THE MODERATOR: First question, please.
Q. With a do-or-die game, what is the challenges in managing the bullpen and making sure that you don't do anything too much differently but you utilize everyone you have?
A.J. HINCH: No, it's win or go home, so you factor that in at some point. I think the toughest dilemma on the front end of the game is getting into the game, and we have got a starting pitcher tonight that has pitched tremendously well throughout the year. He pitched great in Game 1. He's had to go through a couple of rough patches in his year, within games and within the season. So at the first sign of duress, what do you do? Do you go to your bullpen? Do you have extra starters down there? You don't want the game to get away, but you also trust the bulk of what this guy's done throughout the year.
So, any time that there's action on the bases, there's difficult situations coming up, in my shoes you got to decide who to hand the ball to. And I'm happy with the guy we're handing the ball with first.
Collin McHugh is well equipped to pitch a good game. Our team believes it, I believe it, he believes it. And before you get into too many scenarios on how you're going to use these starters that are down there or your bullpen, let's keep in mind that we got a good one that we're handing the ball to first.
Q. Obviously you have Game 5, but you and Jeff, this is just your first year together as a duo, and you guys really haven't even tapped some of that farm system yet. How much have you guys been able to accomplish in year one, and that's only part of what this organization's building?
A.J. HINCH: No, I'm proud of what we have accomplished, but all that really matters is what we accomplish tonight. The reflection back on the first year, the first season, where we are, where we're going, we'll have plenty of time to do that.
I think Jeff has been tremendous to work with and work for throughout the year. And that's the highest of highs when we were off to some of the best starts that you would imagine in April and through the rocky times of September, where people wondered if we were going to wobble and fade out of the playoff race.
So, it certainly feels great that the first year is going well, but that will only continue to feel good if we can continue a special season by getting a win tonight.
I think the whole organization has grown throughout this process. We're getting a lot of firsts out of the way, and I would like the next first to be the Division Series Championship.
Q. Not a baseball question. You told us the nickname for Colby yesterday. I know it's all news to you. Who dreams up the nicknames? Is that you or a combination --
A.J. HINCH: No, I hear about it about a week later. These guys, they have got a lot of things going. I learned of the gummy bears in Oakland when they were sitting at may feet after a homer. I learned about Skinny Pop after a homer. I learned about Hank Conger's dance moves after a homer.
So most of the time I learn about this stuff when there's a celebration going on in the dugout. So we have great spirit about our team. We have this youthful confidence that's contagious. We showed up yesterday at a workout in the best mood as a team possible and as excitable as you would want as a manager.
I want my guys ready to play. And everybody wonders about a hangover from Game 4. And I think that was erased the minute we stepped on the plane. And I couldn't be more proud about that type of approach out of a team that's in the first year, first year in the playoffs in a long time.
So, I the nicknames don't originate with me, but they end up getting to me eventually.
Q. You guys were able to get to Cueto very successfully last time you faced him. Again, Colby, just on the hot streak he is, how do you really attack him? How do you see those results?
A.J. HINCH: I think we have to watch to see what type of adjustment he makes first. These are these cat-and-mouse games when pitchers face the same lineup in back-to-back starts. There's always a curiosity as to who is going to adjust first. Is the pitcher going to adjust his game plan? Are the hitters going to adjust the way they approach the pitcher?
The good news for us is we're ready to hit on pitch one of the game. It's a style we have had for 167 games. It's not going to change. We have very aggressive hitters. So, whatever that means from Cueto's perspective, if he's going to throw more fastballs, is he going to pitch us in, is he going to pitch us away, is he going to use his changeup. We saw him four or five days ago, and we'll watch to see what kind of adjustment that he makes.
But getting a good pitch for us is priority number one for any pitcher. And to attack him is to try to get to a mistake. These guys aren't perfect. He's made a mistake. He made mistakes last time. So did our guys.
