Game 7? Of Course! – Brandon Belt
You had to figure this would go to Game 7. With these two teams, there was little doubt. You can tell that the Cardinals believe that no matter what happens, in the end they’re going to win. We do, too. So it had to go to seven.
Everyone keeps asking why we keeping winning when our backs are against the wall. We really believe in ourselves, and it’s crazy how much that helps us, as cheesy and corny as that sounds. And obviously we don’t buckle under pressure, thanks in great part to our veteran nut jobs, who keep everyone loose in the dugout. Wilson, Hensley, Theriot, Pablo, they’re always doing something crazy to break whatever tension might be building. Pablo was dancing gangnam style along with the video on the scoreboard. As a young guy who’s new to the postseason, I take cues from the veterans. If they stay loose in the highest-pressure situations, then I’m not going to get worried either.
After struggling at the plate for a few games, I was really happy to get a triple to lead off what turned out to be a big second inning. I had two strikes. After striking out twice in recent games on called third strikes, I knew I had to expand my strike zone. I couldn’t take a called third strike if it was close. Carpenter threw a fastball that stayed over the plate and I was able to drive it to center field.
Of course my next at-bat I struck out looking. Carpenter was beating me up with off-speed pitches then threw a fastball that started at my hip then came back to catch the inside corner. It’s frustrating, but at some point you have to give their pitchers credit; they got a lot of us tonight on called third strikes.
I felt good, though, to finish the night with two hits that contributed two runs. In the postseason, with the adrenaline on full-throttle, I’ve had to remind myself to slow the game down. I have a pre-at-bat ritual that helps with this. While I’m on deck, I focus on my breathing, which slows my heart rate and helps me focus on being in the moment. Pence bats ahead of me, so I watch his at-bat as if I’m batting, swinging at pitches to lock in on my timing. Then before I step into the box I take a deep breath. I don’t step up to the plate until I’ve completely finished the breath.
I’m learning a lot during this postseason, things that nobody can teach you. You have to experience it for yourself. For example, you have to figure out how to take care of yourself when there are so many more demands on your time. There’s so much more media. And at every game, unlike during the regular season, there are family and friends you want to spend time with.
And the games are so intense. You’re focusing so hard. You’re all in emotionally. It can really drain you. I was surprised how exhausted I was after Game 5 in Cincinnati. I just crashed.
In St. Louis, I felt like I didn’t have any down time. Usually I get a little time alone when I walk to the park. But our hotel was right across the street, so I didn’t even have that. So I’m learning that I have to carve out time to rest and regenerate. It’s tough when you’ve been raised to be polite and friendly. But I see now why players can seem selfish at times. You really have to draw some boundaries or you’ll be so tired you won’t be 100 percent for the games.
I’m also learning about money. That might sound kind of stupid because money is money. But I never had any before now, and Haylee and I are still figuring out what it means to have what we have. I’ve always been a tightwad, either by nature or necessity, not sure which. And I still am even though I guess I don’t have to be. I was thinking about this during the postseason because, with family and friends around, we’re going out to eat more than we usually would. I’d rather eat at Chipotle or Chili’s than at a nice restaurant. Part of that is just getting served more quickly, but part of it is feeling uncomfortable spending money on the kinds of restaurants that other players go to all the time but still seem really expensive to us. It still drives me crazy, for example, to buy a bunch of groceries and then leave town before we eat everything and stuff goes to waste. Figuring out when and whether and how much to spend is a good problem to have, believe me. I know that. But it’s the kind of thing you never think about when you become a big-leaguer.
OK, that was kind of random.
We can’t wait to get to the park tomorrow. We’ll be here around 12:30 or so for BP, etc. I hear it’s supposed to rain. I hope it doesn’t, of course, but we’ll manage no matter what happens. We’re locked in. and we’re having a blast. We know the fans are, too. You can’t believe how loud it is on the field. It’s unbelievable.
Let’s keep it going!