Q. Being around this team all season, now you're on basically the eve of this pretty big, enormous game. You said all year that the players are embracing it. Do you feel good about the emotional place these guys are in on the eve of this big game?
BUD BLACK: Yes. I've seen this develop over the last month. You know, the position that we're in, you can see the guys as we move through September embrace where they were. And I think their level of play got better as the month went on. So, to that point, I think they're in a great place. So, again, I think that what these guys have gone through the entire season, and it's a long season, six months of baseball to try to get in this position, these guys I think the last month have really both ways -- they've enjoyed it, but also worked hard to get here.
Q. Postseason baseball is obviously different than the regular season. Does one-and-done even change strategy that much more?
BUD BLACK: I think so. I mean, our game when the season starts you have a lot of times a long-range view combined with that one game. So as far as the strategy prosecute game to game, especially pitcher usage, it's quite a bit different than a one-game scenario, especially with, you know, multiple days off prior to that, and where your pitchers are specifically. I think that's the biggest difference.
Q. In the middle of September the guys were here and you split four games. The first game Arenado hit a three-run homer to win it. Second game, car-go had a two-run homer late in the game to win it. The next two was like Pollock and Martinez hit home runs and won those games. So the question is, how much is containing these bats going to have to do with winning tomorrow or having those guys actually contribute to win? Is that a focal point of the game?
BUD BLACK: Well, I think you're talking about two very good offenses with power throughout. In our case, I think we have power throughout our lineup. I know that their lineup is formidable, especially the guys in the middle of their order. Power is always dangerous because it's one swing, and especially one swing with a couple guys on can really change the game. So I think contained is a good word. Containing the power. I think both pitchers and both pitching staffs have to be aware of that. A mistake could be hit out of the ballpark. This ballpark is, I think, a good place to hit. Like our park. Both offensively and on the pitching side, things have to be executed. Hitters have to take their swings and pitchers have to make good pitches throughout the course of this game.
Q. Do you stop and kind of think about how you've embraced this? You know, first year with this organization. You've got some very young pitchers that you had to rely on, and now you're here and you're managing a team in the postseason.
BUD BLACK: Actually, I don't think much about how I feel. I think about our team. I think from my perspective I have to, and the coaches, we have to be aware of what's going on with our players and our team and how we're going to try to win this game. I do know this personally, I'm excited to be here. But I'm excited because everybody else is excited. You know, I've been fortunate enough to be in the players' shoes, to be in a playoff game. I've been fortunate enough to be in this position as a coach, and now as manager where I am in my career, I'm excited for everybody else to be here to enjoy this moment and be part of this. Because this is why we play. This is why we're all here, because of games like this where it's heightened and it's exciting, and I'm thrilled for the organization and our fans to experience this again.
Q. What made you name Jon the starter for this game?
BUD BLACK: Well, a couple things. Jon's been very solid for us about the last six, seven weeks the way he's thrown the ball. He's set up for this physically. He pitched last Wednesday, so here it is, going to be a week later. So his turn to pitch really falls on the right day with two extra days rest this time of year I think it's an advantage for a pitcher.
You can look at what he's done statistically. His performance. This is the guy that we wanted on the mound.
Q. The fall back is obviously you stick with the routine from the previous 162 games that got you here. Why change things now. But you've got a lot of guys going into the postseason for the first time tomorrow, especially early in the game. Are you concerned at all about slowing them down a little bit, getting them to breathe, or whatever the case may be?
BUD BLACK: Well, again, we've talked about this over the last, I would say, five weeks, as we got into late August and into September, about how should we go about this, this pennant race at the end of the regular season. There were a lot of discussions both individually with certain players and players amongst themselves there were a couple larger meetings with the whole team. So I think that going through this race, I think we discussed how we should go about it and not put a lot of pressure on any particular game. In a sense, there was, I think, a point in late August, early September where I think we needed to stake a step back and relax a little bit because I think our guys were excited about where they were. I think it did affect our play.
But then after meeting or two and some individual discussions, I think some good things started happening as far as the looseness of the group. I think that showed how we played the last three or four weeks.
Q. One big picture, one very specific. Big picture, why has this team succeeded as well as it has on the road all year long? And very specific, if Gray and Greinke pitch like they can, how small-ball capable do you think this team is?
BUD BLACK: Okay. We talked about consistent play both home, road, and I think the guys who have been around the team have heard me say, whether it's cold, whether it's hot, whether it's windy, whether it's rainy, you know, the heat of August, the Christmas of April, we wanted to play good baseball no matter where we were.
I think the players understood that message, what that meant, home or road. We knew that we had to play consistent baseball to get to where we want to be. I think there was a continued focus every day, no matter where we were. Like I said, hot, cold, all that stuff.
I think they really understood that. I think the consistency of the group just in preparation and focus lent itself to playing well on the road. Whether it was on the mound, whether it was defensively, whether our at-bats, I think it was pretty consistent for the most part. There were a couple hiccups like all teams go through. But I don't want to say it was a priority, but we talked about it.
As far as Jon and Zack, they're two good pitchers. I mean, two really good pitchers. I think this time of the year the teams that make the playoffs have pitching. So I suspect both these guys are going to pitch well. We have some ideas about what we're going to do against Zack. But I think the quality of at-bats matter tremendously down the line. All the way through the pitcher's spot. If he's asked to do something, whether it's bunt, whether it's hit-and-run, these things have to be executed.
Again, I think there is an element on both sides, and if there's a hit-and-run or a steal or a sacrifice bunt, they have to be executed. And the game will tell you that. The game will tell you what you need to do. I've said it a thousand times, you never know how a game's going to play out. But if it is a low-scoring game, if it's a tight game, you know, the small-ball aspect will become very imperative, especially in the later innings.
