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October 18, 2018

Alex Cora

Houston, Texas - pregame 5

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Alex Cora.

Q. How is Chris, and is he on target for Saturday? And number two, can you talk about David tonight?
ALEX CORA: Chris is feeling a lot better. I saw him in the morning. He felt that he was better than yesterday, and he came here after 1:00 and he feels good. He threw a flat ground today. So he's ready for his next start.

Q. David?
ALEX CORA: David, ready to go. I mean, I talked to him when we got here to Houston in the off day and the chance of him starting Game 5. We knew about Chris' situation. And he's up to the challenge.

I know the line doesn't tell too much of what happened in Game 2, but we do believe he threw the ball well. We didn't finish a few plays, and Marwin, he got a pitch in his red zone and hit it out of the ballpark. But overall he gave us a chance to win the ballgame, and that's what we're looking forward to tonight.

Q. Both sides, both leagues in the championship series we're seeing all hands on deck with the pitching staffs. What is it that managers in the postseason are now realizing that in the past they didn't either realize or weren't able to pull off?
ALEX CORA: There's a lot of information, more information nowadays as far as matchups and how can you use your, quote/unquote, weapons.

In a perfect world, we want David to go seven and give the ball to the next guy and then to Craig. That simple. But it's not happening. I think this is just where we're at right now.

And also I do feel that -- I don't know if the schedule was different back in the day, but the off days, man. You know that you have that off day, the travel day, and you try to take advantage of it.

And the stuff in the bullpen. Now your -- now your high-leverage guy is throwing 98, which is very different. And stuff, in October, plays. The 95 becomes 98. The 97 becomes 99. The 99, 102.

So the arms in the bullpen is something that is -- it's not that it's tempting because you still want guys -- like yesterday Rick, for how bad it looked, I was trying to stretch him out as far as I could to set up the rest of the game. He gave us four. We take four but we wanted five or six. But I think, like I said, those arms in the bullpen, the stuff that we have now is a lot better than back in the day.

Q. Are there indicators with David on three days' rest that you're looking at? If you see his velocity drop to a certain point, or if he starts losing command a little, are there specific things you're looking for, to get a feel for, when he might start losing the energy?
ALEX CORA: As always with David it's command. Regardless if it's three days' rest, four or ten. It's all about command. Also if he can sustain that fastball in different spots of the strike zone. And it's not related to velocity. It's be precise. So we'll take a look at it and we'll make decisions accordingly.

Q. Just to be clear, you said Chris will be ready for his next start. If there's a Game 6 in this series, is he your Game 6 starter?
ALEX CORA: Yes, Game 6.

Q. I know you don't want to talk about Game 6.
ALEX CORA: I've got to be positive.

Q. Some ballparks have natural dividers between the outfielders and the fans. In light of what happened last night, would you like to see that put everywhere to avoid the controversy like last night?
ALEX CORA: I don't know, man. The fan experience is always something that people that build ballparks take into consideration. It probably makes it easier on the umpires, let's be honest. I think Yankee Stadium is the same way. Here. Yeah, I agree. I think it will make it easier on everybody, yeah.

Q. Alex, I know that stat heads would say that the team that hits the most home runs is more likely to win this series. But Xander was in here talking about the team's approach to maybe not go big so much at the plate. Do you like the approach your guys are having? It seemed like you're battling to put balls in play not necessarily going for home runs all the time?
ALEX CORA: Yeah, they led the world in strikeouts, that pitching staff. That's what they do. They pitch it to the edges. They go up in the zone and they go down -- the vertical effect. Everybody knows what they're going to do.

I mentioned it yesterday. We live in an era that hitting .210 and 30 home runs and 70 RBIs is becoming acceptable. We don't mind strikeouts, but not in certain situations. We want them to put the ball in play. They've been having a very humbling approach throughout the series, staying up the middle, fouling off pitches and going the other way, putting the ball in play with two strikes.

With that team you have to do it. You have to do it. Regardless of how good they play defense, you're giving yourself a chance if you put the ball in play. And coming into the series, we knew how excellent they are at striking out people, and we've been doing a good job putting the ball in play.

