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October 21, 2017

AJ Hinch

Houston, Texas - pregame 7

Q. You talk to your guys, you're so close to your guys, what's the attitude today?
A.J. HINCH: They're great. They're great. It's been business as usual, a normal day, because we're ready to play. So I think the toughest part is just waiting. It's a long day. There's college football on in there, the guys are pretty loose.

Not a ton of change in our daily routine other than we know it's a pretty big game around here.

Q. What kind of a springboard was last night's game, heading into Game 7?
A.J. HINCH: It got us to Game 7, so I think that part of it is pretty obvious.

Again, I don't think this team needed a lot. I think we just needed another opportunity. It was nice to come home. We obviously had a nice game. There was a lot of emotion involved. We knew the stakes were high. And there's a sense that they're even higher today.

I've been with this team now this whole season and I've never seen a change in our demeanor. I've never seen a change in our approach. I've never seen our guys act differently. It's a credit to them. They're themselves. The same banter that was here in April is here in October for Game 7. There's a lot of excitement, though.

Q. What do you expect to have tonight from McCullers, Keuchel, and maybe even Verlander? Have you had conversations with those guys?
A.J. HINCH: No, I haven't seen them. I saw Dallas, I haven't seen Lance or Justin. It's Game 7, so I can sort of play it cool and tell you we'll be careful and see what happens. We'll have as many of them available as much as we can. Obviously Verlander would be a dream scenario to have him. But it's a lot to ask out of him. I will have a conversation with him. No one will really know what the end result is going to be unless you see him warm up.

My hope is that we get through the game however we need to. And obviously we'll protect Justin's health. We're not going to do something stupid for him.

These guys really want to win. Dallas has let me know he's going to be available, Lance I already know on three days rest is plenty rested and will be available. I expect us to have a lot of volunteers to pitch to get the outs.

Q. When everyone is available out of the bullpen like this, how do you figure out the breaking point for your starting pitcher? How do you know how many runs are enough at that point to get them out?
A.J. HINCH: I think the context of the game is always hard to predict. I've gone through a couple scenarios, and we've talked to our coaches, and you can lay out every scenario possible and try to have the perfect answer. But I do think you have to leave it up to your instincts.

I know our guys, the pitching coaches know our guys, the rest of our coaching staff, we're very in touch with our guys. I say we know.

What is that going to mean? Let's be honest, if the first -- a hitter or two gets on, people are going to look at me and look at the bullpen. Those are the two things that happen in a Game 7.

We'll adapt. We have some matchups we like. We're going to try to put our guys in a position to succeed. It's awesome to watch our players get the opportunity to thrive in this. I don't know if we're going to need 1 pitcher or 13 pitchers -- well, we don't have 13 -- 12. Am I going to need them all? I don't know. I don't know what's going to happen in the game to warrant that.

But we'll try to get the outs as fast as possible.

Q. How important or valuable, or not, do you feel your Major League playing experience is in doing your job?
A.J. HINCH: I can relate to the players. I think any manager wants to be able to relate to their players. And I can relate to the failure of a lot of them, if you look at the back of my baseball card.

That in itself, I have great respect for what these guys go through and what they have to do and how we prepare. And I certainly have some experience to fall back on to hopefully give to these guys.

But to me, being connected with your players is the best thing you can do for your players, whether that's on a personal level, professional level, the backgrounds, find a way to relate to every one of your players in some way, and you'll have that bond that manager-player needs nowadays.

Q. From what you've seen from Altuve, any slump wasn't going to last too long, how pleased were you to see him break out? And what do you think it will do for him going forward?
A.J. HINCH: His slumps aren't even really slumps; they're like bad days at work, you know? And for him we expect so much out of him, and to get the number of hits he gets, he's not really allowed to have a 10- or 12-at-bat stretch where he doesn't get hits.

He's the energy that's provided. Obviously, the crowd buzzes when he comes up to bat, especially at our park. And there's a lot of expectation on him to provide that spark. And last night he did. The two-run single off Severino was a collective exhale in the dugout. And even in the crowd, you could sense there was a little bit of like, Okay, these guys are starting to swing the bat again. The homer late in the game really sparked the bigger inning we had later in the game, as well.

For those that have followed the Astros, we've seen this, we go as Altuve goes. We've been able to build a team around him that had multiple options that maybe somebody else could pick up the slack if he decides not to get a hit for some reason.

But there's no doubt that when he has good games it's hard to beat the Astros.

Q. You joked a little at times about the Astros being an analytical organization. Do you think from the outside maybe there are a few misconceptions about your group? What beyond the analytics have allowed you to be so successful?
A.J. HINCH: We're a baseball team, first. We're pretty book smart but that's not a bad thing. I joke about it being my background, my education, Jeff and the group in the front office, they're as progressive as anybody in the game. And maybe five years ago, even before I got here that was seen as different. Now it's seen as something to copy. And that's where the game is going. It's how the game can evolve. And you either evolve with it or you become a dinosaur in this game.

