“Awesome. I mean, it took 162, but we’re here. We would have liked to do it in Friday or Saturday’s game, but we’ve been living on the edge all year. Great group of guys in here. We’re a family.”
Three times you’ve been to World Series, how does qualifying again for postseason feel?
“Every year it’s the best. When you’re with the same guys for 7-1/2 months, then get to the playoffs, it’s very gratifying, as you can see in here.”
On the way the Braves finally clinched:
“We wanted to send Bobby out a certain way and that was going to the playoffs, whether we won the division or won the wild card, we just wanted to give him an opportunity. And here we are. Last day, last minute. It’s kind of the way it’s gone all year. These guys have pushed it to the brink all year. To come out today. We scored runs up and down the lineup, swung the bats real good, and Wags shut it down.”
On if he’s ever waited on another team to clinch in his Braves career:
“No. It’s kind of a cool way to go about it because we got to hang out for three more hours as a team. Sit around and drink, watch TV. That made it really cool.”
On the celebrations from over the years:
“Each one is unique. Each has its own sidebar topic that means something. Obviously we all know what this one means. It’s Bobby’s last one and it’s our first one in five years. Makes it extra special. Whenever you’ve got a bunch of 20-year-olds on the club, it makes it cool to watch them celebrate.”
On seeing Cox hoisted on teammates shoulders:
“It’s kind of uncharacteristic for Bobby to be out here. He really is (enjoying) this. That’s kind of been the way he’s been all year. I’ve seen him take a step back and really enjoy everything, whether it’s been in the middle of the season or here at the end. He’s really taken a step back and tried to enjoy the guys. We’ve got a great, funny, group of guys. A group everybody loves hanging around and Bobby is no different.”
On going in as the wild card:
“We’d love to have 100 wins and be the top seed and be the favorite. But we’re not. We’re OK with that. We’ve been good being the underdog all year and kind of sneaking up on people. Nobody is going to give us a chance in any of the rest of the series we play from here on out. We’ve just got to go out and prove people wrong.”
On finally getting to celebrate:
“It’s an exciting time. I’ll be honest, at times in the last couple weeks it felt like we were never going to get here. Now that we’re over the hump, I think everybody starts equal. I think we’re at a great advantage. We’ve got great starting pitching. We’ve got great bullpen and our hitters are awesome too.”
“Toward the end of the season there were some doubts [put] on us again, but we always had faith in ourselves. We’ve been through a whole lot, and now that we’re here, I think we’ve got all the confidence in the world.”
“It’s been such a whirlwind. We waited till the last day to get it done. I guess that’s kind of our style.”
“I didn’t come over here [to the Braves] to not make it. [Laughs] We made it close, but we’re in. Why make it easy? It’s not fun that way, right?”
“If you make it to the postseason, you’ve got a chance, there’s no question about that.”
What do you like most about this team?
“Resiliency. That’s what a good team is all about, able to bounce back in tough times. Because the postseason is not easy. It’s not going to be a breeze. We’re going to have to show up every night and be ready to go. And this team has showed it’s mentally tough and we’re capable of that.”
After struggling early following the trade, gratifying to get hot down stretch?
“It felt good to help out. When I first came over here I wasn’t doing much, and it was pretty frustrating. But I kept working, grinding, and I was able to get some hits down the stretch.”
“It’s really been a team, that’s what makes it so much fun. A different guy every night, a different guy picking another guy up. It’s a great group of guys, and all of them will say that, to a man.”
“This is why we do it. This is why we put in all the hours into this game, is to win. Having a chance to go to the World Series, that’s all you ask for. If ou have a chance to go to the World Series, you’re happy. So our guys are obviously happy today.”
On your team’s nucleus going forward
“There’s so many guys going through this for the first time, young guys, and I want them to take a good look, because we want to keep doing this year after year.”
On overcoming adversity, nine-game losing streak early, injuries late, etc.
