Q. Brent Strom has said that there's a difference in baseballs; they're slicker. Justin says he wants consistency. He says there's a difference in the baseballs. Your thoughts about this stuff?
A.J. HINCH: My thought is there's nothing better than starting these press conferences with controversial topics, and I figure it's going to be baseballs or closers. So, with that, I will tell you, you know, everyone is entitled to their opinion. Obviously the players, the coaches, everybody is weighing in on these topics. I know nothing about them. I'm not the guy throwing the pitch. I'm not the guy rubbing up the baseballs. I'm managing the games.
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But, you know, I don't see a ton difference, but I'm not going to get in a verbal war with coaches and players who think otherwise. They're entitled to their opinion, that's my take.
Q. A guy like Brian McCann who just kind of stays like this all the time, how much does that help when you're at this point in the season?
A.J. HINCH: It helps. One of the reasons we brought McCann here was presence. And his ability to impact the clubhouse, his ability to govern the game and just be a stable part. I've never seen a World Series-caliber team that doesn't have a stable catcher. Doesn't have to be the most notable guy. There's been catchers that aren't the biggest names. But just stability behind that. And Brian really does embody that type of characteristic.
So we need him at times like this, where there's so much pressure. So much anxiety that goes into every single pitch. He's been spectacular with how he's managed the games and controlled our pitching staffs and been locked in behind the plate. And that's that veteran leadership that we don't know how to quantify, we don't know how to measure, but we do know when we have it. To have him back there during these critical moments is a plus for us.
Q. During this postseason or during the playoffs, you often hear the term thrown around, "he's a big-game pitcher." What is your criteria or definition, because sometimes it's not warranted, and does Justin fit into that?
A.J. HINCH: Justin fits into a lot of categories. You know, there's no low-leverage game or no low-leverage inning in the playoffs. Every game is a big game, and especially as it gets to the World Series. But there's some games in April through September that are pretty big, too. Every one of them, to be honest.
So I think in these instances where you're talking about guys like Verlander or we will see Kershaw today, McCullers has stepped up, Keuchel needs to be that big-game pitcher, I think we're talking about maintaining your composure, maintaining your ability to be yourself, to execute pitches the way you normally do, to sort of get out all the distractions that may come up at these big moments and deliver your best.
And oftentimes big-game pitchers are because they had big-time performances and the results. We get to call them that after. I like more calling these guys big-time pitchers before the game, because that's what we expect. We expect them to prepare the same. We expect them to show up ready to play. We expect them to produce the executed pitches. When you can do that on this kind of stage you're called a big-time pitcher regardless of your performance. But oftentimes these guys step up and deliver big-time results, too.
Q. Alex Bregman seems to have a toughness that we often associate with a hardscrabble background, which is not the case with him. Where do you think it comes from?
A.J. HINCH: You know what, obviously it's in his DNA. Since the day he showed up in the Big Leagues, he's had a great youthful exuberance about himself and confidence about himself that is unwavered. I'm sure part of it is how he's raised. I think part of it is how he's grown and matured and comes to the levels. There is no higher level than this level, and he's doing pretty well at it, which will add to that confidence.
He's prepared. He knows his ability. He's got a competitive edge that's very noticeable when you're around him every day. You factor all that in, mix it all in together, and him being able to play with a clear mind and an energetic competitiveness, we see the results we're seeing on the field.
Q. When you traded for Verlander and obviously you knew him well, but is there anything that you've learned about him in the last two or three months?
A.J. HINCH: Yeah, I think personally I've learned what makes him tick, which you're not going to get until you're around him every day and around the scenes and see him prepare and the interactions in the dugout and just how into the games he is. He loves baseball. And just because he's good at it doesn't mean you're going to love it. But he does love being around his teammates. He loves watching the games. He loves being on the bench. He loves interacting with the coaches and all the decisions that we have. He's a true baseball man. And I think that to me is a little different than you can expect out of every player. I think he's got a student-of-the-game component that's impressive. He's got a love of the game that's impressive. And he's got a legacy that's building that's pretty impressive.
