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Astros pitchers dust off bats for Interleague

Special to MLB.com

PHOENIX -- Houston manager AJ Hinch sent right-hander Charlie Morton to the plate with specific instructions in the ninth inning of Game 7 of the World Series last year.

"I told him to stand as far back in the box, don't get hit and don't run," Hinch said.

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PHOENIX -- Houston manager AJ Hinch sent right-hander Charlie Morton to the plate with specific instructions in the ninth inning of Game 7 of the World Series last year.

"I told him to stand as far back in the box, don't get hit and don't run," Hinch said.

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"Just stand there."

He did as told. He took three fastballs, then returned to the mound to clinch the Astros' first World Series title.

Hinch does not plan to use that approach this weekend, when Astros pitchers bat for the first time since the Series. But he does have an ideal scenario.

"The best night they can have is 0-for-0 with four sacrifice bunts," Hinch said.

"It won't always play out that way. If they have to handle the bat, they have to handle the bat. Old-fashioned baseball like you grew up."

Gerrit Cole took batting practice during the Yankees' series, and Morton and Justin Verlander hit early Friday in preparation for their starts in the final two games of the series.

Hinch, of course, understands the extra dimension of the National League game after managing the D-backs for two seasons.

"It puts a little bit of an interesting dilemma into that sixth-inning decision that the National League is known for," Hinch said.

"Do you let him hit? Do you send him back out and let him bat? I'd like them to bunt as often as possible. If they are asked to swing, let's make magic happen."

Mets right-hander Jacob deGrom hyperextended his right elbow when swinging a bat earlier this week, making Hinch more a proponent than ever of the designated hitter.

"It makes me want to throw up," Hinch said of deGrom's injury.

"I feel bad for anybody who is put in that position. Situations like that scream for the DH, but there are other situations where you have really offensive [pitchers], whether it is [Shohei] Ohtani or [Madison] Bumgarner, guys who can really handled the bat," Hinch said.

"I'm more concerned about hit by pitches, not being able to handle the reactions, than I am any one particular swing."

Cole, who spent his first five years with Pittsburgh, has had some success at the plate, entering Friday with three homers and a .174 batting average in 270 plate appearances. Morton is an .074 hitter. Verlander has 53 plate appearances and one RBI in 14 seasons spent exclusively in the American League.

Park factor

While giving Marwin Gonzalez a day off Friday, Hinch started an outfield of Josh Reddick, Jake Marisnick and George Springer for the second game in a row and eighth time this season in deference to Chase Field and the D-backs.

"This outfield plays big, it plays fast," Hinch said, comparing it to Colorado's Coors Field, the model for this park.

"These guys are very aggressive on the bases. This is the best defensive outfield I could have. We wanted to cut down on the extra base and aggressiveness these guys have when they put the ball in play."

Jack Magruder is a contributor to MLB.com based in Phoenix.

Houston Astros, Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton, Justin Verlander