“We knew we had a close-knit team coming out of spring training. We just knew these guys were going to battle, and we saw it early on when we went through that losing streak. We started winning games and we started winning unlikely games, and just the longer the season went, the more these guys showed us they could be a team. That’s what’s been so much fun about it – this truly is a team.”
On Lowe and Huddy coming through late
“Those guys … Derek Lowe in the month of September really stepped up big and pitched great for us. Then Huddy coming out on three days’ rest four days ago, then what he did today, those are winners. Those are guys you can count on, and that’s why you have them at the top of your rotation.”
On Derrek Lee getting hot down stretch
“We just thought it was a matter of time. He’s too good a hitter and has just been too good player [not to]. He’s been terrific defensively for us, and when he starts getting the big hits it really changes our offense.”
On getting Cox back to the postseason
“We talked about it all year long. He’s got 2,500 wins, he’s been to the playoffs numerous times, won a World Series. When you say you’re retiring, there’s no more tomorrows. So we wanted, as a team, to go out there and do our best work and give him a chance to go out on top.”
On the postseason
“It’s emotional, and you’ve got to really just separate your emotions from the game and just go one pitch at a time. Everybody’s geeked up for the playoffs and they’re going to be ready to go, and some hitters that were not as difficult at one time are going to be difficult. You’ve just got to go out and pitch one pitch at a time, and just concentrate on that.”
One thing that stands out, why this team’s here?
“We just never quit. Every time it looks like we’re going down and we shouldn’t be where we’re at, it seems that we fight back and find a way and just continue to battle. You look at who we’ve got on that team, there’s not a lot of people that are going to go, ‘Oh, they can compete with some of these teams.’ But we’ve done it all year long.
“We’ve proven that we deserve to be in the playoffs. When you play the Phillies in the last three games of the year, you know what? They’re as tough as it gets. We went out there and we found a way to win. We played them tough all year long, and we deserve the right to go out there and play San Francisco, with a chance to go play Philly or Cincinnati [in the NLCS].”
On watching the San Francisco-San Diego game on TV after Braves won
“Watching a game is a lot worse that being in the dugout. Being in the dugout is not as bad as listening or watching a game on TV. I’m more relaxed in the dugout than watching or listening.”
“Our guys were ready. This is a pretty good group. They work hard. They’re professional. All of them are professional guys. It’s a team that any manager could have managed, and not had a problem.”
Were you worried at any point today that this might be your last game?
“I always worry. I worry every second of the season. Yeah, you worry it’s the last game.”
On Hudson and Lowe down stretch
“They went on short rest and pitched brilliantly. Huddy pitched a two-hitter today, and pitched great. Hanson’s on a roll right now, Lowe’s on a roll. It’s a good thing to have three pitchers really pitching well. And Beachy has had three starts and pitched great.”
Lowe, Hudson and Hanson in the division series?
“I’m not saying yet. We’ll talk about that tomorrow.”
On this team making it to postseason
“They should be. I’d have been disappointed if we weren’t. It’s done well enough, we should be here.”
On the last half-inning of the Giants-Padres game
“I was arguing with the umpire on every pitch. It would have been a 3,000-mile ejection.”
“I worked my entire lift to get to this point, and it’s unbelieavable. I really don’t know what to say. It’s so much fun to be around these guys every single day for nine, 10 hours a day. It’s so much fun, I couldn’t be happier right now.
“This is what it’s all about. You play all year, you go to spring training and you work as hard as you can to get ready for the season and play 162 games, and for whatever reason it comes down to one game like it did today.
“I don’t know. I really don’t even know what to say right now. I’m just so shocked and having so much fun right now, I don’t have the words to explain how I feel.”
(Below are quotes from Braves’ clubhouse after their win but before the San Diego-San Francisco game was over)
“The bats came alive today, which was great to see. We’ve got much better hitting than we’ve shown here lately. Tonight we faced some good pitchers, too. They ran everybody at us. We found some holes and hit some balls hard.”
