Bourn: “Our back was against the wall from pretty much jump street.”
Following Tuesday’s 7-1 loss to the Royals, a defeat that pushed Cleveland to the brink of elimination, center fielder Michael Bourn spent 10 minutes with reporters to discuss the game, the Tribe’s current situation and the season as a whole. Here is a portion of the interview:
You guys understood the landscape going into this series. You had to essentially win out, but have lost two key games to Kansas City. What’s the feeling in the clubhouse?
“Of course, it hurts. That goes without saying, especially when it’s somebody that’s inside your division. You never want to see them take over your spot, or be able to beat you out for a playoff spot. Right now, they’re doing that. We’re in a situation now where we have to win every game and they have to lose every game for us to make it, and we’ll just be in a tie. The probability of that happening is very tough. It’s still a probability, but it’s very, very tough.
“For me, I just feel like it’s not just in September. I look at how Oakland played the last month and a half. Because they were taking care of business early on in the season, they had that padded lead where, if they did have a struggle like that, they still have a chance to make the playoffs, which they do. They’ve been playing way under .500 baseball for the last month and a half, but since they were going so well at the beginning, I feel like they still have a chance to make the playoffs, and they still probably will make the playoffs with that first Wild Card.
“For us, I don’t feel like we ever hit a stretch like that. I feel like we didn’t have a month where we played great baseball. We played OK at times, but I feel like last year we had stretches where we were playing unbelievable and we were winning 10 games in a row, 11 games in a row. I just think that Tito always puts the best team that he has on the field. I think he does a great job at it. I think it comes within us, within here, for us to take care of business. He does his job to the maximum. I just think it takes us to come together and do what we have to do. That doesn’t start just in September, for me.
“I’m a firm believer in that. I hear people say that all the time, that, ‘Well, you have to play well in September.’ Yeah, you do, but the whole season counts. You don’t want to put your back against the wall, especially with the kind of team we have. We have a young team, so you don’t want to put your back against the wall late, [where you have] to make that run, when you haven’t been in that situation. We were in that situation last year, but we had played good throughout stretches throughout the year.”
How can you change that in the future?
“I just think that we have to win early. You don’t want to put yourself in that situation. I don’t feel like we’ve played consistently enough — good baseball — to be in that situation at this point. Yeah, we had little stretches where we were OK, but I’m talking about where you roll off 10 in a row. Where you roll off where you sweep three series in a row. Then, you have that comfortable lead, just like Oakland did, where you might mess up, but hey, you’ve still got a chance to bounce back. We never had that chance to bounce back. Our back was against the wall from pretty much jump street. We played good here and then we’d go on a losing streak. We were playing .500 ball pretty much the whole way through, if you want to look at it how I look at it. Most teams that make the playoffs, they have a stretch in there where they’re playing 10 games over .500, 15 games over .500. They’ll have a 20-game stretch where they might go 17-3, or 16-4. That gives you that little comfort. In a season, you’re going to go through a bad stretch — I can promise you that. I promise you that. But usually you go through a hot stretch if you’re a good team. We didn’t have a hot stretch, I don’t think.”
So what steps can you take?
“Just play better baseball That comes within the team, I think. We have to make adjustments within ourselves — it’s simple as that. I can name you 10 different reasons. OK, hit with runners in scoring position, play good defense, don’t make errors. You can name all types of stuff, but that comes within, from us. That doesn’t come from coaches. That comes from the 25 men playing the game.”
Does it add to frustration when you imagine what this starting rotation might be capable of doing in a playoff series?
“That’s what I’m saying. Now, we’re pitching like we always wanted to pitch, but you want to click with all of it. You want to have good pitching, timely hitting, hitting with runners in scoring position, stuff like that. Yes, you’re right. I agree with you. Yes, it would be very tough, I think, to beat us in a series, the way our pitching has been going lately. With [Corey] Kluber and [Carlos] Carrasco. Danny [Salazar]. He pitched pretty good tonight. They had some good hits on him, but I still think he was OK. He had one little stretch where he might’ve went off a little bit. But, [Trevor] Bauer, he’s still learning. He’s looking good. T.J. House, I feel like he’s done good. Early on, we didnt have the pitching that we wanted to have, so our bullepn was having to work over. That hurts you later on in the season.
“You see their bullpen. What’s their record, 69-1 when they’re leading after seven innings? Something like that. That tells you. But their starters also go deep in the game. You look at [James] Shields, he goes deep in the game a lot. That dude tonight went seven innings. That’s what you want throughout the year, so then at the end of the year, when you can use your bullpen a lot, they’re not tired. You can’t blame them. [Bryan] Shaw and them, they’ve pitched a lot this year. There’s three or four of our dudes that lead the league in appearances. That’s a lot on them. Anyone who’s throwing the ball that much, that’s a lot on them. It tires them out after a while. They’re only human.”
Does it add to the frustration right now, being an offensive player?
“It does. I had a chance tonight and I felt like I missed a pitch. [Yordano Ventura] gave me a pitch to hit and I missed it. It was nothing more than that. I don’t blame anybody but myself on that. It was a pitch that I felt like I could hit and I missed it. Of course, he does throw hard, but I felt like I got there. I just didn’t execute the swing exactly how I needed to execute it. And it’s not just me. As a collective unit, we’re just not doing it. Granted, sometimes we have hit the ball hard, a lot of times, and it’s going right at people. That happens, but you have to continue to play baseball. Nobody likes this feeling when you’re at this position of the year. It’s all fine and dandy until you get to this position. Then you’re looking like everybody is looking crazy at that point.
“That’s why, to me, the whole year counts. I’m a firm believer. I don’t know how everybody else thinks about it, but that’s how I think about it, because you start from April and you go all the way ’til the end. Good teams play good throughout the whole year. They don’t just go through one little stretch. They’re usually going to play pretty good ball throughout the year. We played OK ball, but we didn’t play great baseball like I think we’re capable of doing. At the same time, I think we’re still learning and I think I like the caliber of people that we have and we’re all good to come back. It’s not over, but to be honest, they have to lose every game. We have to win every game. And that’s just to tie. You have to be realistic about the situation as well. I hope that it happens, but you know …”
Is there any satisfaction that you guys are still contending despite all the injuries and issues the team has gone through this year?
“Health is a big key. I felt like I battled injuries all year long with my hamstring. That’s part of it. I hated it. As much as I wanted to be on the field, I couldn’t get out there, because I was hurting. From the second time on, I was trying to make sure that I didn’t get hurt again. I stayed on top of it. Our training staff did a great job of staying on top of me and helping me stay on top of my hamstring. Hopefully, this season isn’t over yet, let me comment on that first, but hopefully, going into the future, I can be healthy, because I feel like if I’m healthy, I can help this team a lot.”
What’s the team’s mentality now going into the last few games?
“It’s tough. I’m not going to sit here and lie to you and say it’s easy, because it’s not easy. You have to win. There’s no other option. If we lose, we’re out. Because if they win, then they’re pretty much in, if Seattle loses one more game, too. We know what’s at stake. We knew what was at stake before we came here. We just have to hope for the best. It’s not going to be easy. It’s still a possibility, so we just have to continue to grind, play one game at a time and we have another tough pitcher in [Jason] Vargas tomorrow, but we’ll battle him, too. And we have a good pitcher going in Bauer tomorrow, so we’ll hope for the best with that and we hope that we win.”