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Oct. 15 A.J. Hinch workout day interview

October 15, 2017

Q. Has your use of the bullpen so far in the playoffs surprised you a little bit? Used some guys for relief, like Verlander and some starters and then other guys, what's been the philosophy, and what's your plan? A.J. HINCH: I think the lack of bullpen usage is always

Q. Has your use of the bullpen so far in the playoffs surprised you a little bit? Used some guys for relief, like Verlander and some starters and then other guys, what's been the philosophy, and what's your plan?
A.J. HINCH: I think the lack of bullpen usage is always going to come up after a complete game. Nobody was used. It doesn't surprise me because of how good Dallas and Justin are. But you never know how postseason games are going to go. You see the guys pulled in the third and fourth inning, postseason baseball is an unpredictable as any game around. Obviously how it played out is perfectly great for us. We have a 2-0 lead, both of our top two players go deep in the game and pitch very well, Ken Giles closed out a very exciting win. And other than that, there hasn't been a ton of pitching out of the bullpen that's been necessary. They've been up a couple of times, and there's been situations where they would be used. The type of two starts that we've gotten, it's pretty obvious it's been a little bit of a surprising lack of pitching usage.
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Q. Last night you mentioned that it's tough to get through a postseason and there's a lot of low-scoring games, as you've seen. But Altuve and Correa are combined 8 for 15. They don't understand how hard it is to hit so well in October. What can you say about those two?
A.J. HINCH: Those two, they're in the middle of our order, and no matter what lineup you have, your eyes are immediately drawn to the three hitter and the four hitter. We have a ton of good hitters in the rest of the lineup, but those are sort of the primo spots that everybody is drawn to. Those two, they provide so much for us and literally can carry a team offensively any given game, any given series, any given stretch of the season. The fact that they've stepped up, obviously Jose is having a historic postseason so far. And Carlos is one of the most clutch guys we have on our team as far as coming through in situations like yesterday. They're our anchors. They're the guys when they show up, I can add George Springer in the leadoff spot, and put the 3-4 together and then I build a lineup around that based on who we're facing. But the three that never change is Springer leading off, Jose hitting third, and Carlos hitting fourth.
Q. Would you talk with the defensive clinic you put on, base-running clinic the last two days. How proud you are of it.
A.J. HINCH: Defense base running, some of the things around the game, I think to baseball enthusiasts will always be appreciated. But we automatically go to OPS, we automatically go to offense, we go to the high-end pitching. But the defense helps all of that. To play clean baseball is what I'm the most proud of. It's not perfect baseball, we've made an error two, we've given away 90 feet from time to time. But the cleanliness of our play, being able to make those relay throws, the throw from Marwin in leftfield, some of the running plays that Bregman is making at third, keeping the ball in front by McCann to control at 90 feet. Those are small plays that don't get written about a lot, don't get talked about a lot. But they're hugely appreciated in the winning environment. We talked about it since Spring Training. The players embrace it. Playing on the biggest stage has been pretty remarkable this postseason.
Q. Have you decided who the game four starter is yet?
A.J. HINCH: No, not yet. Same two candidates, McCullers and Peacock, we'll have them both in the bullpen in case we need them. I don't know how the game is going to go. I have an idea how I think it's going to play out. For us, we just don't need to commit yet to Game 4 until we get to Game 3. Good example being yesterday, Justin Verlander goes nine innings, and had the game continued Brad Peacock was on a short list of going into the game, and perhaps the 10th or 11th. If I commit now I don't have the flexibility tomorrow in Game 3.
Q. It goes without saying, but obviously your team is up 2-0. Do you remind them of the last series, the Yankees were in the same boat against Cleveland?
A.J. HINCH: I don't think anyone in our clubhouse is going to take it for granted that we have a 2-0 lead. This isn't a best of 2; it's the best of 7. Our guys know it. We stayed very focused in the best of 5 against Boston, the Division Series. We're tested enough and have enough players in the clubhouse that understand that there's no celebratory toast going on around here. We won the first two games, we come here, really tough place to play. Somewhere we have played well. But we don't think the Yankees are going to concede, and they certainly didn't concede against the Indians. Whether you have a long memory of back in the day of some unique things that happened or whether it's a short memory and you look back at the last series that this team played, they're going to fight for their season, they're not going to concede.
Q. You spoke yesterday about allowing Justin to go third time, and even fourth time through the order. At what point did you start feeling comfortable with him? Was it even before you knew of his history, or something in the month?
A.J. HINCH: A little bit of both. When you acquire someone like Verlander you know his history automatically. We face him enough and seen him get stronger over starts. And I can talk to whether it's Brad over in Detroit or former teammates, former players, we did a lot of homework on Verlander. And I think when you watch him prepare and you watch him study and you watch his end game activity within himself, you learn more about the player. We had a crash course in getting to know him in a month. I believe and trust in your players from the beginning. Whether we got him, I told him in the first conversation that I had no preconceived notion that he was a 90-pitch pitcher or 100-pitch or 120-pitch pitcher. Just because he's Justin Verlander doesn't guarantee him 120 pitches. If he doesn't pitch well I'll get him out as soon as I need to. That mindset was what I went in with it. As I gain trust and understand him a little more, found a few of his keys and cues that tell me a little bit more about how he's doing. Yesterday was a no-brainer. He was as strong as he's ever been as an Astro in that 8th and 9th inning.
Q. Much of the current team was here two years ago and you won the Wild Card game. Got the experience playing in October in Yankee stadium.
A.J. HINCH: It will help those guys. I think those games in Fenway last week, the last week of the season we played in Fenway, this team is more battle tested than what it first looks like. We have some youthful exuberance and young faces and there's a lot to -- I don't say question, but there's a lot to be curious about how guys are going to handle these big moments. We've been the calmest team in the League during the postseason. Our at-bats, our pitchers, our defense, our ability to stay in the moment has been proven for the games we've played so far. Other than being excitable that we're two wins away from closing out the series, I think our guys will relish in an environment like this.
Q. What have you seen from the swings the Yankees are taking?
A.J. HINCH: What have I seen from them?
Q. Just the swings that they're taking.
A.J. HINCH: Well, I think they're taking good swings. This is a really good offensive team. They have big swings. When Judge swings it's scary, when Sanchez swings, it's scary. Guys coming off the bench. I know their DH -- I didn't feel better when Headley hit the ball one foot away from being a homer yesterday. They're taking good swings against the pitching. We're playing good defense behind them. I think we've made the most of our opportunities. Just because there's two low-scoring games doesn't mean there's bad hitting; it's just how good the pitching is.
Q. Seeing what you're talking about, did your guys see this in the postseason, does that build even more in this belief that we've seen in the clubhouse that you guys will find some way to get it done?
A.J. HINCH: I don't think we need anymore belief. I think we are right where we need to be in the belief category. From here on forward we have the belief that we can be the World Series Championship team. We need to play the game of baseball in the moment we're playing. We control our own destiny. We control our own adrenaline level. We're believers before anybody else will be.
Q. Charlie was in here obviously right before you, and he's embracing this moment and this environment. What can you tell us about him and how he's ready for this?
A.J. HINCH: He's very much like the rest of our guys. We love being here. We are happy to be in this situation. We've worked our tails off to get to this point in the season. We want our guys to embrace it. On the bench yesterday at the highest moments we were as relaxed and engaging and having fun, we were a normal team. Maybe we don't sense sort of the magnitude of these moments because this is us, who we are, how we are. Charlie wants so badly to do well for our team. And the same for Beltran, who is a 20-year veteran, and Bregman who is a young kid, and Yuli playing in this situation for the first time. They all want to do well for each other. I'd expect nothing less for this group. They feel the responsibility to their teammates. They want to do well so we can do well. And that's the definition of the team we have.
Q. Cameras caught you in the tensest part of the game yesterday laughing. I know you're churning inside, but is part of that the poise you communicate to them, is part of why they have the attitude they have?
A.J. HINCH: I think so. Why not be happy and seize the moment. These are stressful jobs. Don't get me wrong, these are very tense moments. If you can't enjoy today, why are we doing this? Why are we playing? We're in the moment, we have a great opportunity ahead of ourselves. We've worked so hard, this is the 7th or 8th month being together, this team won't be the same next year. I don't want to look back, whether things work back for us or things end in tears, that we didn't enjoy this moment because they just don't come around very often. 20 years I've been involved in Major League Baseball, why would this not be the most fun I've ever had?