For us, the outside world, we're people, we care about people. We certainly have been at the front line of a lot of things that are progressive. But it's gotten us to a really good place.

We still have instincts. We still rely on the chemistry that's built in the clubhouse. We went and got veterans when everybody says the age profiles. We'll usually do the opposite of what the rest of the industry is doing to continue to move and try to find a competitive advantage.

But the desire to win, that old school, traditional desire to win is as big in this building as it is in any building in the Big Leagues.

Q. You mentioned a bit ago talking about your pitching, about the different scenarios you've talked about with coaches tonight. What's your estimate of the rough number of scenarios you guys have gone over before Game 7?
A.J. HINCH: I don't know a number. It starts with, Can Charlie can 9? We go backwards from there.

Obviously we have everything at our discretion. The most difficult part of Game 7 right now at 3 or 4 o'clock, is not overthinking. You have to watch your players. We don't know what the players, how they're going to respond to this or who is going to be available and what the best matchups are. We do know that, but we don't know what situations are going to present themselves.

We have 12 pitchers on the staff. With Verlander unlikely or at least coming into the game you wouldn't think he'd be able to go, you want to put any of these pitchers in a position to be successful. Do I have to use all of them? Maybe. That wouldn't be completely out of the realm. But you plan all that out, and we could still go from Morton to McCullers to Giles and then go to the World Series. That's a scenario, too. We'll see.

Q. Two parts, thoughts on why you like Evan in this situation? And what Josh brings you.
A.J. HINCH: Well, Gattis has swung the bat very well. He had two really big at-bats last night; the walk was important and the sacrifice fly was important. And he provides such a big threat against right-handers or against left-handers. And he, if anybody, on our team, has been impacted by the changing of the roster for us. His at-bats got taken away a little bit. He did go through an injury. A year ago he was putting up some significant numbers. His presence in the lineup, there's a threat every time he comes up.

As for Reddick, I understand he hasn't had a terrific offensive series, but he's had a spectacular defensive series. Not knowing how they're going to operate across the way with the Yankees, is Sabathia going to be in there one time through the order or three times through the order? It's not a perfect matchup offensively, especially he's run in bad luck and bad swings in this Series.

He will grind out an at-bat. There's going to be a big at-bat where he's a key component. I love his defense, I love his presence and I love his fight.

Q. Are we downplaying how important defense has been for you guys here?
A.J. HINCH: Defense isn't as cool to talk about as homers and strikeouts, but it's important especially this time of year. You give an extra out away and it can be very, very dangerous.

So I think the defensive plays, the Correa double play, Altuve made a diving play earlier in the series. Bregman made nice running plays, Gonzalez has made nice running plays. All around the field when you really look back at the first six games, Judge against us in New York, there's been huge defensive plays that get glossed over by fancy home runs and big strikeout rates.

But for winning baseball games you need to catch the ball. And you need to complete plays and you need 27 of those plays to be complete. Some are done by the pitcher with a punch out, but more of them are done by your defense.

Q. Was it an obvious decision to start Morton today? And also what did you make of just kind of the way he pitched in Game 4? There were things that might be classified as bad luck.
A.J. HINCH: I think it was obvious in the sense that you always prefer to have your pitchers on regular rest than short rest. Then you factor in his strengths versus the lineup he's facing, and it matches up pretty well. And the fact he threw well against them in Game 3 despite the net results. We feel he's the perfect guy to start the game. And we have resources behind him to match up if he needs help, then we feel good about it.

Charlie Morton has been sort of under the radar throughout the year, but when you break down stuff and you break out his calm demeanor, we feel like we have someone who is going to get us into the game in a good position. And if he needs help then you can see any one of those names on the card today coming in at any point.

One of the things about Charlie that has been talked about over this year has been his struggles getting in through the 5th and 6th and 7th inning, deeper in the game. In this game in particular we aren't asking him to go 7, 8 or 9. We're asking him to get in a position to get to the middle part of the game, and then let some other guys take us home.

Q. Have you had a chance to talk to Giles yet?
A.J. HINCH: I saw Kenny inside. And he feels fine. He's good.

Q. Any lingering concern over the pitches he threw last in terms of how you might use him today?
A.J. HINCH: No, he's ready to go.

Q. Aside from all the scenarios and all the analytics, what's just the sheer enjoyment, the sheer fun factor of this for you?
A.J. HINCH: The fun factor is through the roof, for a lot of reasons. But the No. 1 reason is because of the players. These guys put in so much time and energy. Watching them have fun, obviously the exhale last night when we started to look like ourselves again is a great moment for a manager. And getting to Game 7 and the excitement of that, we're one step away from the World Series. We want this so bad.

I'm having a blast in this. I'm very relaxed. I'm not nervous. I'm not intimidated by this moment because of the players we have that I really feel will step up today, seize the moment, and take care of what's at stake and ultimately get us to the next level.

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