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October 11, 2021

Kike Hernandez

Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Fenway Park

Boston Red Sox

Postgame 4 Press Conference

Red Sox 6, Rays 5

Q. Kiké, can you just go over that at-bat? Secondly, can you talk about Devers. How has he impressed you all season?

KIKÉ HERNANDEZ: First off, that at-bat, runners on the corners, one out, series-winning run at third base. As I was about to walk to the plate, they called Christian back to the dugout, and they brought in Danny. That took a little bit of pressure off because obviously they're different types of runners. At the time, I was like a homer scores Christian (laughter).

It went from having to get a hit or feeling like I have to get a hit, obviously, because their outfield throws pretty well, especially their center fielder and right fielder, and then having the faster runner at third base kind of took the pressure off. Obviously, I don't have to do that much. I just have to get a pitch where I can hit a fly ball and score him, not try to do too much.

I'm glad I was able to get that pitch, and I'm glad I was able to get the job done.

Your other question, Rafy, when I signed here and I looked at the roster and I started looking at their pages and their profiles as far as like whatever their stats, and I was like -- I was beyond impressed with our third base side of our infield. I was like how come nobody talks more about these two guys? Like these numbers are ridiculous. Like nobody's talking about them.

Being in the National League, especially on the West Coast, you never get to see them play or really pay attention to what's going on in the American League. I knew they were good players, but I didn't know they were that good. Spring Training was a pleasure to watch those two guys. In the batter's box, they're as dangerous as they get. It was fun seeing them, how they prepared and how they went about their business.

Getting to know them, it was a pleasure. Getting to see Rafy for 162 was special. Then people are talking about what's going on with him and his health and all this, but he keeps finding a way to get the job done. And he came up huge for us tonight. I'm glad he had the night he had.

Q. Kiké, this team had a really, really tough year last year in the 60-game season. What was it, besides the chance to play every day, that made you think that you could win here, that attracted you to Boston?

KIKÉ HERNANDEZ: I looked at the roster, man. To be honest, as far as position players, the pitching staff was like, it took some time to get developed. We brought in some pieces, and there were some guys that I didn't know, obviously, because playing in the other league.

When you look at the roster and you see Rafael Devers, and I started looking at their stats and stuff, and I was like Xander Bogaerts, and first base and Bobby Dalbec and everybody talking about what his potential was like.

I've known Christian -- I played with Christian when I was 7 years old in Puerto Rico. He was a year older than me. We played the same category. He was a year older than me obviously, and we were on the same team. He's always been a stud ever since we were that young, he's always been a stud. Obviously, I played with Dugie for a few years in L.A., and I played against Renfroe for a few years when he was with the Padres.

I was like, man, I don't understand why people are talking about this team like we're the worst team in that division or whatever. I was like this is a solid squad. They won the World Series a few years ago. They know what it takes to win. It's not like it's a scrappy roster or anything. It's a good roster. I played with Nate in Miami, and obviously I saw what Nate did in the playoffs in '18. I obviously saw it firsthand when he pitched against us.

I knew that we had a really solid team, and the same thing I said at Spring Training, nothing has changed. I thought that all we needed to do was survive until we got Sale back, and then we would become a really dangerous team. That's basically what we did, and there were some guys that I didn't know that came through, and we have a team with a bunch of really, really good baseball players that know how to play the game.

I mean, here we are surprising everybody but ourselves. We knew in Spring Training we had the team to make it this far, and here we are.

Q. Before the series started, someone asked you about wanting to be up -- you talked about wanting to be up in those situations. Can you go through in your mind at the start of the inning what you're thinking about counting the batters and what situation you might be in? And how much has the success you've had in this series make you that much more confident to come up in that spot?

KIKÉ HERNANDEZ: So I had the chance to win the game last night and I didn't do it. I was thinking, walking to the plate, I was like I'm about to finish this game. This was last night. And the way that things were going at the time, I was like I'm about to make this place my place. That's me talking to myself to pump me up, to make myself confident and get things under control.

I didn't get it done last night, and we won the game. Christian came through. And tonight I knew that I was up fourth in the inning, and I knew that, if I was going to get up to the plate, it was going to be with runners on, obviously, because if there's nobody on, it meant that somebody had hit a homer or something and we won the game.