On Tim Hudson
“He gives up two hits and both of them are home runs. That’s just strange. That’s out of our system now. We got a win. We’re either going to qualify for the playoffs tonight or we’re going to have a playoff Tuesday. Either one.
“We’d rather do our celebrating in this clubhouse tonight, but if it’s Tuesday, it’s Tuesday.”
On the huge crowds this weekend
“The people have really turned out. We take our hats off to the fans. They packed it three days in a row. That’s just amazing with the Falcons here, and college football, and high school football, the whole works. We say thank you to the fans.”
On this team responding with backs to the wall
“We try hard. This team is the hardest-working, hardest-trying team we’ve ever had here. It’s easy to say there’s no quit in them. There was no quit in them in April. It’s a great group of guys. They’re fun to manage. No problems whatsoever.”
On Heyward’s catch against right-field wall
“Jason made an unbelievable catch. I thought he hurt himself on it; he probably did a little bit, but he didn’t say anything.
“It was a tough field today with the sun and the wind. Infante’s ball got by Jayson Werth out there in right field, the wind kept blowing it away from him. It was a difficult way to play the outfield.”
“He got the first two groundballs in the first inning, which was great, and came through big-time with the bat today.”
Excited or relieved to win today and know you play again?
“It’s always both. You’re excited as the dickens, and you’re relieved at the same time. You’re this close. It’s a combination, it’s never changed in all my days in the minor leagues or major leagues.”
On Billy pitching for more than 3 outs for first time this season
“He’s been on me all year about that. When he’s had a lot of rest he’s always wanted to do it, we just hadn’t done it. Today he had three days of rest and he had plenty of room in his pitch count to do that.”
Did you even think about not bringing him back in 9th after way 8th went?
“No. Not Billy. You would have been getting a new manager; I’d have been dead, if I had told him he wasn’t going back.”
“It was interesting. It was fun, but it was interesting.”
9th inning quite a contrast from 8th, all the strikeouts and called strikes
“It was. The shadows helped, no doubt. They could see fastball, but they couldn’t see spin of the breaking ball. The one thing I had to do was execute and throw it for a strike, and that ninth inning I was able to do it.”
What’s the feeling right now, before know your fate with S.D.-S.F. game?
“It’s somewhat of a relief, because you know you’ve got a tomorrow. There when I came in the game it wasn’t so sure.
“We knew we had to win this game. We knew what was at stake. We battled and bowed our necks a little bit, and pulled out one. Now we’ll just watch this [San Francisco-San Diego] game and see what happens, and if we play Tuesday in a playoff game, we play Tuesday. It doesn’t matter to us. We’ve got one more day to extend our careers.”
On asking Bobby all season to let you pitch more than one inning
“I didn’t do a good job, so I probably won’t ever get back in there [early] again now.” [smiles]
“That’s the closer’s job. I’ve got to come in there, and it was probably a good situation where we had a big enough lead that I couldn’t screw it up too bad.”
On how it could have been the last game he pitched, if they’d lost
“Don’t think that didn’t run through my head out there – if you screw this up, you go home and always be a goat. I was happy to go out there and compete, make some pitches, and have another day to go out there and sweat.”
Cox said you’d have killed him if he’d replaced you after the eighth
“What I was really hoping for was an at-bat. That would have calmed things way down. It was pretty nerve-wracking, but getting up there and seeing that batter’s box would have kind of helped you relax a little bit, to see what those hitters [were dealing with, the late-afternoon shadows].
“I’m just happy we got it done. I’m glad he trusted me enough to give me the opportunity.”
“We did what we had to today. We had to come out here and win, put the pressure on, and we did that.”
Appropriate that it came down to last day, last inning with this team?
“Yeah. The season’s not over yet, but we’ve played great. The team has stuck together for 162 games. We’ve had some ups and downs, but we’ve always answered the bell every time we’ve needed to. Today was the same thing we’ve been doing all year long.”
On getting big hits from some guys who’ve been slumping lately
“That was the biggest thing today, we won and we swung the bats. Hopefully we can carry that on.”