Q. The crowd certainly received Yuli well last night. And between what Dave Roberts and Yu Darvish have said, the Dodgers seem eager to move on, too. What kind of reception do you expect for him in Los Angeles, and is that something you plan to talk to him before Game 6?
A.J. HINCH: Well, I don't think I need to talk to him about it, I think everyone is aware it's going to be a rough setting for him. I don't think you can convince 55,000 fans to turn the page as fast as maybe the two teams have. And that goes out of support for their own players and their own people.
But Yuli has got a good heart. He made a mistake. He'll pay for it. And I think that obviously in the looming suspension to come, but also with the reaction in LA, I'm sure will be on the aggressive side.
Q. Non-controversial question.
A.J. HINCH: Ah, come on (laughing).
Q. Just prior to Game 4 in the dugout the Dodgers, they put together a scrum, a huddle, kind of got the team rallying and going, and they had good results yesterday. Can you see the Astros doing something like that?
A.J. HINCH: Well, they might have had a rally before the game. They didn't score a ton until the 9th. So it took a long time for them to get that motivation going (laughter).
But I think we'll all manage our own teams and let them do what they want, and we'll do what we want and we'll let the results see what happens.
Q. The inevitable bullpen question.
A.J. HINCH: I'm ready.
Q. Here we are: If you have a lead in the ninth inning, do you give the ball to Giles tonight automatically?
A.J. HINCH: No, not automatically. I'm not sure who it will go to, but it most likely won't go to Ken tonight. I'll try to lift the burden off of him carrying this end-of-the-game pressure with him. And obviously he's had a rough go of it. He's more than equipped to handle it. And I'm not sure how the game is going to play out. If I've got to give him the ball at some point, he's got the weapons to get outs.
But I did tell him last night after the game that, "You know, look, I'm going to hand you the ball again in the series. I'm not sure when it is. I'm not sure you what the situation will be," but he wasn't surprised. He understands and he wants to be there for his teammates, he wants to be there for me, the coaches, and ultimately he wants to win a World Series.
It's a tough setting, when you're a closer and you feel like you let the team down, there's really only one reason that you get this kind of attention is because things don't go well.
He'll be on board whenever we hand him the ball.
Q. How would you describe Giles', I guess, mental state right now? Do you see his problems, is it mechanical or mental?
A.J. HINCH: Yeah, you know what, I see him as being just -- having this competitive burn to do well. And he feels like he's let some guys down. And he feels like he hasn't done his job. And that's how closers always feel when you don't get the last out in a winning game, the finger's pointed at you. And it shouldn't be. That's unfair. There's a lot of things that happen in these games that can sway the results of the game. Unfortunately we always get the attention of the guy that has his ball in his hands at the very end. That's good when you're going well and it's a burden when you don't.
Part of that is mechanical. That leads to not making perfect pitches, and when you don't make good pitches, then the results go against you, and the results going against you cause a little mental grind.
He's tough enough to handle it. He's got weapons enough to handle it. This is a big stage, he wants to do well like everybody does. And having to live it out on this stage has been a little bit of a grind for him. Got to have a short memory as a closer, no matter what. If we need him to get critical outs, he's going to come in and give his best.
Q. Relievers as a whole, not just the closer, but you've talked about, there's no low-leverage situation in the playoffs. How does that change as far as dealing with the bullpen? Do you get worried about bullpen burnout?
A.J. HINCH: I don't have a lot of time to worry about burnout. We've got three games to win two, to try to win the World Series. So I think encouragement goes a long way. You've got to stick to guys. We've got to get 27 outs one way or another. I don't care who gets them. Our guys don't care who gets them. I think the comfortable roles and knowing who you're going to face and what the game situation is going to be in, it's just so unpredictable in this sport, especially at this stage of the year.
So our guys are mentally tough enough to do it. Again, we come in and get big outs today, and we get a 3-2 lead, our guys will be on cloud nine on the flight going to LA, trying to win the World Series.