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October 28, 2019

AJ Hinch

Houston, Texas - Workout Day

Q. Joe Smith has played a huge role in the playoffs and the World Series. How has that evolved? And could you imagine he would be getting these big outs like in the middle of the year when he was coming back from his injury?
AJ HINCH: You know, I'm so happy for Joe. And we started this World Series talking about him getting his first appearance in the World Series after so many games and so much impact in the big leagues. And then you look up, we're entering Game 6 and he's pitched some of the most important relief innings imaginable.

When I think of him, I think of the question on whether he was going to be able to contribute much at all this year coming off of an Achilles injury that was devastating for him, and even with his unique delivery and his age. And then just getting him back healthy, that was like an accomplishment.

Then as he worked his way throughout the year he looked better and better as he got stronger and more confident in his health. When the matchup starts happening in the playoffs somebody like him an extremely valuable. And he stepped up to the challenge. He's getting righties out, he's getting lefties out.

He's having the time of his life, his laughter, his smile, his whole vibe around him this whole series has been incredible. So never underestimate any of your players. That's a good lesson, because he worked his way back to health and then worked his way into being heavily relied upon.

Q. It seems like this year, especially in Washington, you guys were really productive in the first inning, even if you didn't score offensively. How was that different from the beginning of the playoffs and how do you think that sparked the offense?
AJ HINCH: Our offense starts with the top of our lineup. George is as dangerous a leadoff hitter as anybody in baseball. You hand it to Jose in the two hole, Brantley, Bregman. As you go through our lineup, every lineup is stacked at the top of the order nowadays. It's no longer these roles or sort of your prototypical anything. It's just put your best players at the top in the order that you like and put pressure on them from the very beginning.

Nothing has really changed other than the pressure we've been able to apply to these guys. And when George gets hot, when Jose gets hot, Mike has been incredible this World Series. Bregman is one click away every time, but did have the big swing. It's when our offense is at its best. The production of those guys at the top, and generally when your better hitters play well your team just looks better and plays better.

Q. Then on the other side of that, Verlander has had some inauspicious first innings this entire postseason. What have you seen about the trouble he's had getting into these starts?
AJ HINCH: Like the reverse, their team stacks their lineup, just like we do. When you get in -- there's been some really tough top of the orders that he's had to face this playoff series. All three teams that we played put pressure from the very beginning.

I think with a lot of elite pitchers, and power pitchers specifically, for them to catch their rhythm and their timing is very critical and sometimes if you don't get them early you never get them.

I even saw that last night with Cole where they got some pressure on him early in the game, first and third, no outs, he was able to wiggle his way out of it, and that's important.

JV has had a little bit of a similar pressure put on him at the top of the order and a couple of big hits have changed the narrative. Now, once he does find all three of his pitches and he finds his slot where he likes where he's throwing specifically his slider, watch out, because he can rattle off a lot of outs in a row in a couple of these playoff starts.

Q. I wanted to ask you about the second tier part of your roster. I know that in the postseason a lot, even though it does come down to a lot of the time to the top of the lineup, of the star players. But often it's the ones that we're not thinking of that end up making the biggest difference. In Washington I think it was Chirinos and Urquidy. What have those guys meant to the whole option this whole World Series?
AJ HINCH: A seven-game series, or especially at this time of year, the playoff series in general, you never know who's going to be the hero any given night. We say that during the year: It could be anybody on the roster. We've seen the bottom of the order perform like the middle of the order, and the top of the order completely dominate.

When you play a team over and over and over, and adjustments are being made, it's incredible to see who comes through with the opportunities.

We've talked a lot about the depth of our roster and how you're going to need all 25. And now I see all 50 players have now played in the World Series for both teams. No matter how much you map it out and plan it out, Joe Smith is getting these 8th innings when everybody assumed Will Harris was going to get those 8th innings. Robinson Chirinos and Martin Maldonado, two catchers, have both homered for us and it's incredible to have that kind of production behind the plate.

I just think your roster is tested in these series that are unpredictable, that you can't plan for every scenario, and I kind of love it. Will Harris is doing interviews and Chirinos is giving emotional reactions to kind of teaching young minor leaguers to stay with it. He played in the minors forever. That's one of the beauties of the postseason.