On Wagner, any doubts about him after that 8th inning?
“No. He’s the guy you want on the mound. He’s the guy. So you hand him the ball and let him go to work.”
“The only two hits he gave up were home runs. I can’t say enough about what he did. He’s pitched on three days’ rest two times in a row now. He’s an ace. He’s a No. 1, and he showed it today.”
What’s the feeling now in the clubhouse?
“Just watching the TV, nervous, hoping San Francisco comes through tonight and then see what happens.”
More on Wagner in 9th
“What he did was amazing — throw a 3-2 curveball to the leadoff hitter, who can fly. And he’s a great fastball hitter, so that’s the right pitch, and he’s got the whatever-you-want-to-say right there to throw it. That’s why he has so many saves and he’s one of the best closers of all time.”
“He was spotting up everything in the ninth.”
On this team’s resilience
“We always answer the bell. Every time our backs are against the wall, we’ve come through and got a win. A lot of guys stepped up today. I’m so pround of everybody in here. Today we did everything we needed to do.”
“This is what you play for, why you put in all the hours, for games like that, to move forward. This is what you play the game for, for games that matter, for games that count late in the season, games in the postseason. That’s what every baseball player, every athlete strives for.”
On winning today, making sure it wasn’t Cox’s last game
“With everything going on this weekend, we came out today and just played an amazing game.”
Does it feel like you’re already in the postseason?
“No. We have to find out what happens here [in San Diego-San Francisco game going on while he was being interviewed]. The postseason is the postseason. [A Tuesday one-game playoff would be] still the regular season. We’ve got to sit back and wait, and hopefully … we’re big San Francisco Giants fans right now.”
On the season, slow start in April, etc.
“We we were struggling. We didn’t know our roles. We had a lot of new guys in here. We had a lot of spark plugs that stepped up in April and May. Can’t say enough about what Hinske’s done this year, and Bruce Conrad. Our bullpen’s been phenomenal. Starting pitching has carried us.
“I’m extremely happy right now.”
“It got a little tighter than we wanted right there at the end. But we wanted to go out there and set the tone early. Obviously they took the early 2-nothing lead, but we were able to put some runs across and get a lead.
“For any starting pitcher, it’s great to have a two- or three-run lead, where you can go out there and not be quite as fine, and challenge guys. That’s what I did. They got a couple of homers off me, but we had a nice little lead there and I could go out there and try to make them earn it. They almost earned it, but we came up on the good end.”
Appropriate for this team that it comes down to the last day, last inning?
“Why wouldn’t it? [He smiles.]It’s just kind of our nature, I guess, better late than never. But it’s been a good year for us. It’s been a lot of fun. We’ve got some great guys in this locker room and we’ve busted our tails all year.
“Hopefully we’ve put ourselves in position to get in. With a little help today we’ll be in. If not, we’ll be playing on Tuesday and giving it our best shot then, too.”
On his emotions after the last two days, then going out to pitch today
“You’ve got a job to do, and you go out there and try to do the best you can. This is why we play. This is what we do. Obviously coming in today, I knew it was going to be a tough game. I knew they were probably going to come out and try to beat us, even though they’ve clinched.
“We were able to come out and play some good baseball, just good enough to win.”
On the atmosphere, big crowd
“It’s been playoff atmosphere here this weekend, and it should be. This time of year, it should be playoff atmosphere the past three weeks. But it’s been good [this weekend]. Obviously we dropped the first two, but there’s no quit in these guys. We go out there and play hard. Even though it may not look too good at times, we somehow find a way to pull it out.
“Just like this weekend. We were in great position coming into this weekend, up two with three to play, and there we were coming into today all tied up. We just go out there and try to do the best we can, and we were able to come out on top.”
On his hit, biggest of his career?
“Yeah, it was. I hadn’t had a hit in probably two months. So going in there I was thinking, if I can ever get a knock, just let it be today, right now. And I was able to get it. I hadn’t scored from first on a double since, I think, ‘97. So that was interesting. I’ve still got it.”