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October 19, 2019

AJ Hinch

Houston, Texas - pregame 6

Q. Your decision to go with Peacock.
AJ HINCH: Yeah, you know, we decided to go with Peacock just because their lineup is really good at the top, and Brad's really good at matching up against those guys. And he's got one of the calmest heartbeats in our club. He's kind of been there, done that. He's closed games in the World Series. He's pitched in a variety of roles for us. The moment is not going to be too big. He can execute pitches.

I thought the way he threw the ball last night in the eight pitches was encouraging. And who better to kick off the chaos of a bullpen day than a calm Brad Peacock.

Q. How do you approach this? If he's really rolling do you just stick with him or do you have it scripted in a way?
AJ HINCH: You're going to have a good seat in the press box. If you're in this building you're going to love it or watch it on TV. As much as you can script them and match them out, I have no idea. I love that I have no idea. I think that's part of the challenge game today is going to be how and when to read the moves that are being made and the targets that you want certain guys to face certain guys.

Had it been last night, I would have left him in for another inning given how he pitched. And I like reading our pitchers and I know our matchups and who we like and who we like to avoid.

I think anything that we say now, including me and Booney, is going to be a guess. We don't know until the moment of what we're going to actually do. You've got to read the game, especially in a bullpen game like this on kind of what you're seeing and what your information is telling you on how to match up with these guys.

Q. How serious was Gerrit considered for today? With JV going as long as he did, was that kind of a conversation maybe between the two of you, you said, Look, I need a bullpen day, go as long as you can?
AJ HINCH: The first question, he wasn't really considered. I don't think bringing him back on three days' rest was necessary. I think we can go with a bullpen day today. And of the two games having a more fatigued Gerrit on three days' rest and a bullpen day, say we lose, the downside of that is there's very little parachute behind that.

I think Gerrit Cole is one of the best backup plans in baseball, if not the best backup plan in baseball. I don't want to use it. We want to close it out today.

I never talked to him, from the minute that this series was being extended and we got to I believe it was 2-1, after we won the first game, we mapped out the way the series -- when the rainout happened, we were going to pitch Zack and then JV and then the bullpen and then Gerrit for Game 7, if needed.

So the second part, what was the second question, again?

Q. About JV.
AJ HINCH: Looking back, I think you can say it was a nice job of saving the bullpen. In the moment we were in the game and had a chance to win the game and we needed him to be as good as he could as long as he could to try to win the game.

He was exceptional in those six innings following the first inning, a couple of pitches that he didn't execute, and they made him pay with a couple of homers. It was about winning yesterday. We were able to stay close, had opportunities almost every inning to try to build an inning, couldn't do it.

The Chirinos ball I thought was going to be a homer, that would have changed the whole complexion of that inning and that game. Then at the end, it was really important for us to stay close so that they needed to use their pen that they use in high leverage. Chapman coming in the game, Britton getting extended, Kahnle coming in. Hopefully that pays moving forward into today's game.

We wanted to win the game, that's why it was important for him to go as long as he did.

Q. About the strategy, is a game like this more fun for you?
AJ HINCH: No, it's miserable. No, it's miserable. I love when JV or Gerrit goes out there and throws nine scoreless. Those are the fun ones.

It's more entertaining and more agonizing with our decisions. You don't get to this point of the season without having to make a ton of critical decisions in this chair. And also some non-decisions. You stick with guys, and it works out in your favor.

So it's entertaining. It's curious. It's going to build a lot of drama. Every decision is going to be scrutinized, and based on the results, trust me, I'm going to scrutinize myself before you guys have a chance or any fans. It's crazy. It's thinking we're in the Game 6 of the ALCS and we're going to have upwards of double-digit number of pitchers pitching in a game of such magnitude. Welcome to 2019.

Q. On that same level, every game you guys put in a ton of preparation, obviously. Is a game like this more a battle of wits between the two teams?
AJ HINCH: No, it's still a battle of execution. It's still a battle of execution. It's going to be who executes the best or who comes up with a big hit or who gets a favorable matchup by accident, just by virtue of the way the game develops or who overcomes the matchup. For us, who hits the high fastball? They keep throwing us these high fastballs, we keep missing it. We're going to land one in the upper deck here eventually.

That's really what this is about is execution. Our job, or my job specifically, is to try to put these guys in a position to be at their best. Their job, the players' job is to just go out there and play the game and execute.

No matter what I script out right now or how we feel like it's going to be, there's going to be a change of course at some point during the game. There's going to be a big swing that sways a decision one way or the other. That's October baseball in 2019.

Q. We've seen a lot of crazy stuff in the postseason, Randy Johnson coming in relief the day after he starts, Max Scherzer. Along those lines, when do Zack Greinke and Justin Verlander potentially come into play for you out of the bullpen?
AJ HINCH: I don't know. I'll talk to them. We just landed not too many hours ago, just like you guys. Generally speaking, those are sort of a fluid conversation over the next couple of days. So we'll see how guys feel, where they are emotionally, how that compares to what we have in store.

We're going into today's game with Brad as the only guy that's pitched in the last -- outside of Justin -- out of our bullpen. A fully rested Will Harris and Ryan Pressly and Roberto Osuna, Joe Smith, guys that have gotten really critical outs for us, still outweighs for me the heroic pitcher that comes back on no days' rest or one day's rest.

As the series develops, as the game develops, I'll have all the information in front of me. The drama will build as to whether these guys are available or not, or maybe it doesn't. Maybe we get a huge lead and we coast into a win and a celebration. That would be ideal.

Q. Because you have, as you called him, the best backup plan in baseball, does that help you be more aggressive and empty the tank today or do you still have to plan for a contingency tomorrow?
AJ HINCH: I try to win today. I think Gerrit gives us some encouraging backup plan, as an encouraging backup plan. But it's one that we don't want to use. I think we understand. In the course of the last couple of seasons, not the entire group but the core group that's been here, we were in an elimination game in '17 a couple of times in the World Series, and against the Yankees in the ALCS. We were in an elimination game last year against the Red Sox. We were in elimination games this season in Game 5 in the ALDS, and we won all but one of those. And they aren't fun. Even when you win, the elimination games are agonizing.

So our players know that today is an aggressive, go-win-the-game mentality. And if we get to Game 7, we'll collect ourselves and we have Gerrit Cole to kind of bring us out of the stress that comes with any sort of loss in the playoffs. I'm going to be aggressive and try to win today.

Q. Bullpen game openers, it's certainly not a brand-new concept but it's certainly become mainstream just in the last couple of years. Do you think if this was two, three, four years ago, that you would use this plan and certainly not announce this is going to be a bullpen game?
AJ HINCH: I think it's grown. I think you have to manage based on your personnel and how you you've built your team and how you've built your personnel for this specific series. If you had the starters that we've had over the previous couple of years that aren't here anymore. Lance McCullers is hurt, he would certainly have been the guy to put in today. Aaron Sánchez who got hurt who we acquired at the deadline as a starter would be an option, he's hurt. So our personnel has led us to where we are now.

And strategically it's become a little bit more in vogue and teams like to use it. We just went through a whole series against Tampa where they've done it. I know Oakland did it in a Wild Card game against the Yankees last year. It's just part of baseball now as an option. Maybe not the option that you necessarily want all the time. Some teams want it. Some teams don't. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

But the way the series has gone for both teams, the rain the out, the decisions, it's kind of led to this more than I think us and the Yankees racing to it. It's kind of evolved that way.

Q. I know we've asked you similar questions before today when the Texans left for what was a big game for them in Indianapolis, much of them, including Shawn wore Astros gear, what do you think about that?
AJ HINCH: I love it. I love that we're all in this together in Houston. They're a huge support system for us, we're a huge support system for them. We've rocked the Texans gear on our road trips before, the Rockets stuff and this entire city is behind the Astros. And I expect nothing less than everybody to make it public and make it pro Astros these days.

Q. With Brad Peacock, I was wondering when you start thinking that he'd be the starter tonight. And in hindsight you wish he had not pitched last night?
AJ HINCH: I'm actually happy he pitched last night. He hadn't pitched this entire postseason. He'd thrown a bullpen and a live BP prior to the ALCS. We didn't have him on the ALDS roster to try to build up his arm strength. He hadn't been in a game. He'd been up a couple of times.

So I'm really thankful that he pitched last night. That he was able to kind of get into the competition. Having his first outing be a start of Game 6 is pretty daunting. Obviously he came out great last night. If I would have known that was exactly the outcome we were going to get, it's always nice to wish you could have played it a different way. Getting him in the game was important from the standpoint of getting back into competition.

After the game I went right to him, we talked about how he felt. He said he felt amazing. It's a pocket of players at the top of the order that we were going to want him against today, whether that be the first, second, third, fourth, whatever inning that was. And you factor in his experience level, his calm heartbeat. I told him shortly after the game that we wanted him to start the game. And I'll get back to the rest of the guys on kind of when I see them potentially pitching.

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