ALDS GAME 5: ASTROS 6, RAYS 1: “Big moments, big atmosphere today and big time performances by big time players.” — AJ HINCH

October 10, 2019

AJ Hinch

Houston, Texas – postgame 5

Houston – 6, Tampa Bay – 1

Q. After Game 4 you were saying we’re going home. We have Gerrit Cole. And tonight that first inning for you guys to have that outbreak and the crowd’s into it and even the 8th with the two home runs. I know you have to play the baseball game, but the impact just being in the stadium has on your team?
AJ HINCH: This is an incredible team. And we have a really good way about responding to the big moments. And I love that about this team. I told them in there, the moment’s never too big. This was a really tough series. This is a really good team.

Tampa, I want to congratulations them for a great season, Kevin Cash, the group. This was a grinder of a series, obviously, and we get to Game 5, and we get to have it at our home-field, and we get to have Gerrit Cole. A lot of that is lined up well for us, and we respond with a really good game. Big moments, big atmosphere today and big time performances by big time players.

Q. Was there some conversation after Cole came — after the eighth inning with you and him and consideration about sending him back out there?
AJ HINCH: No, he was done. He was done. I couldn’t get far enough on the field to shake his hand to make sure that everybody knew he wasn’t going to go back out. When I got to the top step he was done. He probably wanted to pitch again, don’t get me wrong, he always does. But he was done.

Q. The old adage is momentum is as good as your starting pitcher. You had to have confidence with that. But the bottom of the first inning makes your starting pitcher that much better. Take us through that one inning?
AJ HINCH: The top of the first is still a critical time, especially the way — the first inning went in Tampa where they got the big three runs on JV the other day. And we were able to get through the top of the first. Gerrit comes out doing what Gerrit does.

And then we come in the bottom — one of the biggest at-bats that nobody will talk about is George Springer leading off the bottom of the first with a bullet single. And that kick started us off with good at-bat after good at-bat.

We really came out pretty determined to just pass the baton to the next guy and you saw that happen. For as potent offense we have with the home run, and Mike’s home run at the end of the game was huge just to continue to tack on runs and give us a more comfortable lead.

What I loved about the — the opposite field approach, the base hits, they hit the ball hard. Yordan battling for contact to move Bregman up, Yuli with the ground ball base hit through the hole. There was just so many good at-bats, that we put them on their heels from the very beginning. We knew once we put pressure on Glasnow, they were going to have to do this 9, 10 pitcher thing again. They’re really good at it. But making them do that before they wanted to us key in this game and that meant that we had to take the lead.

Q. Congratulations. Before the game and yesterday you and several of the players repeated it over and over again, we’ll be okay, Cole is pitching. Coming into a Game 5, it’s stressful, fun but stressful, what is it about him that keeps everybody so calm headed into a situation like this?
AJ HINCH: Well, I think first off this is a really good team. We haven’t forgotten what’s got us here. And the series was five games. It wasn’t over after the first two. It wasn’t over after the first four. And our guys know that. We’ve been there. This is not new to us.

But when you have Gerrit Colon the mound, we win. We have. We’ve kind of proven that. And when he’s as dominant as he’s been, as prepared as we know he is, it’s just an exciting time for our team. We know that even though we had a lot that we had to deal with with Glasnow and the rest of their bullpen, we’ve got Gerrit Cole. And that in itself coming to the ballpark gives us great vibes that we’re going to have an opportunity to win. We know he’s going to come out hot. We know he’s going to get his strikeouts. We know he’s going to set a tone, he’s intense. There’s no mistaking him in what his priority is, which is to get deep in the game and give us a chance to in win. And he’s done that as much as anybody in baseball.

Q. Now that this series is over, can you take us through what it’s like playing against a team that uses so many pitchers like that?
AJ HINCH: Yeah, it’s tough. It’s not just so many pitchers. It’s not about the number of pitchers, it’s about the quality of their pitchers and how they match them up and how Kevin never concedes an at-bat. It’s hard to get through that many quality pitchers. It’s not about the number. Anybody can throw 13 pitchers at you or ten pitchers at you, whatever they want, but they’re bringing real stuff on to the field.

