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October 7, 2019

AJ Hinch

Houston, Texas - postgame 3

Tampa Bay - 10, Houston - 3

Q. Looked like Zack executed very well in the first inning. What did you see from him thereafter that kind of led to his downfall?
AJ HINCH: I thought he came in and did very well. Obviously, the two strikeouts to start the game, clean first inning, and then just a couple of change-ups that didn't really have the action that it normally does.

You have the Garcia two-strike change-up, base it up the middle. He hits d'Arnaud. Kiermaier with the big swing and all of sudden the scoreboard changed dramatically 3-1. Choi, change-up, same thing.

He didn't execute particular pitches. Then when he didn't, they did incredible damage. So it wasn't like, other than Garcia and d'Arnaud, they didn't really get singles. They hit homers, and they did a good job of doing a ton of damage when they got a hit.

Q. Do you know who you'll start tomorrow in game 4?
AJ HINCH: We're going to go with Justin Verlander.

Q. Do you feel like you let some opportunities against Charlie early in the game get away from you?
AJ HINCH: Charlie got into the game the opposite of Zack. I mean, he had a hard time early. We got him to 30 pitches. And had a chance to, if we get a single there at the end of the first inning, it's 3-0. That would have changed the game a little bit.

He got that last out, which was big, and then he settled in and got a little bit better and a little bit better and a little bit better.

I thought the fourth inning was the key inning where he's starting to get a little fatigued, his pitch count got up there a little bit. Yuli hits the leadoff single, and he was able to navigate his way out of it with a couple strikeouts and Reddick's fly ball to center field.

All in all, I've seen this out of Charlie. When you get him early, get some opportunities early, you have to maximize them if you can. Same thing he did in the wildcard game. He settled in nicely and got them through five innings.

Q. AJ, was there a moment, even before Kiermaier's homer, where you sensed that their offense was coming to life, a swing or an at-bat or anything?
AJ HINCH: I always assume offenses are close to coming to life this time of year. I mean, I wouldn't even consider them dead the first couple games. I just think our guys were really good.

So I think the d'Arnaud hit by pitch was the extra -- it's not an error, like an error. That's the extra at-bat that if we can get him out there, that inning changes completely. But he goes in, he hits him, and then it sets the stage for Kiermaier for one big swing. It's kind of the same swing Kiermaier took at the end of the game the other day when he hit the double. He's taken that swing before he hits the ball out of the ballpark.

But rest assured, we didn't come into this game thinking their offense was dormant.

Q. AJ, the thought process behind starting Justin in game 4. A couple years ago in Boston, you had a game 3 like this and Verlander came out of the pen. Urquidy is an option, but why go with Verlander?
AJ HINCH: He's one of the best pitchers in the world. No more complicated than that. He's ready, and it's his game. So obviously, we have a backup plan in game 5 if we need it, but he's one of the best pitchers in the world. It's pretty simple.

Q. Is it difficult not knowing game time until late tonight?
AJ HINCH: We've done this before, dating back to 2017, which we try to close that book and move on into this year. We had the same thing where we waited prior to game 4 in Fenway for that exact same thing.

So most of our guys, if not all of our guys and coaches and front office, everybody will be watching these games pretty intently anyway. So it is what it is. There will be a big group text going out and we'll come early or we'll come a little later.

Q. AJ, the Rays have done really well this year with the opener in the bullpen. It appears that's the way they're going in game 4. Why do you think they've done so well? What do you think is the key for preparing for that sort of thing?
AJ HINCH: We have to prepare for their whole staff anyway. The Rays have a very effective way of getting through 27 outs. You have to face somebody different seems like every inning or every at-bat. You give good hitters different looks every at-bat, it gets more and more difficult to settle in.

I don't know what they're going to do. Kevin hasn't told me yet. I'll find out here in a couple minutes. When you come play Tampa, with the exception of Charlie and Snell, basically, in the last couple of seasons, kind of come expecting to face seven, eight, nine pitchers. So it's the preparation for Tampa is pretty much the same every time you play.

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