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Astros laud leadership of vets Beltran, McCann

Pair steps up in team meeting to encourage players before ALCS Game 6
MLB.com @brianmctaggart

HOUSTON -- Astros manager A.J. Hinch said Thursday he wasn't surprised veterans Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann spoke up in a brief team meeting following Wednesday's 5-0 loss to the Yankees at Yankee Stadium. The defeat put the Astros in a 3-2 hole in the best-of-seven American League Championship Series presented by Camping World.

"That's who they are," Hinch said. "That's who they've been since the beginning of Spring Training. Any sort of meeting that we have or get-together we've had, they either originated it or participated in it in some capacity. Those are the two most tested guys, along with [Justin] Verlander and [Josh] Reddick, the four guys that have the most playoff experience.

HOUSTON -- Astros manager A.J. Hinch said Thursday he wasn't surprised veterans Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann spoke up in a brief team meeting following Wednesday's 5-0 loss to the Yankees at Yankee Stadium. The defeat put the Astros in a 3-2 hole in the best-of-seven American League Championship Series presented by Camping World.

"That's who they are," Hinch said. "That's who they've been since the beginning of Spring Training. Any sort of meeting that we have or get-together we've had, they either originated it or participated in it in some capacity. Those are the two most tested guys, along with [Justin] Verlander and [Josh] Reddick, the four guys that have the most playoff experience.

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"So I applaud them for taking the opportunity to tell everybody to take a collective breath and get on the plane and have a different mindset, to get home and get to this off-day before we get to Game 6. It's a seven-game series. Everybody needs to be reminded of that. It wasn't over after two, and it's not over after five."

Reddick said late Wednesday he appreciated McCann and Beltran stepping up after three tough losses to the Yankees, who are one win from the World Series presented by YouTube TV.

"Carlos has been there," Reddick said. "He knows how to handle these situations. We need a pick-me-up. We really do. This is a clubhouse where the last three days, we've come in here just baffled about what's happened. We've got to pick ourselves up, and those are the guys that we rely on for that."

Worth noting
• Outfielder Jake Marisnick, whose regular season came to an end on Sept. 13, when he fractured his right thumb while sliding into second base in Anaheim, continues to make progress and could be available if Houston advances to the World Series.

Marisnick, who threw a baseball Sunday at Yankee Stadium for the first time since having surgery, played catch again Thursday at Minute Maid Park with a team trainer. Marisnick hit .243 with a career-high 16 homers and 35 RBIs while stealing nine bases this year.

"He's playing a little catch and running the bases in hopes that Game 6 and 7 go our way, and then we have a dilemma moving into next week," Hinch said.

The Astros routinely used Marisnick as a pinch-runner or a defensive replacement in the outfield when he wasn't starting this season.

• Neither the Astros nor the Yankees held a formal workout at Minute Maid Park on Thursday in advance of tonight's Game 6. A few Astros pitchers took the field to play catch, with Charlie Morton throwing a bullpen.

Tweet from @brianmctaggart: Gregerson, Keuchel, Verlander and Harris play catch. pic.twitter.com/4BJMwHs3p2

Justin Verlander, who will start Game 6, Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers Jr. and Collin McHugh were among the starters who played catch on the field while the grounds crew touched up the paint on the ALCS logo in front of each dugout. McCullers and Morton even participated in pitchers' fielding practice that was reminiscent of Spring Training.

"It's a very, very individual day today -- whatever makes them feel prepared for tomorrow," Hinch said. "I think when stuff like that happens, that's that fun, upbeat energy that comes with October baseball. They want to do something. They want to feel more prepared than they were yesterday. But that wasn't anything scheduled or any response to anything."

• Tonight's and Saturday's pregame ceremonies will feature several special guests. Tonight, Houston Rockets legend and NBA Hall of Famer Clyde Drexler will throw out the ceremonial first pitch. The Houston Fire Department will present our nation's colors, and country music star Jack Ingram will perform the national anthem and "God Bless America" during the seventh-inning stretch. Longtime season-ticket holder Valentin Jalomo, best known for his unmistakable moustache, will call "Play Ball!" to begin tonight's Game 6.

For a potential Game 7 on Saturday, Astros fan favorite Mackenzie Walker is scheduled to perform the national anthem and "God Bless America" during the seventh-inning stretch. The U.S. Air Force is scheduled to present our nation's colors, and longtime season-ticket holder Barbara Moon would throw a ceremonial first pitch. Originator of the famous "Wooo!" that Astros fans have adopted when Reddick comes to bat, pro wrestler Ric Flair is scheduled to call "Play Ball!" via video message to begin what could potentially be a clinching scenario for the Astros in Game 7.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.

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