Astros prepared for 'rowdy' atmosphere

October 15th, 2019

NEW YORK -- The last time the Astros faced the Yankees in the playoffs was in the 2017 American League Championship Series, when the home team won all seven games. The Astros had home-field advantage and advanced to the World Series, where they beat the Dodgers. But losing three in a row at Yankee Stadium left the club a bit shell-shocked.

The Astros, who won the 2015 AL Wild Card Game in the Bronx, figure to be better prepared to handle the intimidating atmosphere of Yankee Stadium in October with a roster full of players who were there during the 2017 run. Game 3 of the ALCS is Tuesday in the Bronx.

“This is the big stage,” manager AJ Hinch said. “This is a big stadium. It's rowdy from the first pitch on. It will bring some adrenaline out of you. This doesn't take a lot of time to get ready for these games because you show up to the ballpark, there's a buzz immediately. This is a real atmosphere. The Yankee uniform is historic, we know that. But we deserve to be on the field with them. We'll take it to that point, and then we just play the game.”

Veteran pitcher said it’s more about whom you’re playing than where you’re playing.

“Look, it’s a tough place to play,” he said. “They have a good team and they string together a lot of good at-bats, and that’s what wins games for them. It’s not the city we’re playing in. We know it’s tough, and [we're] looking forward to the challenge.”

Astros to use bullpen game for Game 4
Hinch said the Astros would have a “bullpen day” for Game 4 on Wednesday, assuming it doesn’t get rained out. Before Hinch puts a plan in stone, however, he said he has to get through Game 3 on Tuesday and then see how the weather shapes up for Wednesday at Yankee Stadium.

The most likely candidate to start Game 4 would be rookie , who threw 1 2/3 innings in relief in Game 4 of the AL Division Series against the Rays. figures to loom large, too.

“In a perfect world, there's going to be a number of guys, maybe Urquidy starts, maybe he comes in the middle of the game and we go with somebody with a little bit more experience,” Hinch said. “But we haven't made that decision. We don't even know if we're going to play that day. There's been a lot of talk about the weather. We'll see what that brings.”

Hinch hasn’t typically used bullpen days the past couple of years because he hasn’t had to. The Astros have had a deep and talented starting rotation, but they’re essentially operating with three starters since Wade Miley fell apart in September.

“Well, bullpen days are effective,” Hinch said. “I mean, that's been kind of proven as baseball has evolved throughout this season. Last season, a couple of teams made really impressive transitions, and you can do that and optimize your pitching that way.

“It's also scary and dangerous as a manager. You feel there's a lot of pressure. You're asking a lot of guys to be really good that day. And when the game changes or the game gets long or something unforeseen happens, a move gets made on the other side, it gets a little bit more difficult to manage perfectly in that game.”

Espada interviews for Cubs manager job
For the second year in a row, Hinch is letting bench coach Joe Espada interview for open managerial jobs during the ALCS. Espada, who replaced Alex Cora when Cora bolted to manage the Red Sox after the 2017 season, figures to be a hot commodity with eight managerial openings. Espada interviewed with the Cubs on Monday.

“I'm honored and proud of how many of our guys on our staff the last couple of years have gotten opportunities to interview, or even gotten bigger and better jobs at other places,” Hinch said. “We went through this every year. We had it two years ago with Alex Cora and going through his interview processes all around the league. Last season, Joe interviewed at a number of places. This season, there's a number of openings, as everybody knows.”

Last year, Espada interviewed for the manager jobs with the Angels and Twins. Hinch said he’s respectful of the Astros’ task at hand while making sure Espada is given a chance to pursue other opportunities.

“He's a really good baseball man,” Hinch said. “He's smart. He's got leadership qualities. Any team that wants to consider him is heading down the right path with him. He's incredible for us. If we lose him, it's because it's another leadership opportunity; if not, then he'll be right by my side.”