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October 9, 2016

Michael Saunders

Toronto, Ontario - Pregame three, Canada

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Michael Saunders.

Q. You've been here for some big games, obviously the Wild Card game against Baltimore last week, but what do you expect the crowd to be like tonight with you guys having the chance to go to the LCS?
MICHAEL SAUNDERS: You know, it's important to get back into Toronto in the position we are in because we wanted to play in front of our home crowd and some of the best fans in baseball. And they've shown up all year long. It's not just recent games or the Wild Card game, they've been here since day one, and really caught on midway through last year. And they've been with us all the way through since.

Q. You've faced Colby Lewis a lot in your career. I think he's one of the guys you faced most often actually. What's the experience like of facing him?
MICHAEL SAUNDERS: You know, he's a guy that certainly mixes up his pitches, tries to keep you off balance. Luckily, I've gotten the opportunity to face him quite a bit being in the AL West, and we got a couple of games against him this year I think. And it's just one of those things where facing a guy that tries to keep you off balance, throws four pitches, can throw them for strikes.

You know, as cliche as it sounds, you've got to try to get that good pitch to hit and put a good swing on it. And it's one of those things where we'll see how he's pitching early. If he's attacking the zone, if he's around the zone. But ultimately it's about getting a good pitch to hit.

Q. For all the kind of hype when the series was about to start down in Texas, it's been pretty drama-free other than what's happened between the lines. How have you guys managed to push that aside and just focus on executing and coming home up 2-0?
MICHAEL SAUNDERS: I think it's kind of what we expected. I didn't think we were going to go in there expecting that it be too much drama. At the end of the day, there's bigger things at stake. And each team came into this series with some business to take care of and that's moving on to the next round.

And obviously everyone knew what took place last year and what happened earlier this year in Texas, but two professional teams. We had a bigger goal in mind, each of us, and obviously it was big for us to come out of there 2-0 and come back into our home crowd.

But I don't see anything happening, you know, going forward. We know the situation we were in last year, being down 0-2 and then coming back. That's a good ballclub over there, and we're concentrating on tonight's game, and knowing that kind of anything can happen, we're not losing sight of our goal. And that's to win a baseball game.

Q. You guys have gotten so much from your starting rotation this year. They've really been great. Could you tell that in Spring Training that they were going to be this good and what makes those guys so effective?
MICHAEL SAUNDERS: Yeah, you know, I don't think we'd be here today without our starting rotation. They kept our heads above water all year long, when the offense was going through its ups and downs. And quite frankly, we had two All-Stars in our starting lineup. I think we easily could have had three, and I think we have a couple of considerations for Cy Young Award winners at the end of the year and they've been tremendous all year long.

The biggest thing they've been consistent. Seems like we've had the same five guys go every fifth day all year long, and that's pretty rare. Not just because of the health, but also because of performance-wise.

And we add a guy like Liriano there at the trade deadline, and he closed the season really strong, obviously, and has done a great job out of the bullpen in the playoffs for us so far. And I'm not going to say that we didn't expect it to happen.

You know, Happ's had a career year obviously. Sanchez has gotten the opportunity to pitch an entire year out of rotation. And Stroman's finished the year great. And Estrada, obviously, has done his thing all year long as well as last year. And I think Dickey really finished the year as well strong.

And they've really kept our head above water all year long, and obviously they've pitched incredibly well in the playoffs thus far, too.

Q. Well documented in September, you guys just didn't hit the ball very well. And then the last three games at least you've really, the power surge. Do you buy into the notion that you're playing a little bit more relaxed now as a group and allowing things to flow, so to speak, just to idea, is that a contributing factor at all?
MICHAEL SAUNDERS: You know, I don't really know how to explain it. Obviously our bats are coming alive at the right time.

You know, the month of September as far as a win/loss record, it's not one that we obviously wanted to have, but at the end of the day the main goal ever since going into the offseason is to play meaningful games in September. And we were able to achieve that this year.

And our goal hasn't changed as far as playing in the World Series. We just had to play one more game than everyone else, basically. And I don't really know how to explain it, about we're definitely showing up at the right time.

And this lineup is pretty unique as in the accolades and the MVPs, Silver Sluggers, All-Stars -- it's a pretty potent lineup. And really we felt like it was only a matter of time we were clicking on all cylinders, 1 through 9, and we arguably, at least we believe, have one of the deepest lineups in all of baseball.

Q. Baseball's just another day, every day. But has it now kind of sunk in it's one win away from getting to the ALCS, from getting to that next step?
MICHAEL SAUNDERS: Like we said, we went into Texas and we took care of business. And coming out of there and coming home to our home crowd up 2-0 in a best-of-five is obviously the best position we could be in.

And that's the position we wanted to be in. We also understand the fact that the roles were reversed last year and we were able to come back and take the next three. So we understand the magnitude of the game. We're not getting ahead of ourselves by any means. We understand that we gotta take it one game at a time.

And we're preparing for Colby Lewis tonight. And we're hoping to take care of business and continue forward and keep swinging the bats and pitching well. And hopefully everything will be going our way in the end.

Q. When you were growing up, was the passion and the support for the Blue Jays about the same, or was it more split between, in BC, or was it most popular with the Expos and Mariners as well?
MICHAEL SAUNDERS: For me and my family it was all Blue Jays, and the friends I grew up with going to school it was all Blue Jays. And obviously the excitement during those two World Series was through the roof.

That's kind of when I became a big fan. And I followed them throughout. But I'd say I can't really compare where we're at today as far as how popular the Jays are compared to when they were back in the early '90s, but I can say that I know that, I think, Little League Baseball and just administration has gone through the roof for the last couple of years.

And I really think that it's proven that it's not just Toronto's team, this is really spread all across Canada. But as far as the Expos, I didn't grow up a big Expos fan just because my family and my dad always had the Jays on.

But I think obviously ever since they've left, Toronto's become Canada's team, and I think throughout the entire country you saw kind of what happened in Seattle. I always thought it was just more of a Vancouver or British Columbia kind of showing, but come to find out Saskatchewan and Alberta, Manitoba, West Coast, it's almost like a West Coast Canadian holiday over there.

So for me it's always been the Blue Jays.

Q. How are you shouldering the burden of a nation's Thanksgiving resting on what happens today?
MICHAEL SAUNDERS: I mean, we haven't really thought about that, to be honest. Hopefully the turkey will taste a little bit sweeter. But like I said, we're just concentrating on tonight's game. And clubhouse is really loose. We've got a lot of smiles on our face, we're joking around. Nothing's changed. We understand the magnitude of the games we're playing right now, but as far as preparation and as far as attitude nothing's changed all year long.


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