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October 13, 2015

AJ Hinch

Kansas City, Kansas - Workout Day

THE MODERATOR: We'll get started. Who has the first question?

Q. I'll do the obvious one.
A.J. HINCH: We'll hold you accountable to that.

Q. What was the flight like? What's today been like? What's the mood in there? Have you had any conversations with guys?
A.J. HINCH: The flight was fine. We didn't really want to get on it, to be honest, but we did, because we have Game 5 to play. And our guys bounce back pretty quickly.

One thing that's been very consistent throughout the year is our ability to turn the page and wash off any of the stink of things that don't go our way. So I knew that the flight would be that way. We showed up, got to our hotels, woke up this morning, the sun came out, beautiful day in Kansas City, and we'll be ready to play.

The mood is great. We have played 167 games to get to this point, we have won a lot of them. We have a big one tomorrow. Everybody knows that, and our guys are ready. So they're very upbeat.

Q. Last year in the World Series, Game 7, Giants used Bumgarner for five innings, nearly 70 pitches. Could you envision using Dallas that long?
A.J. HINCH: Not if McHugh pitches the whole game. I mean that. I think that it's great to think about what ifs and the possibilities; I'm just not going to go there.

I'm going to have all hands on deck. We know tomorrow's a "win or go home" game. And you know what? It's a "win or go home" for them too. It's not just "win or go home" for us.

So, whether or not Keuchel's available or what the plan is, we'll have to tune in tomorrow night and find out.

Q. The calmness that you have with the team, the youth of the team, how much can that help the situation to where -- you haven't reacted the whole year, we talked about this so many times, but the youth can be a big thing to where just like the Royals last year, this team's not going to get shaken because there's like this naivety to them to where they kind of don't know any better in the best sense of that term?
A.J. HINCH: I think it's also about belief. We believe in this team as a group inside that clubhouse before anybody else did. So there's a great confidence for us. We didn't spend as many days in first place by accident. We didn't make the playoffs by mistake. We have a great youthful confidence about us. I think that goes to the players being confident in their abilities. Obviously as coaches, we try to build a culture of belief and high energy and confidence.

So, you mix that all together, and it's a pretty good combo. I know pouting and being negative and dwelling on the past is not going to help us. It's just not. So, I'm not going to allow our guys to think back to difficult innings in the first four games. First four games are in the books, and we can't change them.

So, what we can do is focus on the next 27 outs that could continue on a very special season. I've said all along, our best is good enough. I really believe that. I think the team across the way is really good. I think they respect us and think we're pretty good as well.

So our team will show up today, you'll watch the workout today, it will be high energy. We'll be bouncing around. There will be people or players that are enjoying every minute of this, and we should. We're in Game 5 of the Division Series with a chance to control our own destiny, and it can't get any better than that.

Q. Along those same lines but more specifically with Carlos Correa and the ups and downs that he had yesterday, for those of us that have never had a chance to be around him and see how he processes things like that, can you tell us how he processes those things? And do you even have to talk with him after the day he had yesterday?
A.J. HINCH: I don't have to talk to him about it. But I know Carlos well enough, being around him, how much he cares about his team. He felt responsible for the not making the play at the end of the game. And I know he felt responsible for the position that we were in leading up to that inning.

So I will tell you one thing about Carlos that doesn't get spoken up enough is about how much of a team guy he is. His first game in Chicago, the big debut, it was draft day, there was so much attention on him and he was showing up to face Chris Sale in Chicago, so much excitement for this organization. The organization waited so long to get this type of player of this type of magnitude into an Astros uniform.

We lose the game. He gets his first Major League hit. All he wanted to talk about postgame was that we didn't win the game. Day one.

So this doesn't surprise me that he would take it personal; that he felt like it was a play that he should make. This guy's mature beyond his years.

So I don't have to encourage him. I don't have to pick his chin up. I don't have to do anything other than show the consistency that I do with him, knowing that he'll bounce back fine. He's Carlos Correa. He's exceptional.

Q. What did you like about your hitters' approach to Cueto the first time you saw him in this series, and would you anticipate a similar approach in Game 5?
A.J. HINCH: Well, I'm not going to tip our hand on our approach, but I'll tell you I did like the way that we came out aggressive against him. Against good pitchers and notable pitchers, you do have to try to get them early. If you allow them to settle in, it can be very, very difficult for you.

