10/04/05 8:49 AM ET
Ensberg: A dogfight into the playoffs
I'm really excited, but I'm also really surprised that we're in the playoffs considering that we went something like 15-30 to start the season.Clearly, we were counted out by many -- including a lot of people here in Houston -- in the early part of the season. And rightfully so. If you start off the season and right away go 15 games below .500, you're not looking toward the playoffs, you're looking at damage control. For the longest time, it seemed like we were just trying to get back to .500. But, slowly, we began accruing wins. I think during that period, a lot of the guys who didn't have much experience got used to playing in the big leagues and, slowly but surely, we started to win. Then it began to snowball. Considering where we we've come from, I'm very proud of everyone on this team. Our club persevered. The reality is that we've been playing playoff baseball for a period of months now because we put ourselves in that hole. Our wins aren't 8-0 blowouts. We win games 3-2 or 2-1. Sometimes it seems like every single inning has been a dogfight for this team, so we're familiar with the playoff-style pressure to put a run across or hold the other club in a tight game. We've been in the fire for four or five months now. But now that we're in the postseason, I think we have a club that's capable of performing well in this kind of atmosphere. It starts with our pitching. I'm biased of course, but I think we have the game's best pitching staff with guys like Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Roy Oswalt and Brad Lidge. Not only are our guys skilled, but there's some playoff experience, too. We have a good offense, but make no mistake, we're here in the playoffs because of our pitching staff. Anytime you talk about the playoffs, you're talking about close games and, like I said, our guys have become accustomed to pitching in tight situations this season. We owe a lot to the veteran guys who have meant so much to this organization, too. There's been some transition on the club the last few seasons, but even the younger guys rely on that core group of veterans who have established a certain way of playing baseball. The younger guys have just fallen in line. It's not just that we want to win for our veteran teammates, though. We want to win because we're all competitors, even the youngest guys on the club want to be able to perform in whatever situation they're called upon. But that solid veteran leadership is one of the things that has helped put the younger guys in a better position to fill whatever roles they have. I'm personally happy with the way the season went because I feel like I've progressed and developed and have begun to feel more comfortable around the league. It was only maybe June that I really began to feel comfortable, and that's on top of two years of service going into the season. It's a great feeling to find out that you can really help your ballclub. One of the areas in which I've made a lot of progress is that I've become a guy who really thrives batting in key situations. In a strange way, I've been groomed for that responsibility. In years past, I've batted primarily out of the No. 6 hole, batting behind established players with multiple All-Star credentials like Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio and Lance Berkman. Because teams would work around them to get to me, I've had a lot of experience batting with runners in scoring position or in key situations. Now I love batting in those situations. Third baseman Morgan Ensberg had the best of his three full seasons in the Majors in 2005, achieving career bests with 36 home runs and 101 RBIs. His .945 OPS was eighth-best in the National League.
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