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October 13, 2019

AJ Hinch

Houston, Texas - pregame 2

Q. How does the potential rain in New York affect what you're doing in terms of rotation? Secondly, O'Brien and D'Antoni talked about applauding where you guys are, both acknowledging where you've gotten in any sport is very difficult to do.
AJ HINCH: Yeah, so the rain is insignificant to us until we get to New York. I just want to get a win in Game 2. That's our entire focus. We understand the weather might play a factor when we get there but we've got a full game today, a full off day tomorrow. Looks like Game 3 is fine before we have to worry about a Game 4. We'll see how that goes.

The second part of your question is, I always appreciate my peers, especially here in Houston, supporting us and acknowledging us. I just had the Texans game in there and they won. We're all in this together when it comes to the Houston community and pulling for each other. We've had a number of good, successful seasons across all of our sports here. A pretty cool brotherhood with the coaches here.

Q. You're starting Marisnick today. Can you talk about what he brings to the table.
AJ HINCH: Jake brings a lot of energy, he brings tremendous defense. He's had a little bit of success against Paxton in the past, has piled up a few hits, some doubles. I just feel more comfortable with him on the field.

There were a couple of configurations of the lineup today that I started with, whether it was starting either Tuck or Reddick or even looked at Díaz in left and Brantley in right. And then you look at JV on the mound and it's important to always have a good defense behind him, especially in the outfield.

Jake has a way of igniting some energy on the field even from the 9 hole. And he's always got the potential to make a great play. He hasn't played a ton this postseason yet, but when he has, it's been able when we've been able to close out some wins. He's made a running catch up against the wall, hair flying everywhere, ton of energy.

For the Houston community, a Jake day is a good day.

Q. This isn't must-win territory just yet but after what happened last night tonight becomes all the more important. Talk about the team's mindset.
AJ HINCH: Yeah, we're going into a good place. I will make a comment on the must-win part of it. I've never played a playoff game that doesn't feel like you must win. I think it's always funny for me, I hear it in other series, as well. These are all games that you must win. And when you don't then you move on to the next game and you must win that game.

From a mindset standpoint, a mood standpoint, our team is upbeat, we're ready to go. I don't think anybody thought we were going to win a series in one game; we certainly didn't think you'd lose a series in one game. They threw the first punch and we absorbed it and we'll get on to Game 2.

Part of the charm of our team is the ability to compartmentalize and just get to the next day, positive or negative. We play today for today, and that will serve us well.

But from a must-win standpoint, yeah, I think we should win. I don't think we have to react any differently if you play every game that way.

Q. Why do you think Verlander's slider was an issue last start?
AJ HINCH: You know, part of it may be attributed to the three days' rest. I don't know if that was or wasn't. He threw some really nasty ones for some strikeouts, too. It's hard to say. I think the consistency was either because he just had a bad feel for it that day, he was a little fatigued or maybe it's just randomness.

But he used it in some -- almost all of his hits, I think eight or nine, were on secondary pitches in Tampa. So that was a pretty good game plan, execution by them, and also maybe a little ill-advised usage on our part.

His velocity was really good last start. It's very unusual for him to have the velocity and not have his best secondary pitches. Usually those two things are tied together for him. But for whatever reason it wasn't last start. But I bet he's going to come out with a pretty good one today.

Q. I asked Jake this, as well, I think you alluded to the fact, Do you think I talk to Justin on days he pitches? I think you said that a couple of days ago. What is his demeanor like for him on days he pitches, or does everybody just kind of steer clear and let him do his thing?
AJ HINCH: No, I don't think you have to steer clear. But he's ultra focused on his preparation. He has a very diligent routine on the days that he pitches; physically, mentally, video-wise. We just got the lineup from the Yankees and you send it to him and then he does his prep.

We'll meet with him in a game-planning session at some point during batting practice. He has some physical preparation that he does. It doesn't leave a lot of time for banter and kind of camaraderie and that type of stuff. He puts headphones on and he gets locked in. He's ultra focused. His day that he pitches is the most important day of his year and he handles it as intently and as well as anyone I've ever been around.

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