Q. For you personally, what's been the big difference between now going the last two games of the World Series and 2017 as far as the ups and downs and just your emotions?
AJ HINCH: Yeah, well, I think any experience pays off at this time. No. 1 is we've been there, done that. I've made big decisions in these type of games before. So there's a comfort and belief in myself and believing that the process that I have as a manager, my coaching staff, the players, stuff like that. So I think I'm even more calmer in the moment in 2019 than I was 2017.

Now, I've been told I'm showing a little bit more emotion on the bench on some close calls. So maybe that's progress, you know. I'm showing you what my insides have been telling myself for years. But the been there, done that part of this I think is very important for us.

When you do play the experience card is when you're under the most stress. And I would tell you Game 6s and 7s in the World Series is high stress. And I love that about our team is behaving the same way. Hopefully me and the coaching staff are, as well. But this is where you lean on experience.

Q. There's been a couple of times in these press conferences you've reminded us how good your team is. I wonder why that was. Was that because you were down 0-2 in this series or because of the peripheral discussions being lost with how talented the team was with a hundred wins?
AJ HINCH: No, I appreciate you saying that. But I'm not saying this trying to brag or trying to have any sense of overconfidence or anything like that.

But what I've learned over the last few years of winning is that when something doesn't go your way, there's an immediate overreaction to like, What's going on, what's wrong with your team? And my message is always that, No, we're the same team. We're the same talent. We have the same vibe. We have the same in preparation.

It's like you get defensive on your team when you get doubted. You get doubted when all of a sudden Gerrit gets beat in Game 1. And there's this massive reaction. The other team is pretty good.

We're still the same team. It's a seven-game series. We have a good team, that's the message. When JV gets beat in Game 2, the season is almost going to be over, there's a race for four wins. I have to remind everybody we have a good team, it's a seven-game series, we're going to be fine. I think over the course of this time everybody expects it to be this smooth ride of excellence and dominance and talent wins out.

I will always defend our team at times when we're good but more importantly I feel like it's my job to defend the talent on this team when maybe things are not going perfectly.

Q. What's the level of trust you guys have in Verlander in a moment like this? Isn't this sort of the ultimate compliment to a great player?
AJ HINCH: It is. Our confidence is great. We believe he's going to be at his best tomorrow. He loves this big stage. He loves being relied upon. He's going to be as intense as he's been probably the entire season because he knows what can happen at the end of 27 outs. And his first start in March or April he has the same intensity, but just not with the season on the line.

I think for a team -- I've heard a couple of our guys say this when Justin is pitching, we come to the ballpark with an absolute expectation to win. If your peers are saying that, when your team is saying that, when your manager is saying that, the fan base is going to be rocking tomorrow with a ton of confidence that JV is on the mound. That's like the biggest compliment you can give to one of your guys.

I love that he's going to own it. I think it's also not going to overwhelm him. And it's because of the back of his baseball card will tell you why. But I think this would be a nice little bullet point on a résumé that's headed towards Cooperstown if he can add a season-clinching, World Series- clinching win, count me in.

Q. If you had it to pick just one thing, what is the most important quality that your team has shown in being able to dig out of the 0-2 hole?
AJ HINCH: Resiliency. Again, we probably overdramatize it in my role or on our own team of the injuries we had to fight through or -- this is not a magic carpet ride of a season. We've been successful. We had a lot of wins, franchise records, records through the roof for us. But there's still been this sense of we have to keep proving it.

And that resiliency, whether it's answering questions on how on earth are we going to come back in the series or whether it was pushed to a Game 5 in the Division Series. We had not performed well at Yankee Stadium in the playoffs. We overcame that. I think the resiliency and staying in the moment and staying in today's game is by far why I'm the most proud of my team.

Q. You've heard this stuff before how Jose Altuve spreads the wealth when it comes to praise. Yesterday, last night he was asked who was the MVP of this team and he said everybody.
AJ HINCH: He believes it. And he's right. And I think he's the perfect example of how you should handle national attention or success is to spread the love. I was told the other day of all the "Jose" chants going on on the field and he immediately said that, No, no, those are for Jose Urquidy. It's the way he is. He's the most humble star that you could have.

But one of the many reasons that he's easy to root for and certainly easy to manage and easy to be teammates with is because he's as perfect as they come.

Q. You talk about your reaction to some of the close calls we've seen on the Nationals side. We saw it from the 40,000 umpires in the stands yesterday. With so much scrutiny on every pitch meaning so much, could you envision at some point the computers and robots calling balls and strikes, do you feel that will come at some point?
AJ HINCH: That's a hot topic. This is a big stage to be talking about hot topics. I guess it's always possible. I'm always interested in improving the game. I'm interested in advancing things that maybe we didn't think ten years ago that were relevant. And now all of a sudden that they are.

