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October 11, 2015

AJ Hinch

Houston, Texas - Pregame

THE MODERATOR: Before we take questions, I asked A.J. to give you his lineup.

A.J. HINCH: So, yeah, we're going to go with Altuve at second; Springer in right; Correa at short; Rasmus in left; Gattis, DH; Gomez in center; Valbuena at third; Carter at first; Castro catching; Dallas Keuchel will be pitching.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you. First question?

Q. Gomez in the lineup today. How much do you expect out of him, a hundred percent? Or do you have to tell him to dial it down a bit, which is kind of hard for him?
A.J. HINCH: Good luck with the dial down part. I expect his best. He's going to give us what he's got. In New York I was a little bit concerned, and he ended up making some plays in the outfield, hitting a homer and flying around the bases. So I don't expect him to govern himself.

I think this time of year the ballpark, the atmosphere today, we have no shot of telling him to govern it down. I'm not even sure we want that. This is an important game. We want him to be his best. He's going to do everything he can. I don't know how it's going to go towards the end of the game, just like in New York where he had a swing that didn't feel very good.

I'll use my eyes and ears a little bit and pay attention to him. We have got a backup plan if something happens, but I just know this guy in the biggest moments can really help you win. And we want him to give us everything he has, and I know he will.

Q. In light of the play last night in the Dodgers-Mets game with Utley and Tejada, in the Wild Card playoff Gregorius had a pretty hard slide into Altuve. Do you worry about either of -- your two middle infielders are such cornerstone players for you. When these plays happen, do you worry about it? Do you think there needs to be a rule change similar to what's going on with catchers?
A.J. HINCH: So I worry about those plays on both ends, even our base runners, because it's not a contact sport and we're not -- it's not comfortable to see your player on either end of those plays. We have had -- Altuve's been taken out a couple different times. Maybe some of them some tougher slides than others. Correa, I worry about, obviously.

These guys are all in different positions when they get to the bag, and a lot of times on these double-play balls we expect them to have enough time and have enough mobility to get out of the way and sometimes you can't. With the intensity of these games, the slides get rougher, the emotions get higher, you kind of do anything and everything you can to maximize your outs.

Anytime somebody gets hurt, it's unfortunate. I believe in really hard, good baseball, but I do want everybody to be able to walk off the field at the end of the play. There are a lot of things in play when guys get a little bit out of position or timing is not always perfect where you can protect themselves. I know Major League Baseball's tried to initiate a little bit of safety for our players at home, for safety for our players in the field with the neighborhood play.

But it's uncomfortable. It's an uncomfortable time to have your players making contact with one another. I'm sure when something gets on a national scene like this, there's always this debate on what's next. And we'll participate in that in due time, but I feel bad for that play for the Mets and Tejada. I don't think Chase Utley was trying to hurt anybody, but you come to the ballpark every day hoping that the 25 players you bring into that game can walk away from that game healthy.

Q. In the two games that Dallas pitched against the Royals, in the first one they seemed to be uncharacteristically patient against him and it didn't work. Then in the second one they jumped him pretty good. What did you see in the differences in the two games?
A.J. HINCH: I liked the first game better than I liked the second game, I'll tell you that much. The game in Kansas City, the second game for Keuchel was one of the few times where a team came out and had success with the approach of ambushing him in the first inning. A couple teams have tried that, and in a lot of ways we don't mind when guys want to swing the bat early against Keuchel.

I've seen him come into games and walk out of the first inning with sub-10 pitches, and that feels pretty good about where that game's headed when he can get in the game that quickly. With any team, against a good pitcher, they have got a choice: They either got to try to wait him out and extend his pitch count or they have got to try to get after him.

When Dallas is executing, I don't care what approach they go after him with. He's got an uncanny ability to get the ball on the ground, to get soft contact, to pound the strike zone. When he's missed and teams have taken advantage of the one or two or three mistakes that this guy makes a night, like any pitcher, damage can be done.

But I think whatever approach they take, from our advantage point it's about what Dallas Keuchel does, how good a defense we play behind him. Getting into the game is always important against a good pitcher. If you don't get him early, you have a hard time getting him. And that goes the same for some of the good pitchers that we faced throughout the year.

So, we'll see what approach they bring. I know Dallas throws a lot of strikes, he's very fearless in the strike zone, he's not going to back down, he's not going to nibble, he's not going to be -- not going to play this game careful. And he's done that to the tune of 15-0 here and he's done that to the tune of 20 wins. So I like that approach.

Q. We have asked you this question a variety of ways the last few days. You're going to walk out there in three hours, going to be a packed house, going to be ultra loud. You're a reason why Postseason baseball is back here. How special is that?
A.J. HINCH: It's extremely special. I love the fact that we brought a playoff team back to Houston for our fans to celebrate, for our fans to enjoy. We're very proud to be Astros. We're very proud to have a winning team and be in the midst of a playoff run that we hope lasts for a long time.

I don't want this to be the only series where we have a home playoff game. But our fans have waited a long time for this. Many of the people in that clubhouse are on the coaching staff or me, even in the front office, haven't endured as long of time as the fans have.

So, to be able to reward them for their patience, for their support, for their understanding through these times, we try to make the playoffs every year, and we did it this year. And we get to share that with a home base that's endured a lot over the last 10 years, let alone the last couple. That's very gratifying for all of us that wear the uniform.

THE MODERATOR: All right, thank you very much.

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