Q. Given the contributions that Steve Pearce has made since joining you guys, curious to know what went through your mind last night as he was about to flip over that railing.
ALEX CORA: I think that's the second time he's done that, if I'm not mistaken, like diving like that. I was hoping he was in one piece, honestly. I mean, it was like, from where I was, I was like, he has no chance here. And he got up quick and he's in one piece.

He's not playing today because of the matchup. But I'm glad that he's okay. But very dangerous, very dangerous play. He had a shot at catching it. We love the effort. We love the effort. And that's what we do. That's what the kids do here with us. They go all in and I'm happy that he's okay.

Q. You were talking about pitching a moment ago. I don't know if you're aware of what happened in the National League game where Miley started, a left-hander. The Dodgers stacked their lineup. Then they switched pitchers on the second batter. What's your impression and thought of that and the day we're going, and something you ever thought about doing?
ALEX CORA: No, no, we rely on our starters. In our division, we see it. Not to that extent, but we see the start with the righty and then bring in lefties. Tampa, the Rays do that. And there are certain games that they started some righty, whatever, and then Beeks was going to come in.

So we made sure we loaded up with righties because we knew at one point he was going to come in. Actually at one point I thought about hitting Mookie, instead of leadoff, hitting fifth to see if the righty was going to go out again. But we'll do that in another season.

But it's hard. It's hard. I bet it's hard, because you don't know if Miley was going to go two, three, four innings. So you've got to be prepared. And it's where we live now. Teams do their homework and they have their beliefs and they go with it.

Q. From your perspective, I know you've talked a lot about your team being resilient. But being in the dugout last night for 4 hours and 33 minutes, what was the emotion like for you? Did you turn to Ron at any point and say "Wow, this is kind of a classic." What was going through your mind and how fun was it for you?
ALEX CORA: It was very fun. We talk about my experience last year and learning all that. Game 5 of the World Series, that prepared me for that one last night, because that game, Game 5, that was -- I consider that game, it was the worst best game ever. (Laughter).

It was awful and it was good. But yesterday when Reddick made that play, I was, like, here we go. Something is going to happen because I know how it goes with them. They feed off plays like that. They feed off their home crowd. And Josh made an outstanding play, and I had a feeling that the ninth inning was going to be interesting and it was.

But I don't know, man. I think when I played I used to get more anxious, because I had to battle against whoever was pitching or make a play. Now you put them in situations that you feel they're going to be successful, and they make you look good or bad. That's it.

So we had our plan. We knew Craig was going to give us more than three outs. And he did.

Q. You're very familiar, obviously, with Jose Altuve. And A.J. was saying if it wasn't the postseason he'd be on the DL right now. Do you have an appreciation, just from the other side now, of what he's going through physically? Can you tell? And I'm sure it doesn't surprise you that he's out there.
ALEX CORA: It doesn't surprise me. He's all in with them. He understands what he brings to the table even with one leg. He's one of the best hitters on the planet. We saw it with the Red Sox last year, with Pedroia. Regardless of where he was physically, he was going out there and playing second base, and trying to put up good at-bats.

There's some good players and special players. And Jose Altuve is a special player.

Q. It's almost a cliché that defense is always a factor. It always plays in the postseason. How much do you feel that's held true for both teams this year?
ALEX CORA: Like I said before the series, they're a lot better defensively than last year. They're turning double plays. Carlos is playing at a high level at shortstop. What Bregman is doing defensively in this series is amazing.

With us, Xander is making all the routine plays. Ian has been good. Steve at first has been great. But the outfield difference has been amazing. I know everybody got caught up in the home run and whatever in right field, but there were two plays that Mookie made last night that change the game.

With Altuve at second, there was a fly ball to right field. He makes a great throw to third base. I know Altuve is banged up but the night before he got an infield hit. He can go in a straight line. He made a great throw.

And when Carlos hit that down the double line, he got to his spot, he got the ball, he got rid of it and they had to make a decision and they stopped Marwin at third base. So that's what it's all about, the little plays.

Yesterday, at one point, they didn't make it. Correa missed second base, they don't turn a double play and we took advantage of it. We made some plays yesterday. There was a play by Xander in the ninth inning, when Altuve just put the ball in play, and he went to his backhand, didn't panic, get the out. That was a great play too.

