and get back to what we do well. Normally our whole gig is to try to score first and win innings, and we haven't done that for two days. Part of that we did pretty good. So I can't get over the top and take a trip to negative town right now just because we've had two tough days. I have a lot of faith and trust in our players. So let's go out there and play today. We've got a good pitcher going. We're playing our defense. I know our guys will be ready to go. But you just don't want to really blow it up right now. I don't.
Q. Have matchups gone too far and should starters be allowed to pitch deeper?
JOE MADDON: Well, honestly, it depends on the starter. I mean, right now matchups are en vogue, there is no question. They've been that way. They've been getting more and more that way over the last couple years. I think it just depends on your starting group. You look at us, a big part of our success this season has been because of our starting pitching going deeply into games. And because of that, our bullpen has been very good. So that's been our formula, starting pitchers deep, bullpen, limited usage. We've caught the ball. And we've been very timely with our hitting. To answer the question specifically, I just think it matters who you have and how many starters you have that are capable of going deeply into the games. We have. We've been fortunate. Even Jason Hammel, is not on the roster, won 15 games this year by pitching several innings.
So, again, it's hard to find those guys, like four, five guys, that you really dig that could do that. So if you can't, probably plan B is to have a very assertive and good bullpen. You're seeing it right now with Cleveland doing it again today. But I've always liked the idea of really strong starting pitching first.
Q. You got after left-handers all year long. It's only been two days. There can't be any two more dissimilar left-handers than Kershaw and Hill. But you do have another left-hander tonight. Are there any conclusions to be drawn over the last two games that go back to seeing a guy who is left-handed?
JOE MADDON: One at a time, Kershaw the other day was just on top of his game. I mean, that happens to the Cubs, that game could have happened to any other of the Major League teams if he had pitched that well on that night in that ballpark, he probably would have done pretty much zeros to anybody. So that's the way I look at it.
Then the willingness or ability to have their closer come in for two innings, this guy's like at the top of his game right now too. So what do you do? What you do, attempt to do, is try to, like I said, score first, gather a lead and then hold on. We did in San Francisco against Cueto and we just hit a homer late in the game. So we've run into this quite a bit this postseason, and it's just part of the postseason, man.
Toronto's experiencing it right now, and they're a pretty good offensive ballclub. So for me, again, it's just about keeping your guys, I guess trying to relate last night after a tough loss, keep them focused. Really having them mentally in tune. Meaning that I want them to stay in the moment. I want you to continue to work the at-bats, pitch by pitch, things to that nature. Stuff that you can control. That's what it really comes down to, to try to do a bunch of different things right. Now, believe me, even Major League players can mess your head up if you come at them in different directions right now at this time of the year. They don't need that. So we're going tried and true. Score first. Win the inning. One pitch at a time. All the psycho babble that I really believe is true.
Q. Knowing how much you detest team meetings, have you had any individual moments with any of your guys, or will you before today's game? Specifically a couple of guys that are struggling, like Rizzo and Russell?
JOE MADDON: I talked to Addison in the workout day a couple days ago. And Addie's fine. It's just he's 22, he's experiencing postseason for the first time. He was hurt last year. And I'm very proud of what he's doing and how he's doing it. So, yeah, we attempt to talk. And when I do have those conversations, believe me, it's all about simplification. The do simple better mantra again. It is all about simplicity. Everybody thinks that when things go wrong that you need a complicated answer to really being onto something here now. But I really prefer to go the other way. So with him, it was actually trying to get him to do what he had been doing and refreshing his mind. Maybe he had gotten away from some things and, again, keeping it simple. Riz is a constant conversation. Always talking to Riz. Prior to at-bats, just trying to get him to focus on what he needs to do. And he's been fine. Talking to him, his conversations have been really good. Again, it's two days, two good pitching performances by the Dodgers. If we could -- we need to try to score first and get them moving in the right direction. You don't want to give them any more momentum to build off of. That's why scoring first would be a big part of tonight's game.
Q. Drawing on your experiences from Bakersfield to Yankee Stadium, Kris Bryant said last night that Anthony Rizzo's hit, when Kenley Jansen blew up his bat in the 9th inning, might be the hit that turns you guys around. How would that work?