Q. You guys share a spring training facility, you've played 19 times, how much does familiarity with each other affect this game?
BUD BLACK: I don't think -- there are no secrets here. We know what they like to do. They know our players. We'd like to think that we know their players and what they like to do. You know, it comes down to our side trying to halt the things that they like to do. Make our pitches in certain locations, but where we feel we have to pitch certain hitters. And they feel the same thing. They know that our tendencies, they know our hitter's tendencies, they know our pitcher's tendencies, and we know theirs.
So it comes down to really execution. And if you don't, you know, the hitters are going to make the pitchers pay. If pitchers make their pitches, more likely than not, hitters will be out.
Q. Jon has said he's made it clear he wants to be an ace, and here he is with an opportunity going up against a guy who has already established himself as one of the best in the game. I'm just curious is there any need to worry about Jon making the moment too big? As a former player, can you provide any advice for him to reel him in?
BUD BLACK: Again, I heard some of Jon's comments when he was in here earlier, and I think Jon sounded great about how he feels about this game.
This is a step. This is a great step for Jon. It's a great step for some of our players who haven't played in postseason. These are the experiences that will help Jon really make his mark in this game. I think our message to Jon, and that's from our pitching coaches and I, Jon's talented. There isn't a sense to do more because of the magnitude of this game. He's very capable of staying within himself and really throwing a good ballgame tonight.
So, again, I think Steve and Darren and their relationship with Jon over the last couple years and their conversations, I think, have been enough for Jon to understand how to go about today. So do I worry about Jon overplaying this? No. I do think there's been great discussion and great mentoring by our pitching coaches to Jon. I think even his teammates over the course of the season to put Jon in a good spot today.
Q. How much did the acquisition of J.D. Martinez transform this Diamondback lineup?
BUD BLACK: Well, there is no doubt he's been a huge impact on their lineup. When you put those two guys back-to-back, I mean, it's formidable. Those guys are, you know, two of the best hitters in the game. And J.D. has had a phenomenal second half here in Arizona. They've made a tough lineup tougher. I guess that's as simple as I could put it.
What makes it difficult, and we don't have a lot of samples, you know, just against our guys. But from what we've seen in the games that we've played that he's been a Diamondback, he's going about it really well.
We know that on our side from the pitching perspective, we have to make pitches. You've got to make pitches throughout the lineup against this team.
Q. A full season in now with your team. The top third of your lineup, Blackmon, LeMahieu, Arenado, what functions so well with them as a trio? Is it a balance that you like with them?
BUD BLACK: I think with these guys they're very talented players both offensively and defensively. But I think there's a little bit of a different style with each of them, and I think they sort of feed off each other.
You can look at Charlie and Nolan as two guys that I guess statistically you could look at it, they're pretty similar. They both have power. They both hit over .300. They've both driven in a lot of runs. You could look down the offensive categories and you could see they're similar even though one hits left-handed, and one hits right-handed. That helps the offense, that helps the balance.
And DJ in the middle of them provides an on-base component for Nolan. When Charlie gets on base, it provides the type of hitter that can offensively do some things with the bat that helps the offense, whether it's get Charlie over from second to third, whether there's a hit-and-run component, whether there is an opposite field, base hit, where we can go first to third. There is a sacrifice bunt. There is a bunt for a base hit in DJ's game. So I think it's a good mix of offensive talent. It's part of what makes us a good offensive team.
Q. At the top of the order, you've got more contributions from the Car-Gos and the Dezmonds and those guys. Do you feel like offensively you're in about the best place you could be going into a playoff?
BUD BLACK: I think the last three or four weeks I think we've played much better. I think we've had better at-bats. You've heard me speak about that. Hitting with runners in scoring position, much improved in September over what we saw in August. All right. August was a little bit down. No doubt about it. The first three months, outstanding. There was a little bit of a slow down in August, but we've picked it back up.
If you look at the big picture of where our offense is, and you look where we rank team-wise statistically, we lead the National League in six or seven categories, which is impressive for any offense.
But I think more importantly, the last 20 games or so, the at-bats have been much better, they're quality at-bats. The on-base percentage has been better. Swinging at strikes, taking balls. So we feel good about where we are.
Q. Two questions. One, does it feel any different postseason as a player versus manager now this time around?
BUD BLACK: Yes, yeah. I said earlier today on the radio, nothing beats being a player in these situations. When you're actually in the fire. I mean, nothing beats being a player.
Like any player who becomes a coach or manager or an executive will tell you the same thing. Nothing beats being a player.
It's a different perspective from a coaching aspect or manager, that you know that some of the decisions you make, you know as the game moves along that you try to put your guys in the best spot to succeed. But it's a little different. You're a little older. You see it a little differently. Sometimes you feel as though the players are your kids and you want them to do well. But it's a different feeling, for sure.
Q. Also, a lot of guys say during spring training you kept a lot of activities keeping things light. Do you have anything planned tonight? A team dinner? Trying to keep things light and that camaraderie going?
BUD BLACK: Last night we had a team dinner. When we flew in, we went to a local Scottsdale steak house and had a big meal. It was great. Tonight, not so much. We're going to work out and then the guys will do their thing. I assume a lot of them will stay and watch the Yankees and the Twins play. But nothing planned.
I think at this moment the guys need to do what they need to do personally and individually to prepare for tomorrow. Hopefully get a good night's sleep and be ready to play tomorrow, which I know they'll be ready to play. But nothing specifically planned to do anything different.
BUD BLACK: Yeah, there is a curfew.
Q. How close are you to setting your roster and separate your lineup? Are you dealing with any significant injuries?
BUD BLACK: Really close. Closer than you think.
Q. I was waiting for it?
BUD BLACK: You already got it? All right, guys. Thank you.