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October 4, 2006 -- Billy Wagner, the Mets' fire-balling lefty closer, offers his exclusive insights to Post readers throughout the Amazin's post-season run.


AM I excited to be in New York on a winner? Does a one-legged duck swim in circles?


This town is the greatest. Media day yesterday at Shea proved that the writers and the fans care about the game and the city. It's a different atmosphere than Philadelphia. There, the atmosphere screamed out failure, where the fans were waiting to boo me. Here, the fans have a genuine love for the game, win or lose, and the love for them on my part is mutual.


I'm still as nervous as a kid on his first day of school. The playoff atmosphere has such intensity that it's only normal to be anxious. I took my kids to school and my heart was pounding.


Adrenalin, and channeling that adrenalin, is a big part of the game. I went over to David Wright and the younger guys, and told them whatever emotions they felt were normal. It's normal to be nervous, so don't try to be too calm. Just go out there and do the same thing you've been doing all year long - be excited, play with a lot of emotion and adrenalin, and the butterflies will go away and it will all be easy.


Even for me, today is a day when I'll be excited just to get out of the house and start my car engine. I'll be rushing until I get here and then I'll calm down because I'll look around the clubhouse and know what everyone is going through, and experiencing, exactly what I'm experiencing. When I got into the clubhouse for media day the nerves started flowing. But once the game starts the adrenalin undergoes a metamorphosis from raw nerves to focusing on pitching.


I told the guys the best way for approaching this series is that Game One is a must win!


If we can take that early lead we'll be putting pressure on the Dodgers to do some things they might ordinarily not do, whether we force them to pinch hit in an unlikely spot, or put extra pressure on them. A Game One win would allow us to play our game, our way, and it would take the stress off everybody, including the bullpen.


Our wild card is John Maine. When Pedro went down the first time it was a huge blow. He means a lot to the younger guys and to the clubhouse. However, Maine stepped up and proved that he can be a big-game pitcher. We have every confidence that he will be the same big-game pitcher when the bell rings against the Dodgers.


On L.A's side, Derek Lowe has that terrific sinker. He brought Boston a World Series championship, so our guys should be prepared. If we can make him get that ball up, the advantage shifts to us because, as a right-hander, we've got a great arsenal of lefties with bats on their shoulders.


The Dodgers also have veteran leadership in Jeff Kent. While Jeff is a man of few words, he's all business and a leader on the field. He'll be extremely calm and lead by example, just as he did when I was with him in Houston. His on-field presence will help calm the rookies and help them to gain their sea legs.


My save, however, against the Dodgers late this season at Shea gave me an idea of how to face those guys. But the playoffs are a different beast. The same pitches that I got guys out on before may not work this time. The situation changes and I have to adapt.


Much has been made about the 4:05 p.m. start. The shadows are coming! The shadows ARE coming!


All can say is I hope I'm pitching once the shadows roll in at Shea in Game One because that'd be a good thing! I need all the help I can get!


As told to Burton Rocks



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