JOE MADDON: I want to believe that (laughter). Well, first of all, that's one of the best saw jobs I've ever seen in my life. I can't -- I was actually ducking because I thought the bat was coming in my direction. I also thought it may have hit off Rizzo's foot. I think the Dodgers thought it was a foul ball. Hopefully that does get Riz right. I mean, that pitcher can do that to a lot of left-handed hitters. We've just got to keep pounding on the door, man. There's nothing else. There is no real big secret or panacea in regards to getting this right. We've just got to keep going out there and playing the game, and I really believe that our guys shall. That's who we are. We've been doing it all year. The Dodgers have pitched well, but the Cubs are a pretty good offensive club too. Again, and I know I'm being redundant, but getting off to a good start tonight is very important regarding getting us back into the swing of things, literally, and after that just hopefully get our bullpen involved properly at the end of the game. But at the end of the day, man, it's always wonderful to be involved in the National League Championship Series, to be able to play here at Dodger Stadium. It's my first attempt to be in a postseason out here. It's pretty spectacular stuff. So I'm very proud of our guys. It's going to keep moving forward. I have a lot of faith in it and in us. Let's just try to score first tonight, that's the biggest part of tonight's event, I think, for us.
Q. In the previous series, Dusty Baker was talking about how tough it was to pitch to Justin Turner. He said he never really figured out what the pattern was and the things he likes to do. What is your assessment of that?
JOE MADDON: Well, I really do have a thought process on that, and, again, I don't want to talk about it too much. Maybe if we're successful over the next couple days I'll bring it up. But I think there's something we can do. The pitch he hit out last night was the pitch obviously you don't want to throw. I'm not trying to be facetious, that was just in a bad spot. But he's good. I mean, this guy's really good. He's come off over the last couple years. He's a better third baseman than he's given credit for also. He's a gamer, man. He's a Long Beach dude. He's a gamer. All the kids that grew up to play baseball in that particular area, I'm a big fan of that. The Long Beach State program. The kids that went to high school out there. Lot of good high school baseball players that turned out to be pros come from that area, and he's one of them. So you watch him play. He's got that grittiness that is rooted in that particular area. He is good. There are different things we can do. I thought we'd been doing a decent job up until that one pitch, and obviously it's something we don't want to do again, hopefully. But if you make a mistake, he makes you pay for it.
Q. A couple winters ago when Jon Lester decided to sign here against some pretty strong competing offers, do you think that did something to legitimize how close this organization was to turning the corner? And what was the impact of bringing somebody with his postseason success into a young clubhouse?
JOE MADDON: Well, of course, we needed people like John and Jon specifically in order to turn the whole thing around. Listen, I was late to the party, so I'm looking at it on paper, listening to Theo and Jed how close we actually are. And, of course, I believe in what they're saying. So we go to that Winter Meeting, and Jon was a high priority in regards to getting us to that particular level. Last year, a lot of people did not expect 97 wins last year, but without Jon that was not possible. So when you're able to track free agents like Jon that come to your program, obviously that's going to attract more. And it's going to make the group that's already there better.
So, yes, Jon definitely legitimized exactly what we were doing last year. Maybe not his best year, but this year you can see what he's capable of doing. I think part of it is just an adjustment period. I think a lot of times free agents, regardless of how long they've been playing, there is still going to be an adjustment period for them, and I think this year he's indicated that. So now moving forward, man, it's good to have him on your side. Like I said, when he takes the mound tomorrow, you feel really good about it, because you know he's in a moment. He's not intimidated by the surroundings. You know actually how physically good he is.
So Theo and Jed being able to pull that one off was huge for our advancement, there is no question.
Q. Jake said last night after the game that I'm pitching again this year. And I asked him, Do you mean you're confident it will get to 7? He said, Yes, but, I mean, it could be in 6, it could be whatever, whatever it takes.
JOE MADDON: Right.
Q. So asking you specifically about him, and then about the other guys, are you an all-hands-on-deck kind of guy if it comes to that in an elimination game with your starting pitchers?
JOE MADDON: It just depends. Our bullpen's pretty good. I think you would rely on your bullpen first. The starters aren't normally used to doing those things. I know what Kershaw did the other night under extreme circumstances, and if it gets to that extreme moment, you might do something like that. But I think it would depend on the availability of the group that you normally have. Rondon, Strop, Chappy, that whole group is pretty darn good. So, to me, when you talk about that, it's more of an extra inning kind of situation. Or, for instance, if something blows up quickly in a game that you have to win, early in the game, whether somebody gets hurt or somebody's having a bad moment, yeah, you might jump on one of your other starters at that particular point. But otherwise, for me, it's about playing it straight and just keeping these guys well for their appropriate next moment because I think we're kind of thick with talent.