So being ready to hit on pitch one is important. It's that way for us. We're probably the most aggressive team in baseball. So that's not going to surprise anybody that we're going to be ready to hit on the first pitch.

With Cueto, as the game went along, last game, he settled in, got a little bit of feel for his breaking ball. He started doing some of his creative antics on the mound and really started to settle in, and he became a little bit more difficult.

So, same thing I would say when they were approaching Keuchel, when we were approaching Volquez, when we faced Ventura the first time around. Being ready to hit early in the game, being ready to hit early in the count, capitalizing on any mistakes or any sort of lead-in that he might give us is going to be very, very key. Because if you do allow pitchers of Cueto's caliber to get comfortable, it could be a very difficult challenge.

Q. You were second in the league in home runs, I think you have eight through four games. How pleased are you just with showing the power up and down the lineup like you've done all year in big games?
A.J. HINCH: I think the power has been talked about for six months now, and we continue to show up. I like that we have threats up and down the lineup. I like that you can't relax at any point in our order due to the threat of the home run.

We're not perfect hitters. We don't have perfect approaches. We have had a couple guys fall down trying to swing. So we're very creative with how we go about it, but the reality is if you're -- if you do give us a pitch to hit, there is not a ballpark that can hold us.

That type of threat is comforting. It's not -- we don't live and die by it, because I think we got to find other ways to score. And we have done that, but the threat of the homer keeps you in games. If you fall behind, it gives you confidence you can get back in a game. It allows you to tack on like we did yesterday and extend the lead. So there's -- changing the score with one swing can be a great advantage.

Q. Can you tell us at least if Dallas has lobbied you or made it known that he would be available regardless of whether you use him or not?
A.J. HINCH: I could tell you. I could. But I'm not. But I could. But I could. Yes.

Q. The other question is, knowing the makeup and your relievers, having a rough day like that and you've seen them all year, how do you expect them to respond to that?
A.J. HINCH: Well, if you look back to how our season finished, if we just take September, where I have talked about us playing playoff-caliber baseball for a good month leading up to the playoffs, we weren't perfect out of the bullpen, and we were reminded of that. We lost same games.

And it's not always just the relievers -- yesterday we could have tacked on more runs and created even a bigger separation which would have given even more breathing room. So I don't want to just blame yesterday's loss on the bullpen. It wasn't pretty and it didn't end well, but there are a lot of different ebbs and flows during the game that -- on why we lost.

But as far as our relievers go, they responded great in September. We had a rough lull at the beginning of September. A lot of things weren't going our way. We came out of that, did tremendously well.

So, I would expect our guys to be able to mentally get back into it tomorrow. Look, if you can't show up tomorrow with all hands on deck, feeling good, being as confident as can be, wanting the ball, it's hard to compete at this level if you're not that way.

So our guys will have all the confidence in the world. If I take the ball out of McHugh's hand, whoever I put that ball's hand into, our team will believe in.

Q. What are your thoughts on how Altuve has played this series and what he can do if he gets hot?
A.J. HINCH: So he's a spark plug for us at the top of the order, which is no surprise. He gets as many hits as anybody in the league, obviously. And he is -- how he goes, we often go. We can score in different ways and we can -- we don't need him to carry us, necessarily, but that spark at the top of the order or that threat when the lineup rolls around and he's coming up to bat with runners in scoring position, I feel really good about it.

I think the quality at-bats he puts up, the energy he provides, the threat on the bases that he provides, it's all shown up this series. But there's no doubt the hotter that he gets, the more dangerous we become. They have got to pitch George differently, they have got to pitch Correa differently.

With him on base, they got to worry about him while they're throwing to Rasmus. There's a reason he's at the top of the order, and he is our threat that we want up there first. And when he's at his best, we're often at our best as a team.

Q. In terms of someone like Gattis who struggled, do you consider moving him down at all in the lineup and maybe moving Rasmus up to try and do anything in that middle area?
A.J. HINCH: Rasmus I'm going to keep in the four hole. But when you talk about moving and changing things, and this is going to be a little bit odd for me because I don't mind moving guys around, I do like some of the balance that we have been provided having Rasmus in the middle, having some big right-handed bats, then having some more left-handed bats at the bottom. Carter is at the bottom as well.

So Gattis is probably an inch or two yesterday away from changing the score of that game too. So I do believe in the longer view of players as opposed to a short-sample size of a series.

