Q. Sorry to interrupt the celebration.A.J. HINCH: That's all right. I needed a break.
Q. For you a few years ago you come to this team and it was still a process and it was tail end of the rebuild, you still had so much to prove. Can you put
Q. Sorry to interrupt the celebration.
A.J. HINCH: That's all right. I needed a break.
Q. For you a few years ago you come to this team and it was still a process and it was tail end of the rebuild, you still had so much to prove. Can you put into words what it's like to have it fast-forward and now be in the World Series with this club?
A.J. HINCH: When I got here no one talked about winning. And that was one of the first things that Altuve told me in my office, that he wanted to win. And that represented what the next step was for this organization. And obviously in 2015 we got to taste it a little bit. 2016 we had some disappointment. 2017 we're going to the World Series.
The standards that have been established here, the work that's been put in, the synergy that goes on from the front office to the clubhouse, from ownership. We really are connected because we all have a common goal, and that's to win. And I don't care whether you're old school, new school, analytical, traditional, it's about winning at this level. And I think this organization gets it.
:: ALCS schedule and coverage ::
Q. You're a baseball guy, but Boston, New York, LA, no one's ever done this. I mean, that's climbing the ladder against the best that have been in this game. How gratifying is that to you to be on a team that has that opportunity?
A.J. HINCH: We've earned it. I think our team has been singular focused from the very beginning. In Spring Training we felt we had this caliber team. And at that point we stopped talking about it. We were really getting towards month by month trying to put up good months to have winning. And we had a sensational start and then a rough August and then put it together in September and have had a nice run in October.
So far we have one more series to get the ultimate prize. But there's two teams left standing, and I don't care what cities they're from, one of them is from Houston.
Q. Can you talk about the performance you got from Morton tonight and to have McCullers come in, propelling you to the next series and what that means.
A.J. HINCH: Really, the last two nights. We came home from New York pretty beat up. We wanted to win in New York. We wanted to close this out as soon as possible. And being up two games, we go to New York and get beat up and come back, and needing some big-time performances, and we got it in both games, specifically today with Morton and McCullers. We couldn't ask for it to map out any better.
These guys came out throwing strikes, quality strikes, power breaking balls work against these guys. They executed a great game plan. Brian McCann handled them terrifically to come up with some big hits. And we look up and we got our 27 outs from two guys.
Everybody talks about Game 7, you're going to need 12 pitchers to get through 27 outs. Outside of a couple times, I warmed Will Harris up about half a dozen times. And Giles at the end. We were perfectly content with what Morton and McCullers were doing, because they were so dominant.
Q. Every World Series obviously is very, very special. The fact that it's only this organization's second World Series, does that make it more meaningful?
A.J. HINCH: Very meaningful. There's some guys in the clubhouse that were here during the build and then obviously we've gotten close along the way with the 2015 playoffs. And then feeling good about our team last year, falling short. And then this year getting the division title for the first time in a decade. And now the World Series.
So I have such an appreciation. I never knew what it felt like to get to the World Series in any job I've had in 20 years. And now I do. And I have a great appreciation for what it takes to run this journey. We won 100-plus games in the regular season. We won a lot of games in the postseason so far.
But it's not easy. This is a grind and getting through so many ups and downs regardless of how the season goes is awesome when you get rewarded with a chance to win a world championship.
Q. What did Verlander mean to you yesterday and the whole time he was here, especially yesterday?
A.J. HINCH: You know, I think, obviously he's a premier performer at the highest times, the most intense times. And you can't teach that. And you can't buy it. You have to have it or you don't. And Verlander has it.
So for him to come to this city and to this team, to recognize the opportunity and then go out and do it is pretty impressive. I think I've seen an incremental increase in every facet of our game since he arrived.
So a little bit of Lance McCullers, a little bit of Charlie Morton, a little bit of Dallas Keuchel, and along the way Justin Verlander was probably the best pitcher in baseball during that stretch. That kind of impact is hard to articulate. It's also hard to get.
Q. Did you think your team was reeling or how did you feel about mentally, physically coming back here?
A.J. HINCH: We felt great. I think in some ways I think this series, as unique as it was, it wasn't over after two, I said that, it wasn't over after five, I said that, it's now over after seven, I'm really happy. I don't want a game 8.
I think our team always kept perspective. It was rough in New York, it was a rough way to play, especially losing Game 4 the way we did.
This team's pretty resilient. I know most teams you say that but when you go through all these struggles and different things throughout the year, and we did. We had injuries. We had guys get hot. Guys get cold. We stayed the course. And as a manager, you ask your players to stay the course. When you actually see them do it, it's as rewarding as anything in baseball.
Q. Ever since you came here there's been the chemistry in the clubhouse. You're around these guys every day, whether it's Altuve, Gonzalez, Verlander or Keuchel, the brotherhood you have is not overrated.
A.J. HINCH: No, it's not. And my job as the manager is to set the culture, the expectations, the standards, the baseball. It's the players' job to develop the chemistry. I think our organization has done a good job of building through the Draft, building through trade and targeting guys that can make an impact in the clubhouse and also on the field.
And obviously good teams always say that, we want chemistry, and what comes first, the chemistry or the winning. But when you have it you want to hold on to it as much as possible. And the way this team grew together from the beginning of Spring Training with the additions of McCann and Reddick and Charlie Morton, and obviously through the trade of Verlander and Maybin, guys that don't get talked about, when guys get called up. We've got a good thing going because we have one common goal, we have one common standard, and that's to be your best every day.
Q. What did you think was the most impressive thing about Lance McCullers?
A.J. HINCH: You know, he really does love the moment. I think we saw that in New York. I think we saw that tonight. It wasn't an easy year for him, having to battle a couple of different things. He makes the All-Star Game and then the second half could easily have fallen apart, based on how it went, whether it was performance or health. He never conceded to it. He rises to the moment and has as good a killer instinct as you would ask out of a pitcher.
Putting him in the game was our plan all along. We wanted to have both those guys go. I didn't know he was going to be as dominant and go as long as he did on three days' rest. His killer instincts, his feel for the moment is pretty impressive.
Q. You said you guys came home kind of battered and bruised both mentally and physically. Talk about the 10th person, the crowd, and the enthusiasm that on every second strike, just cheering and roaring, and instilling that confidence to go just a little bit further.
A.J. HINCH: We couldn't have asked for a better crowd the last two nights to step up and provide some energy on a team that thrives on energy.
They were loud from pitch 1. They were into it. This city and this fan base fell in love with this team awhile ago. There was a lot of buzz about this team as we got under way in the season. There was a lot of expectation. One of the hardest things to do in sports is live up to the expectation or exceed them.
The fan base hung in there through a tough August, they hung in there through a Trade Deadline that was controversial. And then we get to the August deadline, and boost that Verlander came with. They responded. They've been loud, they're been good. We're going to need them in Game 3, 4, and 5 against LA. This team represents Houston in a lot of good ways, certainly the good qualities.
Q. When you talk about obviously getting to the World Series is important, but you guys have been preparing to win it. So how much your team grew just in postseason, talk about that.
A.J. HINCH: I think at the end of the season I saw a different focus out of our team. At the end of our season we ended in Boston, then we went to Boston in the Division Series. Now we play the Yankees, who were red hot, and we end up beating them in seven.
Our guys are battle tested now. We had no question coming in. I think more people had questions about us than we questioned ourselves. Now we chase the ultimate prize. There's two teams standing. It's a race to four wins now. At the start there's a race to 11, we've got 7 of them down.