October 27, 2019
Washington, D.C. – pregame 5
Q. Just some thoughts about the Nationals having to make their switch and how it affects your team or doesn’t affect your team.
AJ HINCH: I think it just affects our preparation a little bit because we got a late notice that they scratched their starter. It’s happened before to us. So we’ve got to get to working on our game plan against Ross as opposed to what it was against Scherzer.
Obviously, I know there’s a lot of attention that comes with it. We know Max Scherzer, something must be going on with him if he’s going to miss this start. But it immediately goes into sort of game prep mode and get after it. We were prepared for Ross as a reliever. A little bit different when you go into a game as a team offense.
But I found out when you guys found out.
Q. I was going to ask you when you found out. But do you feel kind of a sense of relief, though, Max Scherzer one of the best pitchers in the game, and you’re not going to have to face him tonight?
AJ HINCH: I mean, it’s different. I don’t know “relief” is probably not the word I would use because we still need to go out and win a game. If we need any example of a young rookie stepping up and doing well in the World Series, we could rewind 24 hours and our guy did pretty good.
You can’t be overly confident. You can’t just assume that it’s going to be an easy game for you. It’s a different matchup. Different style.
Totally get the Max Scherzer shock of going from one of the top pitchers in baseball to a young kid, but we don’t — we’re not going to high five. We’re not going to have that moment where we feel like we have some sort of advantage. We need to go find a way to beat Joe Ross now.
Q. Gerrit’s start in Game 1 —
AJ HINCH: I found out from Alex Bregman, by the way, which is part of the story. I forget to answer the first part of your question. Go ahead.
Q. Bregman’s tapped into the Nats move?
AJ HINCH: He’s just closest to his phone whenever it started hitting the social media part. He came in and asked me if it was true. I did a little investigating, and turned out it was.
Q. I was just assuming you were watching MLB Network.
AJ HINCH: That’s right.
Q. Gerrit Cole in his Game 1 start had some trouble locating his breaking balls. Is there something he did between starts to rectify that?
AJ HINCH: Yeah, this has been a little bit more of a normal prep for him. I talked to him a little bit, and he probably wouldn’t want me to tell you this, there was just different prep for him. He was prepping for a potential Game 7, had an extra day. He’d kind of done his normal prep and then there wasn’t a Game 7. Thankfully we won in 6. Turned out he was going to be Game 1 of the World Series and he switched opponents.
He had an extra throwing session in there. I’m hoping that his normal prep, his normal routine, it’s the every five days that these guys are built and accustomed to, hopefully that gets him in a better spot to make his pitches from the very beginning of the game.
Now, he might not have been locating his off-speed pitches and he wasn’t at his best, but the Nationals did a really good job of attacking him in different ways. Zimmerman hits the fastball, Soto hit everything. They fought off some two-strike counts that teams just simply hadn’t done. Throughout the season he was getting a ton of punch-outs and getting through innings.
I think the Nats approach hurt Gerrit more than even his lack of execution. It was just the way they came out and hit all of his pitches at different points of the game that hurt him that night.
Q. Was there some frustration on your end as far as when you got the notice? Martinez said he tried to get a message to you at 4:00.
AJ HINCH: We knew it was delayed because we assumed it was Suzuki, because he had caught Max quite a bit. And any time you have an injury you kind of expect a later lineup. I have no problem with how they informed us.
Chip Hale and Joe Espada, the bench coaches, were both in contact the entire day, waiting for the lineup and the decision making. They were top end across the board. Exactly how you would expect them to let us know as soon as they knew.
I would imagine, and if I put myself in their shoes, I would wait until the very last minute until I absolutely knew that he couldn’t go. If they were deciding on Suzuki, as well, what his situation was. The Nats were great.
Q. In your years from player to executive to manager, can you think of too many cores of controllable players, elite players that compare to the core you guys have?
AJ HINCH: No, it’s one of the things that — you see some consistency in lineups over years of playoff teams. I think back to the Yankees in the late ’90s. I think back to the Braves back in the day of their double-digit years of dominance. But it’s nice nowadays to have that.
I tell our team after every year that every team is different. So you have to really enjoy the group that you’re with. Obviously you’re thinking one or two guys, maybe it’s a reliever, maybe it’s bench player, maybe it’s a backup catcher you change out, there’s change every year. But when you have this many players and you think, we could write this same lineup next year as a position player core. And we could have some top-end pitching, especially with McCullers coming back.
There’s a comfort. You can start to build that chemistry, that vibe, that culture that everybody talks about of familiarity, especially when you’re winning. When you’re winning, any team that I’ve seen put together three, five, seven, ten years of winning, you refer back to this core that everybody has, and right now we have it.
Q. Back during your playing career it was very notable how infrequently the team that had the best record in the regular season actually went on to win the World Series. That best team has now been in the World Series four times in a row, rarely happens. Why do you think this maybe has changed the playoffs?
AJ HINCH: I don’t know. That’s a good question. I can tell you one thing, winning is hard. Winning and getting through these series, just the opportunity of winning is really hard.
So as you can see in the different — you look at these series and I’ve been in a couple of them over the last few years, there’s always something that happens that surprises, right? In ’17 we faced a lot of elimination games. We always won these Game 7s. And those are really coin flips, you can go either way.
Last season we win Game 1 against the Red Sox in the ALCS. We have the lead in the fifth or sixth inning with Gerrit Cole on the mound in Game 2. We don’t win another game. And that was never expected.
So there’s so much randomness in the playoffs that it’s hard for me to pinpoint one era versus another era, other than you play 162 games for seeding only. And then once you get into the playoffs I’ve always felt like it’s kind of a start over with how you play.
I guess if you have the most surprised guys that step up and play, if you have your best players play at their best during these stretches then no matter what your record is at the end of the season you’re going to have a chance to win in the playoffs.
Q. What went into giving Alvarez the start today? And what have you seen from Brantley and Altuve? They seemed to be locked in right now.
AJ HINCH: To answer the first question on Alvarez, I targeted this day for two reasons: One, I’ve usually started Alvarez in the outfield when Gerrit Cole is pitching or when Wade Miley was pitching. One, because Gerrit would get so many strikeouts, there’s less balls in play and less opportunity for something crazy to happen in the outfield.
And with Wade it was more the ground balls and softer contact, certainly the first five months of the season.
Coming into this game I didn’t want to go three games without having his bat in the lineup for multiple at-bats. I knew I had to pinch-hit a bat a couple times, and I’ve used it the last two days.
Factor in Gerrit being on the mound and then when Max was going to start, he put up two really good at-bats against Scherzer in Game 1. So there was a dual reason for that.
So I’m completely comfortable with Alvarez in left field. I think he is limited in some ways in his range and in his experience, but he’s not a liability. He’s going to catch the balls he’s supposed to catch. He’s going to make the plays he’s supposed to make. If he can help us get the lead, I’ll probably get him out of there with either Jake or Redd or Tucker. I can steal a couple at-bats. If we put up the bats we put up yesterday, his third at-bat might happen in the middle of the game. That would be a great advantage to get two or three at-bats of his.
Second part of your question on Brantley and Altuve, is the quality of their bats, specifically in the World Series, has been second to none. I mean, just the covering different pitches, don’t try to do too much, and take what they give you. Watching Michael Brantley line virtually the same line drive like four or five times last night, he won two, he lost two. The consistency of their at-bats has just been remarkable.
Getting them on base, and certainly in tandem when they’re hitting next to each other, it’s really hard to get to our lineup. When Alex comes up with a big hit last night and you start piecing two and three and four hits together, right now Jose Altuve and Michael Brantley are going to be a part of it.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports