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October 12, 2022

Dusty Baker

Houston, Texas, USA

Minute Maid Park

Houston Astros

Workout Day Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Dusty.

Q. If we could look back for one more time, with all the things that Yordan did with the bat, maybe lost in the shuffle is he threw a guy out at the plate by a mile. When you think about the complete game he had last night what comes to mind?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, when you throw out a guy at the plate in a one-run game, that could have been the game had he not thrown him out. We would still have had a one-run deficit.

So defense, like I told you before the game, he's playing Golden Glove defense and his throwing has been outstanding. Sometimes as a slugger or a hitter, that comes to the forefront, and most people never talk about the defense. They don't talk about the defense of Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, any of those guys. All they talk about is the hitting part. But offense wins the game and defense saves the game.

Q. How much do you think defense kept you in that game yesterday and how much do you attribute that to the success this team has had the last couple years?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, yeah, I mean, you only have 27 outs in a game. You start giving away outs, either through errors or not turning double plays or things, now you're possibly playing 30 outs versus 27. You can't give away outs and expect to win over a long period of time.

Like I said, I remember in the Moses Malone commercial when he didn't say a word, he just was rebounding and he says, hey, you can't score if you don't have the ball.

You guys remember that commercial? And that's true. You don't remember that commercial? Oh, yeah.

And then everybody talks about scoring, but very few talk about rebounds. Rebounding is part of defense in basketball, and defense is huge in baseball. I mean, I've always had great defensive teams because you can't, it's hard to play on my team on a regular basis and play bad defense. You might drive in three, but you're going to let in four, either directly or indirectly, and so that's a deficit. So to play on my team for an extended period of time you got to play defense.

Q. What changes do you expect to your lineup in Game 2? Specifically in center field, is there a chance that Meyers could get in there?

DUSTY BAKER: Yeah, I think I said that yesterday or day before. Yeah, I think that Meyers has probably the best chance of hitting Castillo.

Then later in the game, I might do something else to try to -- I put the best lineup offensively and defensively that I can on a daily basis, and it changes without having an every day center fielder, similar to what I've been doing all year.

Q. How much do you feel like momentum plays a part in series like this, and do you think not only having a win but having such a dramatic win can help build momentum for you guys?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, I think it helps. But momentum can be extended or stopped by who is pitching against you and who is pitching for you. So it starts over, momentum starts over. I mean, I think you can have a bigger downer affect from day-to-day than you can a momentum affect.

But what games like that do, it excites the fans, it excites us. There was a very positive vibe going on in the stadium. I noticed that nobody left. Like I was speaking about the other day, when I was with the Dodgers, that it transcends from top to bottom, to the fans, to the office workers, to the janitors, everybody in the organization, just trying to think positive about an outcome of the game.

That was probably one of the best games that I've witnessed in my life yesterday. Not only because of the outcome, but because of the energy that was in this building. I think it shows the importance of home field advantage that we, that our best record, that's one of the first times that our best record showed its head, because we opened at home and in a short series, and that was big. I got to commend my team because that's what we wanted to have throughout this series.

Q. Two for you, potentially: Given how Verlander pitched last night, if you do get to the point where there is a Game 4, are you less inclined to potentially bring him back even though he would be on regular rest?

DUSTY BAKER: I'm more inclined to bring him back because the chance of him having two bad outings is rare. And I like to get a guy right back on the horse right away, I mean, because you sit him out, the longer you sit him out, the longer they have to think about it.

So, no, I wish I could start him tomorrow, to tell you the truth.

Q. With respect to Javier, obviously, the days off help you. In that last night you probably felt more comfortable putting him out there in that situation. But how do you envision, what did you think of what he did last night and how do you envision using him in these next few games?

DUSTY BAKER: Yeah, he was good. He was very good. It's just that Suárez hit a good pitch out of the ballpark. Sometimes you got to give the hitter some credit. You know, every home run I hit wasn't a mistake. Everybody thinks it's a mistake, but sometimes you got to give me a little credit for being able to hit or hitting the pitch. It's not always the fault of the pitcher.

Yeah, he needed some work. He's slated to go. He's going to pitch when we think he should. We want to try to keep guys on regular rest because they already were on irregular rest coming into this series starting yesterday.

So the more irregular rest you get, the less chance you have to get 'em back into sync.

Q. Curious about Peña's day overall yesterday. He strikes out his first at-bat and it seemed like his plate appearances got progressively better as the day went along. What did you see from him in general and then certainly in the 9th inning and the approach he took?