How the lineup operates and functions is way more important to me than necessarily how it looks. I see how they're going to pitch Correa probably a little differently tomorrow, they have got to deal with Colby. After Colby it will be Gomez or Gattis, providing that Gomey can play. After that you get to Valbuena, you get to Carter, this left-right thing where I can neutralize some of these moves that Ned might make with his bullpen.

So that factors in just as much as it does is a guy 2-11 or 1-12 or 0-10. Evan Gattis has been a mainstay in our lineup for the entire season, and every day he shows up, whether he's struggled the day before or whether he's gone 3-3 with a triple.

I believe that he has a chance to impact the game in a positive way. You don't sneak up on 27 homers, 80-plus RBIs without being a very productive hitter. And even his last at-bat yesterday, he gets on base, we pinch run for him, we didn't capitalize on it, but we were in position to. He was in the middle of that.

So it hasn't been all bad for him. And, rest assured, when he steps into the batter's box, the opposing pitcher knows it.

Q. Curious to get your thoughts on Rasmus and the way that certainly in Game 3 it looked like they were pitching around him. Game 4, not easy with the off day and then getting walked a bunch in Game 3, he comes and is still locking in to hit the home run there? How did you kind of see that cat and mouse in Game 3?
A.J. HINCH: He has been tremendous. I love the calmness that's around Colby right now. He's taken what they're giving him. If they weren't giving him anything, he's taken his walks.

He's been -- he's really been one of our players that has been notably calm in the chaos of the playoffs. Getting a good pitch to hit for Colby, always priority number one. And when he does, he can do a lot of damage. First time I've ever seen a guy hit the roof fair. So he's obviously hitting the ball on the barrel but he won't have that luxury of stealing that hit tomorrow as much as he did the last couple games.

But his impact in the middle of our order is tremendous, given the left-handed bat in the middle of all the righties, the damage that's done, the quality at-bats and taking his walk when he needs to. Some of it intentional, some of it non-intentional.

But he's a real pro. He's been in this league a long time, and he's matured his approach and his refinement of his strike zone to the point of where he knows exactly what he wants, exactly when he wants it, and, if he gets it, he -- we call him Skinny Pop for a reason. He's got a ton of power, and it's shown up this series.

Q. Speaking of that, Colby jokingly referred to Cueto's pitching move his "dilly-dally." Said he can mess with a hitter's timing. What do you think of his dilly-dally?
A.J. HINCH: I think Colby's from the deep South and sometimes can come up with some great one-liners. So, I never heard it referred to as that. So I guess we'll go with it. Once Colby coins the phrase, we'll go with it.

Q. How much does every game Gomez plays take out of him, and is there any doubt in the setting that he'll play tomorrow?
A.J. HINCH: Yeah, so every game takes a lot out of him. He puts a lot of energy into every game, when he's healthy and when he's not a hundred percent.

So, I constantly check in with him to make sure. I check in with him twice to make sure that he's doing okay. I know he's not comfortable, and just when you think that, he homers to left. Or he's not comfortable and he gets a base hit to right, goes to second when Jake went first to third.

So he's playing the game with tremendous confidence and tremendous freedom. And while he's doing that, I'm going to continue to put him out there and trust that he's going to be honest with us on how he's doing.

I'm confident that in Game 5 of the Division Series, where it's win or go home for both teams, that if there's any possible way for him to pose and play, he's going to say yes. I have no doubt about that. So even though he's not comfortable, even though he's not a hundred percent, and I said this a couple different times during the series, he'll find his way into the lineup, he'll find his way into an important at-bat, and he'll find a way to help us win.

Q. You mentioned all hands on deck a couple times. Do you envision a scenario where you would like to use Fiers or keep him available for a certain matchup?
A.J. HINCH: Yeah, I've had Fiers up a couple times this series and haven't used him. Kazmir will be down in the bullpen to start the day. I know there will be a lot of cameras on Keuchel to see what the game plan is with him.

But the reality is Collin McHugh is a pretty good starter. He's won 19 games in the regular season, one game in the Postseason. I'm not so certain he doesn't come out and throw a gem.

So, you mention we talk about who we would use or who we wouldn't use. The first guy's got the ball in his hand is Collin McHugh. He's pretty good.

So I will -- I see it. I can envision everything from using no one to using nine, 10, 11 pitchers, whatever it takes to get a win tomorrow night. It's the most important game of the year.

THE MODERATOR: Thanks a lot.

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