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October 18, 2018

AJ Hinch

Houston, Texas - postgame 5

Red Sox - 4, Astros - 1

THE MODERATOR: Questions for A.J.

A.J. HINCH: Before we get started can I say something real quick? I'll ask my own question.

I just want to start by congratulating the Boston Red Sox on representing the American League in the World Series. That goes to Alex Cora, his coaching staff, the players, Dave Dombrowski and the front office. The American League is really proud that Boston is going to well represent the American League. So I want that on the record.

Q. How tough is it to know now there will be no more baseball for you guys in 2018?
A.J. HINCH: It sucks. This is a press conference you never really prepare for. I don't know the right words, the right tone, the right content. I mean, it's an extremely disappointed clubhouse because we want to keep playing.

We feel like we set the bar exactly where it should be around here, which -- the World Series is the only thing that was going to make this team feel like we accomplished much. I think over time the things will come out -- franchise record wins and division championship and things that just aren't common.

It's, like, it's not normal. It's not easy. But it's a pretty hollow feeling when the season abruptly ends the way that it does and the way that it did.

Q. You win Game 1 at Fenway. What do you feel like happened in the series after that?
A.J. HINCH: They beat us. We ran out of wins. We had a tough-fought series. You can break down the series however you want, whether it's their two-out hitting or -- they took it to us. And they won games. And we were in those games and we had opportunities. And when you get two evenly matched teams up against each other, there's going to be swings in momentum and big at-bats and a little bit of luck, a little bit of bad luck.

And they outplayed us. They did a really good job of having an excellent game plan and going and executing it and they were extremely tough.

Q. We're now almost at two decades with nobody going back to back. Besides the obvious that it's just hard to win any championship, did you learn anything this year about the withering effect of winning one, trying to do it a second time that makes it more difficult than just winning a championship?
A.J. HINCH: No, there's some -- it's hard -- it's hard, like you said, it's hard not just say, hey, man, it's just really hard in this league to win because other teams change their entire operation in order to try to catch you or try to beat you. Or you've got to have so much health in this game and you've got to perform at your highest level against the best teams at the most intense times.

And a lot of things can derail you, from the very beginning of expectations in the spring to going through a season that will never have the adrenalin or the intensity that the previous World Series championship provided. And so it's hard. But at the same time about our team, what I learned about our team is we weren't affected by that.

At the end we ran out of wins. We were beat up, like a lot of teams are this time of year. But we've got a resilient group. We've got a ton of heart. We have a selfless group that had their priorities in the right places. And that's what I told our team. I'm proud of our team.

It's hard to get October wins. And the American League was incredibly, incredibly good, and especially at the top levels, when you talk about the teams that made the playoffs.

So to run the gauntlet in one year is an incredible accomplishment. To do it again is -- it feels like even harder.

Q. You guys have a really good team. The Yankees are a really good team. And Boston, I mean when you look at what they did to both of you guys, what does it say about how good they are?
A.J. HINCH: They have the most wins in the league for a reason. They're as complete a team as we are. And their at-bats are really exceptional. And that's not taking away from their pitching. They pitched well. Their bullpen stepped up when they needed to.

They have tremendous balance. They put pressure on you from the very beginning. They don't concede any at-bats. They never got off our fastballs, and we couldn't quite -- they laid off tough breaking balls. They do it right. And that's why it's hard to get 27 outs against them.

So I think when the season started, there was a great unknown of how they were going to adapt to a lot of the changes that were made. The talent was there. But they had to go out and play and prove it. And then when people doubted them, you know, it seemed like they got better. And they never stopped. They never stopped coming at you. They're a relentless group.

Q. How good was David Price, that you've seen, and his reliance on the changeup, did that throw you guys off?
A.J. HINCH: Well, he was really good. And we've seen him good. He's been tough on us. You can talk about the David Price struggles all you want. It's really fixated around one team, and -- that's haunted him a little bit. But against us we've seen different versions of him.

It wasn't so much his changeup today. His velocity was really high. That's as hard as we've seen him throw against us that I can remember. And the changeup plays off of that. When you're throwing 94, 95, his changeup is plus. His changeup was hard. Our guys were coming back saying -- everything had a little bit of uptick to it.

So when you see the emotion of the last pitch that he threw to Altuve and he punches him out, you know, it mattered so much to him and he stepped up in a huge fashion, having pitched -- he was up for 25 minutes yesterday throwing bullpens, waiting to come in that game. And then he responds with some of the most crisp stuff that he's had, that we've seen. And that's a championship-caliber performance.

Q. You mentioned pregame Altuve is playing on one leg. What did you -- you've been talking about it for years, but what did you see from him in this series in terms of dedication --
A.J. HINCH: Tremendous heart. It's all about heart with him. He is such a great example of what's right. And I've said that over and over again. But he -- I wish you guys knew what he had to go through to play every day and get himself prepared and then contribute and do well.

He walked up to me before the game today and he said "A.J., I'm going to play second base tomorrow in Boston -- I mean in two days." And that doesn't go unnoticed to a group of teammates. That doesn't go unnoticed to me or a coaching staff or a training staff.

And, look, it doesn't stop there. I mean, Lance McCullers is coming back from injury to being an extremely dominant stuff and out of the bullpen. You see what Correa came from. Marwin Gonzalez played hurt largely the entire half of the second half season. He was a huge spark for us in the postseason.

Gerrit Cole, he didn't feel great. Charlie Morton to come back, just to throw 35 pitches for this team. And all he talked about today is how he felt he let that group down yesterday and he didn't.

Jose sets the example, and George and others follow suit because of the belief that you do it right for the right people at the right time and you're counting on your team.

Q. On Verlander, with the game as close as it was and needing to win this game, was that Devers home run just barely clearing the Crawford boxes, was that kind of a gut punch?
A.J. HINCH: It was a gut punch because a lot of his home runs this year were those balls that creeped into the Crawford box. That's a little bit of bad luck in the ballpark, and a really good at-bat by Devers. He got the barrel to it, and he's a strong kid. The ball was elevated, and the ball carries to the right part of park, and that's baseball, that's the game.

There's some risk and reward. He hit a really good fastball today. Is it symbolic of anything? No, it hurt. It hurt him, it hurt us. And the entire game -- and Justin has this a lot when he pitches.

There's -- you have to be perfect in order -- in a playoff game, you know, I said this earlier, when you fall behind, 1-0, you have to fight the anxiousness that comes with a playoff game with being down. When they bust open a really big height like that, it's a tough one.

Q. When you think back to your first year managing, what do you think about Alex to be going to the World Series in his first year? And what's impressed you the most about him across the field?
A.J. HINCH: I never had the feeling of accomplishment the way I did being the manager of a World Series team and then a World Series champion -- at any level. I wasn't a first-year guy last year. So I applaud him for being able to make the adjustments that he had to make on his own team. I don't know the inner workings of his team, but it's not easy to take over a team in that market in that setting and see the things that happen to that team and still come out with all the wins that he did.

Managing nowadays is not an easy job. And I know, I laugh about it but everybody thinks they're a really good manager. But to be able to command that clubhouse and lead a group of men to where he's going, he should feel very proud.

I think his convictions, his demeanor, his personality that rubbed off on that team is something that I noticed and something that he should be proud of.


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