DUSTY BAKER: I think all the at-bats got generally better as the day went on. I mean, I could see through Verlander. I could see through our at-bats early. I could see through some of the guys that -- you know, it doesn't take long to lose your stroke. I was told by a trainer a long time ago that within a couple of days you start losing some of your timing and some of your edge.

So things got progressively better, which is one reason why we're having a workout today, because we just got some of this back, and then you can potentially lose it today and then start all over again tomorrow and then lose it again on Friday and start back all over again, where I could tell that those, that the Mariners were much sharper in their timing than we were.

So I feel very fortunate that we won that game last night.

Q. Can you pinpoint, or maybe just for yourself, one of the moments yesterday that you felt that this team was not panicking, that there was a moment where you guys could come back, even though there were, you were down four runs most of the game? Was there a particular unsung hero, unsung moment, that you can pinpoint that you say was kind of representative of how your team approached the game yesterday?

DUSTY BAKER: That's a good question. I think Bregman's home run probably got us back into -- you know, I believe in staying within slam reach or putting the opposition out of slam reach at that fifth run versus -- I mean, the chances of a slam are slim, but anybody here play backgammon back in the day, you stay off of the six spot, you know what I mean? Right?

Did you play backgammon back in the day? Never?

Yeah. So there's certain points that you try to get to or stay away from. The one thing that I didn't like was when they added on, started adding on runs, you know, they added on one and then they add on another.

But like I always say, if we can win the 7th, 8th, and 9th, we got a chance of winning the game or either, you know, get back in the game, which happened yesterday.

Q. With regards to Jake Meyers, I know he's struggled since returning from the injury, but he seemed to hit his stride down the stretch in the season. What are your expectations for him in the postseason and what do you want to see from him?

DUSTY BAKER: I want to see him playing good defense, taking charge. Not being apprehensive about anything. And also getting some hits and getting on base.

I think we called him up too soon earlier in the season because he wasn't ready. But his deadline for his rehab assignment of 21 days, whatever it was, that was up. So had to send him back. Sometimes you got to go backwards to go forwards. So hopefully he can do something.

Q. I wanted to ask you about Joe Espada. How much has he helped you the last few years and what do you think of his I guess credentials to be a future big league manager?

DUSTY BAKER: Well Joe's a very astute baseball man. Very good worker. He does his homework. He's prepared. I don't have a very long tree like Belichick has of guys that were coaches underneath him. So he's been under Ozzie Guillén. He was under A.J. He worked with me. So he's had some, me excluded, but he's had some very good teachers to learn from on what to do and sometimes what not to do.

So, yeah, I mean, whether he's ready or not, I mean they told me I wasn't ready when I first took the job. And then I won 103 games the first year. So was I ready or not ready?

So you don't know if you're ready until you get there. But whatever happens, I mean you got to have your first at some point in time.

Q. Trey's been struggling a little bit. I talked with him about changing some of his mechanics recently. What's your evaluation of where he's at right now and what he can contribute?

DUSTY BAKER: Well I've talked to him too. We've all talked to him. Sometimes he's a bit of a worrier, which doesn't help. You have to, like Ted Williams said: Above all you have to be natural. Sometimes you get away and lose what natural is.

So we certainly need him. I'm not exactly sure, I'm trying to play him in a situation where he'll help us. So we're all pulling for him, I mean big time.

I mean look at Yuli. He was struggling too. A lot of people wanted to sit down Yuli. But Yuli, I believe in Yuli. I believe in my people. And then Yuli had a great day yesterday, which went under the radar and nobody even paid attention to it. So hopefully we can get him going too.

Q. Curious about Hensley and what you saw from him in spring training and how he's earned the spot on this roster for this series.

DUSTY BAKER: Well, I mean one of the best things that happened to me was the lockout. Because I got to spend time with the minor leaguers that over the past couple years I didn't get to see them at all. I'd just read about them, see the stats. But that's not enough for me. You see a guy's work habits, you see his attitude, you see his concentration level. You see if he's serious about his job or if he's good-time Charlie and messing around. There's a lot of things you can learn by just watching.

And I liked his swing. A few things that I tried to help correct, I thought. He's a tough out. That's quite a compliment. Especially for a young player. Especially in the era where strikeouts are accepted. To be a tough out is, you're making the pitcher work and you got a better chance of doing something.

So he's probably one of the last spots on this team that was talked about a lot. I don't know. I just, I like the kid's attitude, his demeanor and his fight and his drive.

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