And I think they made it a goal of theirs and a plan of theirs and I think when they game planned against us they were not going to give too many multiple at-bats to too many pitcher/hitter combos and they did it. We know that’s going to happen but when you experience it it’s just really hard to get anything to hit against an elite pitching staff. This is top to bottom probably the best pitching staff that we faced all year. And that’s not disrespecting anybody else in the league, that’s just how good they are and how they match their guys up in their favor. And in a short series it’s scary as hell because they can get matchups and you have to beat their strength. And fortunately we were able to do that.

Their bullpen never really cracked until maybe the end of the series when we got a couple of base hits. I much prefer old school baseball where we get a couple of looks at these guys.

Q. I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but Gerrit only had ten strikeouts. But I feel like maybe that helps him keep the pitch count down, stay efficient. When he got the double play in the 7th, is that when you felt like maybe you could feel good about this game?
AJ HINCH: I felt good about the game at the beginning. But I also know, I watch baseball, and if you watch these games that didn’t finish until the very end, I wasn’t feeling very good until Osuna got the last out. It’s hard to win, and it’s hard to win games where you know the other side is going to do anything possible.

If you take a step back and look at what they were willing to do to change things. Like Blake Snell coming out of the bullpen twice. They had guys up every inning. We were spending just as much time looking on the TV monitor to see who was warming up and what they possibly were going to do than even watching what was going on in the field. That preparation is exhausting.

With Gerrit, the ten punch-outs, I saw a little bit of a different approach by them, they insert Sogard, he got the homer, contact-driven guy. That in itself changed the look of their lineup. But I saw some guys cut their swings down, get a little bit swing happy early in the count to put the ball in play and try to get some singles. They weren’t trying to ambush them for homers, despite the Sogard one.

I think the middle part of the game where we were able to get an 8-pitch inning, a 10-pitch inning, a 12-pitch inning, allowed for him to finish strong. I think if I’d have left him in for 130 pitches, his 130th pitch would have been 99 paint on the black. That’s Gerrit Cole.

Q. Quick turnaround. To a lot of people on the outside it felt Yankees-Astros has felt inevitable. What’s the challenge and does it feel that way to you, like this is where this season was going to go?
AJ HINCH: Well, I feel like it’s something that everybody has looked at as possible. And certainly we’ve been the two best teams in the American League. They’re really good. And they’re playing really well. I think the way they match up their bullpen has not been too dissimilar to Tampa, maybe not as aggressive as they are. But they’ve gotten healthy. And so have we.

We haven’t really played a series where both teams are completely healthy and completely armed. So we’re about to buckle up and get to a seven-game series to see who represents the American League in the World Series. That’s a good feeling. It’s an even better feeling that it comes to our house and we have home-field.

Q. Of course you talked about Gerrit and what you knew you would get from him. Can you talk about the offense and what you expected from the offense tonight?
AJ HINCH: We wanted to have a more synced up approach at having a good at-bat after good at-bat. I think everybody wants to be the hero from time to time and we have anybody in our lineup can have an incredible game and wind up being the key part of the game.

But when we’re at our best we’re really having good at-bat after good at-bat. I think we saw that especially in the first inning. And then I think you saw it sync back up a little bit in the latter innings with Mike’s big homer.

We put pressure on them today from the very first hitter. When we do that we’re tough to get through multiple times through the order. Now, we never got to face the same guy twice in the same game. We got to face them just about every game.

But I think that approach for us is when we’re at our best and I expected our offense to be able to respond to the chaos that’s created when you do this, the opener or the one time through the order or the one batter at a time. Kevin was wearing out that path between the dugout and the mound trying to match up as best he could. And our guys stayed patient throughout the series, didn’t grow frustrated, didn’t complain, didn’t concede, just outscored them at the right time.

Q. The Yankees are rested but on the flip side they have to come to your place. Can you speak to the home-field advantage?
AJ HINCH: It feels important, even more important today. Everybody talks about Game 6 and 7 at the end of the series. I like the fact that the series is opening up here, one, because we need a partial day off. I’m exhausted after this series against Tampa. We’ve got high emotions today. We played an incredibly intense game.

When Tampa got here, that was one of the things that was sold to me that they were going to be ready to play because they were hungry, they had to play that last game, maybe that’s to our advantage. But I think the Yankees have been watching the series the last couple of games. They’ll come well prepared. Like I said, they’re healthy, and it’s a quick turnaround.

But sometimes I think there’s too much gaps in these games. I want to play as many games as fast as we can. When there’s any dead time during the playoffs, you get anxious. I’ll play them tomorrow if they want to play.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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