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October 23, 2019

AJ Hinch

Houston, Texas - postgame 2

Washington - 12, Houston - 3

Q. Going into the seventh inning, 2-2 game, and they score 6 runs and that game gets completely out of hand. What happened in that inning from your perspective?
AJ HINCH: Where would you like me to start? The lead-off homer? That's what happened. It started with the lead-off homer and then a tough at-bat with Robles. Thought we got him out but didn't get the call. And then I brought Press in to throw some sliders to Turner, give him a different look the fourth time through the order. That led to a walk. Rendon got out, which of all the guys that are going to get out, Rendon getting out is nice for us. And then set up the intentional walk with Soto.

And soft contact for the rest of that inning that we didn't make a couple of plays and they made contact in big at-bats and the inning spiraled out of control.

Q. In that inning, even though in the 6th the offensive situation called for the pinch-hitter, given that Justin had thrown every pitch to Chirinos this year, was it a difficult decision to pinch-hit there?
AJ HINCH: I'm trying to win the game. So, no. First off, Maldonado has caught him before and I doubt that had anything to do with the fastball to Suzuki. You have to ask Justin if it bothered him. With Tucker coming up in that spot, Strasburg is at the end of his rope. Try to win the game.

Q. The intentional walk in that situation, a virtual no-brainer?
AJ HINCH: I've watched Soto just like you have. We see the downside of it. Clearly I think there's a lot of downside given that I haven't done it all year.

But ironically I thought it was our best chance to limit their scoring, and instead it poured gasoline on a fire that was already burning.

Q. After the intentional walk, you get the ground ball. Just how frustrating is that?
AJ HINCH: Yeah, anytime Alex gets to it I expect him to make the play, he expects to make it. It was just a little bit out of his reach where he couldn't catch it cleanly. And that kind of turned the entire inning. Then Cabrera gets the base hit to center and then Zimmerman hits the 50-foot ground ball.

Again, contact is your friend in these situations. They did a good job of making contact against Press. I thought he made some really good pitches.

But clearly that inning didn't go that way nor did the next inning nor did the next inning after that.

Q. With the intentional walk, obviously an exceptional situation, but was this the first time you even considered it all season?
AJ HINCH: No, no, we have Mike Trout in our division, and we faced Christian Yelich, he was in the building. So maybe that's what talked me into it. I don't know.

Q. Verlander has given up some first-inning runs during the postseason, and his velocity was about the same starting out the inning. Does it take him a while to get going?
AJ HINCH: I think I just noticed him facing their best hitters. We stack our lineups nowadays from the get-go. And they put together some pretty good hits. I think Rendon's two-strike on the change-up base hit off the wall was really the big swing. It looked like he was fooled a little bit and yet still stayed through the ball and got the ball off the fence.

A little bit of the quality of the hitters. I think most kind of big, elite physical pitchers may have a little trouble getting into the game. But JV has been exceptional the entire season, including the first inning. We have seen it in this playoffs, have a little bit of trouble in the first. But these are really good teams. From the get-go when they put pressure on you you're usually facing a pretty good guy every time up.

Q. They came into your stadium and beat your aces, they're up 2 in the World Series. Historically it's rarely happened where a team can come back. How do you rebound from this? You've been through some of these situations before, but how do you get your guys to believe they can do this?
AJ HINCH: They have to look around the room. We have a really good team. Clearly, the Nats have outplayed us, bottom line. They came into our building and played two really good games. We're going to have to try to sleep off the latter third of this game. I don't want to lump this into a horrible game; it was a horrible three innings for us. Leading up to that it was a pretty good. We pushed Strasburg pretty far, we pushed Scherzer pretty far.

They're halfway to a race to four wins. Clearly, Game 3 becomes critical for us. We're going to get on a plane, we're going to go to Washington. I doubt the Nats are going to feel too confident that they have this sewed up and they can start planning the parade. We're going to give them a fight for it.

Q. Jose's decision to try to steal third. Thoughts about that?
AJ HINCH: Feast or famine; right? I think we wanted to put pressure on Strasburg and he got to second and they're playing the shift pretty far to shortstop. And I think Rendon did a good job of anticipating Jose being a little aggressive. Suzuki nails a throw. And I think if he slides a little bit later he has a little bit better chance.

It's one of those plays that you try to stay aggressive. If he gets to third with less than two outs that's a huge 90 feet. The fact that he doesn't, he was pretty mad at himself. But I love the aggressiveness. It sucks when it doesn't work out.

But those plays when you try to push him -- luckily Alex picked him up with a homer, and we still tied the game in that inning.

Q. I think you had five at-bats with runners in scoring position. What did you see with the approach of those at-bats?
AJ HINCH: I think our approach has been good. We're just not winning them. We're not -- and it's hard. It's not easy. And these guys -- it's not as simple as saying, Hey, man, get a hit with a runner in scoring position. These guys are getting pitches, we're having some long at-bats. But we haven't found the results.

So I think that's been the frustrating part of this series. I'm not going to drag the ALCS into this. This is about the World Series, but whether you want to credit them or whether you want to put the pressure on us. They're winning these at-bats and that's the difference in these games.

Q. The headline coming into this series was about starting pitching and so far it seems like it's been more tenacious than dominant. Do you think that's the withering effect of innings, relentless offense, each at-bat?
AJ HINCH: A little bit of both. I think if you walk into these clubhouses and you talk to the position players, they probably don't take it too kindly that this was supposed to be all about starting pitchers. There's a side of the game they take great pride in, too.

These are two really good teams full of really great players. Just about when we all predict what this is supposed to be about, the game will show you that you know maybe a little bit less and less the more you're around it. It's just the nature of the competition.

I think some hitters are standing up for themselves on both sides. But it doesn't make it any easier to hit these pitchers. I think all four of the starting pitchers have had to work pretty hard to get through their outings.

Q. Verlander and Cole have been so automatic all year, haven't lost back-to-back all season. How much more difficult is it to regroup after that?
AJ HINCH: We'll be fine. We're a really good team. We have Game 3 in a couple of days. We'll be fine.

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