We see in this series what can happen when pitchers make mistakes to good hitters. To us specifically, we had a chance to change the scoreboard. And we have a lot of power. And Colby has done it a couple different times. He did it in New York. He did it here. Correa did it in Game 4 where there's a collective exhale. When we homer, we're pretty good. We don't have to homer to win, but the threat of that's going to be there from pitch one.
Q. Starting this, you said your proudest moment of the year was going into New York unrattled. Clearly the proudest probably after this would be a good result after this game. But so far, maybe even something we haven't seen, anecdotally, has there been a moment in how this team, this young team, has handled itself specifically that's really made you proud in this series?
A.J. HINCH: Yeah, the one thing you look at in my chair is how much of the ebb and flow of the season, how much of the pressure, anxiety, excitement will change behavior. And I show up yesterday, and our guys, they're playing the same video games in the clubhouse. They're playing they're same card games. They've got Marwin Gonzalez in a cartoon character shirt.
These guys are loose as can be. I can't emphasize enough how much this team's enjoying it. And I'm sure everybody wonders if I'm covering something up and I'm showing up in here and showing a good face to cover up a team that's all anxious.
And since the day we clinched in Phoenix on the last day of the season until today, we have believed that we're the best team on the field. We used it to win the Wild Card. We have used it to get to a 2-2 series tie to get to Game 5. And we enter this game with a real belief that our best is good enough to win this series against a good team in their house.
Q. Could Dallas give you something tonight? Did he skip a bullpen, or is he fresh enough where he could give you a couple of innings?
A.J. HINCH: We'll see how that plays out. I think there are so many scenarios that can play out in Game 5. It's a disservice to me, to this team, to really talk about too many scenarios that include any of these guys.
I think to answer your question about bullpen, he didn't throw a bullpen. He hasn't thrown a bullpen in a while. Part of his routine is to save his bullets. Same goes for some other pitchers as well. This time of year, bullpens are tapered back pretty often.
Where it all plays out, Collin McHugh might go a complete game. I really believe that. And that's not to cover for Dallas Keuchel or Kazmir or Fiers or Harris or Sipp or Gregerson or anything. We got 27 outs we got to get. I don't know who is going to get them. I have a ton of belief in our bullpen, if we need to turn to them early, if we need to turn to them late. We have got a chance to get 27 outs. And if it takes 30, we'll get 30. If it takes more than that, we'll get more than that. And where everybody factors in is obviously going to be on my plate.
I do have a plan. I'm not going to talk about it. And we'll see how -- how we win the game tonight is going to include anything from Collin McHugh pitching a gem, throwing a complete game, to every scenario you guys want to put out there.
Q. You mentioned the bounceback capability of your team and the looseness. Do you think that some of the struggles that you went through in September and your ability to bounce back and your ability to go on a road trip after not having success on the road, has that all played into it a bit?
A.J. HINCH: A little bit. Yeah, I think the -- to be honest, we have gotten questioned about our relevance for a while. And I think it was all in good faith and all in people wondering: Is this young team, is this surprise team for real?
And we believed it in our clubhouse way earlier than most people did. And as we faced every challenge, at the end of the All-Star break, we were fading into the All-Star break, we lost six or seven in a row, we lost our lead in first place. I go to the All-Star Game and all the questions were like: Hey, you guys had a great year. You fell into second place.
And our team just didn't buy into it. They didn't. We bounced back after the break. We beat the Rangers two out of three at our place. Had a little dustup with them and off we go into a very exciting second half.
Same thing goes in September. We went into Texas, got it handed to us, didn't quite play our best, or Texas outplayed us, whichever way you want to look at it, and we come out of that with our playoff hopes on life support. And we came out fine and did very well.
So we have -- we have been resilient our whole year. We have had to answer a lot of questions. We're not playing victim here. We believe we have a good team. But it's toughened us up a little bit to understand that all we really have to focus on, all we have to do is give our best on a nightly basis. And we have won a lot of games. We played 167 games. We have won -- what is it? -- 90 of them. Pretty good ratio for a team that's celebrating and enjoying a pretty productive season.
