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October 8, 2019

AJ Hinch

Tampa Bay, Florida - postgame 4

Tampa Bay - 4, Houston - 1

Q. What did you think of Justin's performance and why do you think things went south for him?
AJ HINCH: Justin gave us what he could. And, you know, they did a really good job of getting into the game and putting up some really good at-bats early. He got burned a couple times with some -- more than a couple times on some secondary pitches and change-up to Pham. I think really kick-started the momentum. They're a momentum-driven team. They're always creating momentum for themselves. Obviously, their pitching staff did a tremendous job.

He gave up eight or nine hits, almost all of them on secondary pitches. So they did a good job of staying with him. I thought his fastball was really good. It was pretty hot coming out today. Threw the ball hard. I think his location was a little spotty.

But this is playoff baseball. So I think they deserve some credit.

Q. Gary is one of the most aggressive third base coaches in the league. What did you think of his decision against Kiermaier and Adames?
AJ HINCH: They did a good job. Made two perfect throws, ball kicked up off the center field wall right to Kiermaier's chest, throws a bullet to Adames, Adames throws a better throw from shortstop, from shallow center field and Jose is out.

Obviously, we're in a results-oriented business so it's a tough way to give up an out. In the world of momentum, took a little bit away from us to -- that we weren't able to get a run across. We were having a hard time offensively. So it would have been nice to score there when you get thrown out by a fraction of an inch.

You know, it's tough.

Q. AJ, you guys won the first two games at Minute Maid. They win the two here. You talk about how difficult it can be here. How do feel about this series, game 5 at Minute Maid, putting the ball in Gerrit Cole's hands?
AJ HINCH: Welcome to postseason baseball. This is as good as it gets. These series across the league have been incredible. We worked all season to get home field. We have it for a reason. It will be nice to get home. I love the series. I love the opportunity we have.

Look, you get there in funny ways. Sometimes it can create a little drama for you. Sometimes it can create a little bit of stress. I'd rather be here than at home and not playing. We'll take another opportunity to win the game with Cole on the mound. I certainly feel very comfortable with that. Anybody would, putting him on the mound.

Q. You said yesterday going to Verlander, one of the greatest pitchers and no one could or should fault you for that. Just curious, because he'd never done short rest before, was there any unease with the unknown there?
AJ HINCH: In the postseason, you ask somebody to do something that's not normal, it's always a little nerve-wracking. But he felt great, and he made a lot of really good pitches and got a lot of swings and misses. I would have felt bad with any decision that led to three runs in the bottom of the first.

We would have gone with Urquidy and he would have done that, it would have been, Should you have put a rookie in that situation.

I understand with the results, it's tough. It was my decision to put him out there. I felt it was the best chance to win the series, JV today and Gerrit in game 5 if we needed it. We're going to test the latter part of that in game 5.

But I think Urquidy's 50 pitches over two innings was exactly the same type of issue that could have come up had we started him. If that had happened in the first inning, it would have been equally as tough on our team.

Q. I know the Rays have the best bullpen in baseball. What have you thought about the quality of your team's at-bats throughout the last two or three games?
AJ HINCH: Their pitching is exceptional. What they did on the mound tonight was incredible. They're not just throwing different arms at you. You talk about the opener, they'll throw a lot of different arms and get platoon advantages. That's not neglected. Their stuff is really good. They're throwing elite guys.

Castillo, thank God he was an opener and not a regular starter. Having him out there for four, five, six innings would be devastating for anybody.

I think they were impressed. Our bats got a little better as the game went on. We had an opportunity at the end with a tying run at the plate with a couple at-bats. Hopefully, that carries over to game 5, as our bats got better.

They used a lot of resources today. It won't impact their availability. If it impacts their sharpness in game 5, it will be an opportunity for us to capitalize.

Q. AJ, you mentioned the Rays being a momentum team, and their guys have talked about that too. Obviously, Cole's a pretty good answer for momentum with him going. But with you guys at the plate, how important is it for you to maybe do some damage early in the game?
AJ HINCH: In an elimination game, look what happened from the Rays when Pham homered in this place, you know, opened up and got loud and their dugout was jumping all over the place when Adames takes the slider and goes deep, that creates that energy. Sure, when you have it on your side, it would be excellent. Cole goes out and goes one, two, three in the top of the first, our building will be awake. We'll be ready and our fans will be ready.

The opportunity to play at home and hit last and create our own energy and create our own momentum, it will be huge for us. Playing with the lead in an elimination game on either side of the elimination is huge.

Q. AJ, in '17 and '18, you guys faced elimination games. You were at one point down 3-2 to the Yankees. How much do you like with the core of your group, pitchers and position players, that they've been in these situations before and do seem to put the last game immediately behind them?
AJ HINCH: This is why you play. Obviously, we'd have love to have won a game here. We didn't. We have home field. We're going home. We have another opportunity. We have Gerrit Cole on the mound and we have an incredible lineup. So sure, I like that we've been there before, but I haven't liked any elimination game. It's no fun to go through it. You'd like to eliminate when you have an opportunity.

But we'll relish the opportunity. We're not going to hang our heads. We're not going to pout on the plane. We're going to get on the plane, go home, we'll have an optional workout tomorrow. Stretch will be at 4:00. The game's at 7:00 on Thursday. We're going to give it our best, try to win the series.

Q. AJ, were you a little surprised to see Snell closing? Is it just playoff baseball?
AJ HINCH: It's October, I'm not surprised by anything. There's no real hidden tricks when you're faced with elimination. They used a lot of resources. We knew they would. Glasnow was going to be available. Their entire bullpen got up at some point during the game, sometimes twice.

So I wasn't shocked the least bit. I just wasn't sure what he was going to do after Alvarez's at-bat, if he was going to go to Roe, was he going to do something different to match up.

But I'm not going to be surprised if Charlie Morton is available in game 5. I'm not going to be surprised if Blake Snell is available in game 5. I wouldn't expect anything less out of this type of game.

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