In 1999, Al Leiter threw a two-hit shutout for the Mets in a one-game playoff to decide the Wild Card against the Reds. He spoke about the Braves-Cardinals game with AJC staff writer Carroll Rogers.
Q. What advice do you have for Braves starter Kris Medlen?
A. “What helped me it was after years of a lot of understanding of what a pitcher’s job was. Harvey Dorfman got my mind where it needed to be. That’s the whole part of superior athletes that are able to separate what the emotions are and what the elevated anxiety will be to being able to focus at the task at hand. And having pitched in a game like that and I also started a Game 7, which is essentially a one-game playoff when the loser goes home, is to think about this pitch, this moment. Execution of a quality pitch consecutively. Exploit a hitter’s weakness. Don’t allow the exterior distractions to come into that. Repeat a consistent delivery and make quality pitches. It sounds cliché. It sounds kind of textbook, but it really is what a pitcher is trying to do.”
Q. How would you feel if you were on the Braves, the team wins 94 games but your ability to advance in the postseason comes down to one-game playoff?
A. “The reality is going into spring training, everybody knew that there was going to be this wild-card change. I think the reality from the Major League Baseball perspective, not the city of the wild-card winner, is that this has been very exciting. It’s not only added two more playoff teams, it’s added more fan bases to be excited about the prospect of their team making the wild-card round. I think overall if you look macro, instead of micro, it’s good for the game.”
Q. What works in the Braves’ favor in this game?
A. “What I really like about what Atlanta has done, Fredi [Gonzalez] has been able to keep his bullpen go-to arms fresh or more fres … I think the Braves are as good as anybody in the National League relief-wise. And I think the young players coming together: [Jason] Heyward what he was able to do after a Year 2 of injuries and scuffling. I love Freddie Freeman. I think the team is riding the mojo of Chipper [Jones]. I think there are a lot of reasons to like them starting with Medlen. I think Timmy Hudson is such a pro and such a class act. And [they have] a great bullpen.”
Al Leiter is a former two-time MLB All-Star pitcher and current MLB Network analyst. MLB Network’s ‘MLB Tonight’ will air live before and after every postseason game. MLB Network will exclusively air two League Division Series games on Oct. 7 and 10.