It's October baseball, and with the type of teams we have, you give them more than 27 outs they're going to take advantage of it. And I bet A.J. and their team feels the same way -- if you don't play good defense against us we will score a lot of runs.

Q. Jackie's obviously had three huge swings for you the last three games. Just talk about him what you've seen in him in the series, and a guy that hasn't always had a lot of postseason success but is having it now.
ALEX CORA: He's a different hitter. Halfway through the season he found it, he found his stroke, he's staying through the ball. He started making the move, like J.D. calls it, whatever that means. But he's hitting the ball in the air. He's going the other way. And we know he's going to swing and miss. We can live with it.

But the quality at-bats have been great. Yesterday against Morton, then with James, he had his plan, he got a pitch up in the zone and then the changeup and he put a good swing on it.

This has been going on a while with us, I think he put it all together. And looking forward for him to maintain this, the rest of this season. But honestly I don't want to get ahead of myself because we're in the moment, but looking forward for next year for him to stay with this swing and put it all together through 162 games.

Q. Do you have a feel for what Ryan and Craig can give you, given how much they through last night?

Q. About how much?
ALEX CORA: I got my feel, yeah.

Q. You feel comfortable going to each of those guys?

Q. For you, this entire postseason, Yankees and now, what to you has been the most pleasant surprise about your team, the way it's performed?
ALEX CORA: Like I've been telling them, they're very talented. We're very talented. The last two years -- they played the Indians, who got hot at the right time. And they didn't play well last year. Last year, they played the Astros and they battled at the end. They finished strong that series.

And that's something I kept telling them. I said, hey, man, last year, for everything that people say about that series, it wasn't that one-sided. And I've been telling them the whole season. And they've been preparing. They believe that they're talented and they're enjoying the moment, which is very important.

We play in a city that sometimes winning is a relief, and we're not doing that. We really are enjoying the ride, the journey. And you see them today, regardless of where we are and we know where we are, it's business as usual. We show up, we get the information, we play and see what happens at the end. And that's been the most impressive thing about this group -- they've been very consistent since day one in spring training all the way to October 18th.

Q. Following up on that, what do you expect from both sides tonight in a close-out Game 5 opportunity?
ALEX CORA: A lot of energy from both sides. It's two talented teams. And it's being back and forth, a lot of emotion. Seems like the game starts out like a sprint and then it slows down. And, boom, it goes again. So you never know. Probably we'll see that again tonight.

Q. Did Craig tell you how he's feeling today? And what's your confidence in Brandon Workman at this point?
ALEX CORA: Workman, we've got a few matchups that we feel that we can use him. That breaking ball is a good one. He got hurt on two fastballs in Game 1. So he's rested. He can give us multiple innings.

And with Craig, I just saw him, and he's okay to go.

Q. In your time here in Houston last year, what did you learn about George Springer that might help explain his ability to be locked in in these big moments the way he's been?
ALEX CORA: Besides that he's probably the best athlete out there -- and I do feel that on a nightly basis -- he's athletic. He's been such a great athlete. He's better than the picture, athletic-wise.

He enjoys the moment. And he is a guy that regardless if it's a bad game, like Game 1 last year in the World Series, he'll show up the next day with the same approach and be ready to go. You saw him yesterday. I don't know, he looks like he was a little banged up, whatever. But he started going the other way. He started making adjustments. He's making it hard on us.

But I love George. He brings energy every day. And defensively, offensively, running the bases, he gets that dugout going. He's one of my favorites.

Q. Again about Kimbrel, last night is obviously the first two-inning save he converts. There's a lot of pitches, and the Astros had him in a different position at the end -- Benintendi's catch. What is it about, when you think about that performance last night, that makes you comfortable today pushing him again if you have to?
ALEX CORA: He's our closer. And stuff-wise, the stuff is still there. We talk about the breaking ball. It has to be something about the breaking ball that he's not getting swings and misses with it. And obviously fastball command isn't there.

He's been one of the best in the game. And we're not going to turn our back on him. And it's not about -- I owe it to him because we're going to put guys in situations that can be successful. But we feel that there's a few things, adjustments-wise, that he can make. And hopefully we get a lead tonight and he comes in and he shuts the door and we go home.


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