Q. In a Game 5 like this, does it change at all how you use your replay challenge?
A.J. HINCH: Not really. I think we have a pretty good system in place. We have got two of them in the Postseason game. If it's worthy of challenging, we're going to challenge it.
I don't think you save those in the first six innings. I think there's a respect issue to the game to where if it's pretty obvious that it's not going to get overturned -- we have a very, very functioning replay system behind the scenes as well, so it's -- you play it like any other game in that regard.
My belief is that you don't leave them in your pocket if there are plays that are worthy of a maybe. And obviously it came to our advantage the other day on the stolen base to end the 7th in Game 4. But I won't -- I won't hesitate, but I won't force it.
Q. Two part question: From being on the coaching staff at the All-Star Game, one, what did you learn about the Royals' coaching and the players from being from so many being there that you may not have known before? And, two, what are your thoughts about the focus at that time to get the American League home-field advantage for whomever plays in the World Series?
A.J. HINCH: Well, I worked really hard for 48 hours to learn every secret I could about the Royals. And it's paying dividends in the five-game series. But I loved my time at the All-Star Game for a lot of reasons. One is to be in the same room with such talent is very humbling. When you look around the baseball talent in the universe, the best of the best were in that room. And Ned hosted a great time for the American League. And getting to know the coaching staff, I mean, part of the reason that I got on the coaching staff to begin with was some familiarity with Mike Jirschele and Dale Sveum and Don Wakamatsu and the guys that I had -- Doug Henry I played with.
So I had some familiarity with the Royals' coaching staff to begin with. So as the 48, 72 hours continued, I thought Ned created a great environment for the players and for the coaches with enough fun but enough focus on what the task at hand was.
And as he told that entire group, somebody in that room was going to benefit from home-field advantage if we could win. And I thought that was one of the most powerful things you could say. And it was true, obviously. Every team was represented. Every team has a chance at that point. And Ned made it perfectly clear that the goal there was to win the game.
And I thought he struck an incredible balance of keeping it loose, keeping it light, understanding everybody's got family there, it's somewhat of an exhibition game, but the focus when the game started was to benefit somebody in that room.
And it has never rung true more so than today when either Ned or I are going to advance. John Gibbons or Jeff Banister is going to advance, and one of those four managers is going to take a team to the World Series and ultimately benefit from Ned's efforts in making that game important.
Q. The Cubs won last night, the Mets are close. You guys, even the Royals, did it last year, but they're still a young team. Does this feel like a new era in baseball, or is there anything you see in these teams other than just young talent that unites them?
A.J. HINCH: So I think that this year was one of the most incredible years of an influx of young talent around the game. Not just the playoff teams but throughout the game. And that's exciting.
I think fans -- I think fans like it. I think when such immense talent all arrive in the Big Leagues at the same time, it can be pretty exciting.
I think what it shows this year, I like that a lot of teams, including us, are experiencing upswings. It's always nice. It's no disrespect to the teams that are used to being here, but when you're the fresh team or you're the new team, of course I'm going to say it's nice to be new and then hopefully for the next decade we can be the team that's expected to be here.
I think the way the series are playing out, what a great time in baseball for everybody. We have three of the four series are going five games. Cubs ruined it by winning. Otherwise we would have 4-for-4.
But I love the celebration at Wrigley yesterday for the first time ever, the fact that these other series are going to all go down to Game 5 and the emergence of guys like Carlos Correa on our team, the having big markets involved, small markets involved, mid markets involved, that type of parity in baseball's always good.
But I'm just glad we're one of those teams to celebrate. And there are going to be plenty teams that are restocking for next year hoping to be in the seat that we're in.
THE MODERATOR: All right. Thank you. Good luck tonight.
A.J. HINCH: You got it.