Oct. 20: Jason Hammel Pregame Interview
Q. Jason, you've kind of been in this one before, last week with the big game on the line. Can you talk about whether this feels different than last week?
JASON HAMMEL: Well, we're planning on winning tonight, so hopefully there won't be as much pressure. Like I said before though, pressure is what you make of it, and I don't know if you -- I honestly believe if I'm pressuring myself, I'm worried about the wrong thing.
I'll be prepared with my game plan, go back and watch what I did when I faced the Mets earlier this year, and we'll kind of go off of that.
They are a little bit different of a team than they were earlier this year when we faced them, but nothing that I can't prepare for.
Q. Regardless of what happens tonight, is tomorrow night the biggest start maybe ever in your life?
JASON HAMMEL: This is every question I get for all the playoff games. Obviously, the games at this point of the year are all very important.
Of my life? Obviously, the deeper you get into the playoffs, yeah, I guess you could say that they're the most difficult in my life. But honestly, I'm not really worried about that. I'm not thinking of it that way. It's the New York Mets versus the Cubs. I'm facing their lineup and they're facing ours. So, like I said, I'm not going to pressure myself with that.
Q. This season was the third time you were on a team that had been not very good and then all of a sudden was a playoff team. Tampa Bay, Baltimore and here. Anything about this year, as the year went on, that reminded you of those other experiences or any common denominator now that you've gone through it for a third time?
JASON HAMMEL: I feel pretty lucky to be able to do that. The thing that I've noticed the most is with these teams they've all been really young, almost to the fact where you have to think about it as the guys on the team that are so young really don't understand the magnitude of the situation that they're kind of thrown into. They're just out there playing baseball in the Big Leagues.
But we have enough veteran leadership inside, and obviously Joe running the show, to kind of keep guys on ground and make sure that they're putting in their work and their preparation's right. But the guys are just having fun. They don't really know the pressure of the spotlight of being in the Big Leagues, especially in the playoffs.
It just goes to show the character of this ballclub, even with the young guys who have never really done it before, they're still able to contribute. And we've had somebody different contribute every night for the whole season.
Q. Obviously you want to stay in the game as long as you can every start you make. But knowing these postseason games are sort of all-hands-on-deck mentality, does that allow you to attack hitters and be more aggressive early in ballgames?
JASON HAMMEL: Obviously, the W is the bottom line, and whether it's seven innings or three innings, like it was for me last time, the game plan is to win. We've entrusted Joe with that ability to make the decision whenever he thinks it's ready or whatever decision he needs to make at a certain time, that's his job as manager.
Obviously, I mean, I want to finish what I've started, so I'm thinking complete game shutout, but things obviously change in mid-game, and those are very rare. But I'm going to prepare to be out there as long as I can.
Q. Joe talked today about how you guys do a pretty good look at the umpire for that particular game and who is going to have your game behind the plate. How much can you adhere to a guy's strike zone in preparation for a game yourself, and how much does that and weather conditions go into what you want to do and how you go about it?
JASON HAMMEL: That's a good question. I really don't pay attention to it. Obviously I respect the guy behind the dish calling balls and strikes. But if I'm worried about what his strike zone is instead of where the strike zone is, throw it over the plate and making quality pitches down in the zone, I think I'm worried about the wrong thing. So I'll let the managers and the guys that handle the paperwork do that. I'm out there to throw strikes, hit the glove and go as deep as I can in the ballgame.
Q. The game against St. Louis, at one point before your at-bat in the second inning, there was a guy warming up and it seemed like some question whether you might get pulled or get to hit in that spot. Did you see the guy warming up? Just how big a kick was it to hit and then get the single up the middle?
JASON HAMMEL: I think, obviously, Joe credits my hitting better than my pitching because he left me in there. I was pretty sure that -- obviously, I know the guy was warming up, but in that situation, in an all-or-nothing-type game, in that situation I'm sure everybody thought I was going to get pulled if bases were loaded or something like that where I came up with a chance to hit. So obviously, probably the best hit of my career and in a pinch spot too. But I'm not paid to hit. I'm paid to pitch, and that's what I'm prepared to do.
Q. When you're pitching here, at what point do you go out and look at what the flags are doing up over the scoreboard? As a groundball guy, do you think you're a good player to have on the mound if it happens tomorrow that they're blowing out?
JASON HAMMEL: Yeah, I think it's kind of convenient you walk out the dugout up the middle of the stairs there in the middle of the dugout, and the first thing you see are the flags. Whether they're blowing in or out, you can take note. But the game plan for every outing at Wrigley Field should be hitting the ball in the zone, strikes, quality strikes in the lower half of the zone. So obviously that plays into a factor with mistakes. If a guy can lift a ball, it will change, but I'm not going to let the wind dictate how I pitch.
Q. How much does the crowd here really, really influence you or not?
JASON HAMMEL: That Game 5 last time or Game 4, sorry, that was impressive. I've been in obviously Tampa, I've been in bigger stadiums where the crowds are very effective. But the feeling we had earlier this year where the bleachers were still in construction, I think honestly all the guys would say we felt a little naked out there. Didn't quite feel like you had the whole Wrigley Field crowd.
As soon as those were finished and every day since, it's been impressive to see the passion of the fans to come out and make some noise for us. Obviously they've been dying for a winner for a long time, and here it is. So I think they have a big, big impact on the game. It did on me. It was the first time I actually had a little bit of jitters because so much energy pulsing through me for the fans. They play a big part.