So jogging from center field to the dugout, I jogged a little slower than I usually do because I usually get on the field and off the field pretty quick because I just want to get there and get out, turn the page we're on offense, turn the page we're on defense now. I was just talking to myself. I was like, all right, this is our chance. If you get up to the plate, you're going to have a chance to win the game, and you can't let this situation get too big.

You're about to win this game, so you need to work on slowing everything down and slowing your breathing down and slowing the game down and starting early and making sure that you see the pitch, and you're not just swinging at your shoes for no reason for trying to be a hero.

The situation, the way that inning developed, Christian, at the beginning of the at-bat, didn't seem like he had a chance, and then he started battling, and he won the at-bat. Then Arroyo, I don't know if that was the first bunt of the year, but man, that was a helluva bunt. Then T. Shaw put up a battle up there. I told him a few minutes ago, I never thought your speed was the one that was going to win that series, for him grind that at-bat out.

Some people they come off the bench in a big situation, and they hit the ball with the quality of contact that he did, they kind of get upset or whatnot and not run hard down the line. He didn't do that. He capped it, and he just busted his ass to first base. The throw happened, and he beat the throw. On the first pitch, he took second, which even took my pressure off a little bit because I was like, man, if I hit a hard ground ball, there's a chance they could turn two, and inning's over.

He got on second base after the first pitch, which I swung at a pitch that might have been over my head, I don't know. It felt really high. I was like what are you doing? He went on second base, and I was like, all right, now you've really got to slow this down because it just got a little bit easier.

I was able to get the pitch that allowed me to hit a fly ball to left, and I'm glad I hit it to their weakest arm in the outfield.

Q. After they scored the five to tie it up, how much did Garrett kind of just swing the momentum back in your guys' favor? How impressed are you just by what he's done, not just tonight, but all year?

KIKÉ HERNANDEZ: At the beginning of the year -- people still call him the secret weapon. It's no secret anymore. Garrett Whitlock is legit. That is an electric arm with three-plus pitches at his age with his experience coming into year. It's not every day that a Rule 5 draft pick gets to close out a Wild Card game and then win a game that wins not just a Division Series, but a playoff series. You don't see that every day.

His composure, his stuff, the way he prepares, the way he goes about his business, it's as professional as it gets. The only time that you remember that Whitlock is a rookie is when he comes and asks you a question where it's a question that a younger guy would ask. It's like, dang, it's so easy to forget that he's this young and that he has this amount of experience because he just gets the job done day in and day out. It never seems like the situation is too big or the game speeds up on him.

It's just he stays under control and he's got a great right arm. I'm glad he's on our side and not on the other guys' side. Garrett Whitlock has been a huge, huge piece for us this year and for years to come.

Q. Picking up what you said, wanting to make this place yours, how would you put into words having back-to-back walkoff wins, back-to-back nights as a Red Sox in front of these fans in Boston?

KIKÉ HERNANDEZ: This place is special. I'm glad it took this long for me to realize that because at the beginning of the year, I had played here two series. I played here in the World Series for the first time in my career, and then in '19 we started the second half, I think we started the second half here.

When you're on the road, you don't really realize unless the place is like crazy loud or whatever, you don't really realize how loud it is. When we came here in the World Series, like things did not go our way the two games that we played here. I didn't even have time to think about how loud this place was, mainly because it was way too cold. I was like, oh, my goodness. We just went from like 80 degree weather to like 30 degree weather because those two games here were freezing.

So I never really had the time to think about it, and then '19, the team wasn't playing that great. And we won that series. So we never allowed them to get that loud. I don't even remember when it was that we got 100 percent capacity back, but once we got that 100 percent capacity back, you just felt it. You couldn't wait for 7:10 to come and get going and start a game, especially when we played like better teams.

This place gets rocking, man. This place gets rocking, and this place is a lot of fun to play in. Not that fun to play in when you're a road team, and that gives us a little bit of an advantage. I'm glad I'm wearing white when we play here.

Q. You're using a lineup you haven't used all year. The pitching staff is being used differently. You're bunting, we talked about that. Alex manages his teams so differently in October. His team and this year and several years ago seems to respond to that. I wonder why that it is. It's different and you guys are playing your best right now?

KIKÉ HERNANDEZ: Man, it's October. It doesn't matter how it happens. All that matters is get that W. I mean, you've seen it. All the starters, if they're not starting that game, they've got cleats on and they're in the bullpen and they're ready to go. Like that's our mentality, and that's the mentality that good teams have, and that's what it takes to win. Like whatever it takes to win.

