A.J. ELLIS: Well, it's huge, and I can speak from experience being the starting catcher back in 2013 when we beat the Braves and went on to play the Cardinals. Just the experience of knowing what all the playoffs entail, the travel, the scrutiny, the stuff like this. It's important just to kind of learn from it and gain wisdom from it and understand that all of this pomp and circumstance happens. But once the game starts, it's just another baseball game, and it's up to us just to go out and compete and leave it all out there.
Q. We just asked Donnie if Kershaw would be available to pitch in relief, and Donnie expressed some hesitations because of obvious health risks. Knowing Clayton the way you do, if the situation called for it, how much do you think he'd want to be on the mound tonight?
A.J. ELLIS: I'm surprised Clayton didn't come in and try to start today. This is how much this guy loves pitching and loves competing. But they're going to take care of him. They're going to make sure it's the right spot if they do need to use them. But it's Game 5. It's all hands on deck. Everybody needs to be spiked up and ready to go because there's no excuses and there's no -- you can't have any regrets and what-ifs. We've just got to be ready to go.
Q. Donnie said yesterday that both you and Yasmani would probably prepare as if to start this game. Are you doing anything extra today compared to a typical day when you are not starting or in the starting lineup?
A.J. ELLIS: No, I came in yesterday knowing what was going on with Yas and how he was feeling and made sure I went over to Zack and watched his game, Game 2 against these guys and how he matched up against the Mets throughout the season.
But talking to Yas last night and talking to Yas today, he looks great. He feels great, and I'm excited to watch him go out there and compete with Zack. They have a great chemistry together. It's no secret how well they've worked, and it's all about Zack being comfortable. I think Yas has got some big swings in him tonight too.
Q. A.J., there is always the conversation about whether or not a pitcher's personality fits a moment. How do you think Zack's personality fits a Game 5?
A.J. ELLIS: Yeah, that's a great question. He's so process oriented, so detail oriented that he is probably so right now -- knowing Zack right now, what time is it? He's probably really focused on his fantasy football team right now. He's probably checking that out, checking his rosters, trying to work out one last trade before the game. There's fantasy games tonight, and he has to make sure he doesn't have anybody playing on the Atlanta and Saints roster.
So he'll check that for a while and then come in and go through his normal routine of getting ready to pitch tonight's game. He'll go through the lineup, go through the hitters. Have a great meeting with Rick and Yas, and that's what makes him and Clayton so great is their dedication to their process and their routine and staying in the present. I expect Zack to do that tonight.
Q. You said that at this point everything is for the team, and I guess part of that is sometimes you have to step aside to not play. How do you channel the hunger to play, hunger to compete with doing something that's right for the team?
A.J. ELLIS: Well, it's not my decision first and foremost. I come to the ballpark every day ready to play. You never know what's going to happen. Somebody could roll their ankle on a street curb, so you always have to come to the park ready to go. Once the game starts and the lineup is posted, it's about doing things to get myself ready for potentially the next start down the road, so physically, in the batting cage, mentally or things like that. Once the game starts, you're keenly aware of what's going on. You can't really turn all the way off because we've seen a couple times this year, we're a foul tip away from being right in there. So you've got to be paying attention to what's going on in the game. Stay loose, kind of move around a little bit in the course of the game.
As we get to the later innings, when pinch-hitters and pinch-runners start becoming part of the equation, you've got to start really turning up the dial a little bit too. I'm excited for tonight. It's my first time in a winner-take-all type game like this. It's just going to be fun to be out there with my teammates, watching and supporting our guys.
Like we said, it's all hands on deck. So if my number gets called and I'm needed to do something, whether it be put a bunt down or go catch or God forbid go pinch-run, I'll be ready.
Q. You talked about the way using the whole field is a good way to approach these games offensively. How do you think the team's done considering the fact that Dodgers are pretty homer centric during the year, and this series it seems they are doing more of using the whole field and getting base hits?
A.J. ELLIS: Yeah, we've had some really good at-bats, especially New York. Even in Game 3 we got beat, I thought we had a really good offensive approach against Matt and throughout the course of that game. This pitching staff we're facing is just so unbelievable. We were talking on the plane flight back and even in the clubhouse today, just the quality of arms that they have and the rotation in on the back end. I mean, Familia is a handful coming in there at the end of the game.
So it's great for us to grind. I do think, I heard some people make mention to that small layoff between the end of the season and Game 1, it's hard to gear back up for that velocity. But playing in these games and seeing velocity after velocity after velocity, I do expect this to be maybe a little bit more on time facing somebody like deGrom, which may or may not even matter the way he throws the baseball.
Q. Did you have butterflies before your first or in your first playoff series? Have you seen any evidence of that in Pederson, Hernandez or Seager?
A.J. ELLIS: I still get butterflies before every playoff game. But definitely huge ones in that first game back in Atlanta in Game 1. But we got some runs on the board early and were able to settle in. The butterflies go away when Clayton's on the mound and he's striking everybody out. That does help me out behind the plate.
But KikÃ©'s been amazing. He's just got a great presence about him, great energy that he brings to our clubhouse and on the bench and on the field. I love watching him play with the enthusiasm he has. He's a dynamic, explosive player too, so you can't take your eyes off him when he's in the batter's box because he has the ability to do something special every time he steps in there.
Joc, no secret it's been an up-and-down role for Joc this year. But this guy has worked hard this last month of the season. He's made good adjustments and he's working hard with Mark McGwire and John Valentin, trying to make some big changes and have that good approach that he got off to early in the year. He's another guy with his power and his excitement in the box and his ability, he's one big swing away from changing a series. So excited to watch him out there today too.
Q. You saw all the moves that the front office made last winter. Is there any awareness that this team could be drastically different tomorrow if things don't go right or the day after it ends, whenever it does end?
A.J. ELLIS: I don't think it matter what's front office is in there. It's just the matter of the way baseball goes and the business of baseball now. That room is never going to be the same again. That 25 or 40 guys you have at the end of the year, those guys will never be together again.
There's a small core group of guys that have been together the last three years. It's been a special run, and hopefully there's more baseball to play, and hopefully there is time for us going forward to do more special things. I think we all need to take a cue from Zack and Clayton and really stay in the present right now. There's a lot of that discussion to be had down the road for sure.