I think it's a little naive to think that simply letting computers generate strike or ball, or the safe out part of the replay that we have, it's incredibly naive to think that there's not going to be pitfalls in that scenario, as well. There's going to be emotional reaction.

I'm watching videos from the test cases that are rather emotional, as well, they're just not in the middle of the World Series. Be careful what you wish for.

Always seek to improve the game. If we can better the game, I'm all for it. And perhaps that's an avenue that we're going to go down some day.

But I love people. I'm a people person by nature, anybody that knows me. I want to keep as many people in the game and in control of the game as we can.

Q. How has it been watching Yuli Gurriel continuing to improve?
AJ HINCH: How about his defense? I'm so proud that he's a finalist for the Gold Glove. I wish we could vote after all this, if you watch all these plays. I'm not sure if I'm more impressed with catching the balls or beating Turner to the base. You might be a little older than Turner, but you might be faster than you think.

I've watched him evolve over the last few years going from an international star from the left side of the infield. He wasn't begrudgingly going to first, but it was a change for him. He knew that was the move he needed to make to be in the lineup.

He's had three different infield coaches over the last four years or so. He's taken a little bit of something from Rich, from Joe, from Alex. And put in the work to be good. He hasn't taken a first base glove and go to first and catch balls from them; he's put real work in to be good around the base.

We've been very aggressive in how to hit him off the line or where he plays. And he's embraced that because he's a third baseman-shortstop stuck in a first baseman body, so to speak. And I'm proud of him for that. I think he's embraced it as a real position and not just somewhere that you go.

Funny story, when we first moved him over there, he's like, you know, I don't want to DH. He said, You go from third base to first base, from first base to DH, and from DH to home. I want to play a really long time. I kind of remind him, You've been a good first baseman, it's going to extend your career, it's not trending.

Q. When we were looking at Washington, Carlos Correa, after your win, was trying to explain the three in a row and he felt like the first two games of the series, for whatever reason, maybe the energy wasn't there, the swag wasn't there. I'm wondering from your perspective if part of that was Scherzer-Strasburg in the first two games, if part of it might have been coming off an emotional Yankees win, because that's always something there, or if you just don't see what Carlos sees?
AJ HINCH: You know what, I think a little bit of all of that. It's the World Series and things happen. In Game 1 I think everything was fine. We were coming from behind. They put up those runs. Soto really owned the day. It wasn't really about our mojo or vibe. It was about Juan Soto kind of arriving on the national scene at the World Series, putting some really good swings against Cole and we lost.

In Game 2 I thought our energy was fine, our vibe was fine until the debacle of the last third of the game. And that was completely different. We tied the game in the sixth -- the sixth inning at-bat where we had guys on base and we had Strasburg on the ropes. We're a swing away from having pretty good mojo there.

I didn't see it as much as I think we got beat; we got outplayed. It wasn't really about a lack of energy or anything or emotional -- being overwhelmed by emotion. It was they beat us.

Now, if that's what it took for the players to kind of get over the first two losses and get to the third game then so be it. That's cool. Good by me, psychology major.

Q. Part of your calculus in taking Urquidy out in Game 4 was to maybe save some bullets if you needed him for Game 6 or 7. How could you envision using him tomorrow or Wednesday if you need him?
AJ HINCH: I'm going to start with JV, he's going to get 27 outs. As I chisel away at that if he doesn't do that, one of the benefits of extending those homers that we took, specifically Springer's homer at the end, allowed us to have a game where I didn't use Osuna and I didn't use Will Harris. Will Harris deserves a day off more than anybody in America.

Those two guys will obviously factor in in bullpen decisions in a Game 6 tomorrow. I thought Ryan Pressly's ending last night was phenomenal. It looked like he was trending in the right direction.

And Urquidy factors in in any capacity. I don't want to say that would be, because I have to read the game. It's part of my job. But I see him being more available in Game 7 than Game 6 as we sit here today because of how Game 5 happened and we got to save a little bit of pitching.

But I also know that games can get extended or decisions can change, and very, very quickly. But I'm glad now. Now we won Game 4 and we won Game5, I'm really happy that I saved a few bullets of Urquidy for whatever we need.

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