Like when you have that mentality, good things tend to happen. I mean, that's our motto right now. Whatever it takes to win. Just win today, and we'll worry about tomorrow tomorrow. Lineup, bullpen, starting rotation. Like it doesn't matter. We're a team, and we're one. We're not 26 dudes, we're just one. We're one. We're collective.

When things don't go our way, we're going to pick each other up. When things go our way, we're going to hype each other up to make each other feel good and make that good really good confidence feel last longer. We're playing really good baseball right now. That's all that matters. We celebrated, quote, unquote, three times, and we're looking forward to celebrating two more times.

Q. What does it mean to be where you are as a team right now and to have had the season you've had individually after being given an opportunity to show what you can do as an everyday starting player? Just to show what you can do when you can play every day.

KIKÉ HERNANDEZ: First question, it feels great. No lie, it feels great. Going into Spring Training, we would all say that we have the team to get to October, to get deep into October, and people would kind of like look at us -- through Zoom obviously -- would look at us like we're crazy. We didn't really care what people outside our clubhouse thought about us as a team.

We knew what we had in our hands, and it was a matter of us taking care of business, about controlling what you can control. The season was one giant roller coaster, but it was a fun roller coaster even when times weren't that fun.

We had first place for a long time, and then we started playing not so great, and then Tampa like took over first place, and then they took off, and we started playing up and down, up and down, up and down, up and down. People are like, oh, the real Red Sox are showing their true colors or whatever. We just didn't care. We knew that like in a 162-game season, it was about ups and downs, and it was about not riding the highs too high and the lows too low.

I think we did a heck of a job not letting the struggles get to us and just keeping our head up and looking forward. If we didn't win today, we were looking forward to tomorrow and so on. We were able to come into the last three games of the season that mattered, and we took care of business. It was a really fun series. It felt like a playoff series even though the other team didn't have a winning record, but they played like a playoff team at the time. We took care of business.

And then going into the Yankees Wild Card game, it was fun. It was loud here. It was electric.

Going into Tampa Game 1, it was kind of like we got punched in the gut, and it was a matter of are we going to turn the page, or are we just going to feel sorry for ourselves? That's how teams get swept. We did a great job of turning the page and winning the next three.

For me personally, like free agency, main priority was finding a place where I could play every day, but I didn't want the easy way playing every day. I didn't just want to play every day to play every day in the Big Leagues. I wanted to play every day where it mattered.

I told my mom, I was like, yeah, there's nothing that compares to winning the World Series, but I want to go somewhere where I can win the World Series and be in that starting lineup every day. It feels like I'm a little bit more important piece than just one more guy on that team. Boston ended up being the greatest of fits. I don't regret that decision one bit.

Q. Kevin Cash was saying that, we just were not able to create that swing and miss that we did so well during the regular season. He said it was just a relentless lineup, the constant pressure. That is a good pitching staff over there. How did you guys, how were you able to make contact as much and have those at-bats? How big a factor was that in the series for you?

KIKÉ HERNANDEZ: I think the biggest difference between this series or like Game 2, 3, 4 and the regular season was that we knew it would take a collective 1 through 9 to get the job done. In the regular season, it felt like we had a really talented lineup and it was just a matter of getting the big hits and getting hot or whatever, but everybody had an individual approach and it was different.

Going down the series 1-0, it's just like we need to find a way to have a 1 through 9 approach. We need to have a team approach, and we need to all get on the same page and do the same thing and attack the same way. That's kind of what we did.

Playoff baseball, sometimes, if you don't let the moment get too big, it kind of brings the best out of people. We were able to lock it in and make better decisions on the pitches that we wanted to swing at, we wanted to attack, the zones we wanted to attack. It started off with Game 2 and kind of like went on the next two games.

We did a great job as an offense, but our pitching kept us in the game every game. If it wasn't for our pitching, this series would have looked a lot different. Hat's off, tip of my cap to those guys. Kept us in the game at times. And the other games, like tonight when we were up five and we gave up that lead, it was time to lock it in, and they kept them there.

It was on us to not add on and tally on to that lead, and we gave it up. So what? Let's keep him there now and just give ourselves a chance to win this ballgame, and that's what they did, and the rest is history.

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