Their pitching is very, very solid. Got a solid bullpen. Defense is excellent. What Dallas Kuechel did last night was outstanding, but he's been doing that all year long.
So it's going to be a fun series. Tough series, but a fun series.
Q. What about their propensity to hit the ball out of the park?
NED YOST: Well, they play in a different ballpark than we play in. We play in the biggest ballpark in baseball, and theirs is a more home run friendly ballpark. But our home run numbers have increased dramatically this year. So I think it will play fair for both, in both cities, both parks.
Q. Do you see some of the similarities you talked about in maybe the youthful exuberance and some of the celebrations and things like that? And also they are in a similar position that you were where they got past that wildcard obstacle and maybe are kind of playing with house money, per se.
NED YOST: We did it in a little more dramatic fashion than they did last night. But they played a very solid game.
They took advantage of mistakes and hit the ball out of the ballpark and then excellent pitching and defense to win that ball game.
But, yeah, there's a lot of similarities. They're both young clubs. They both play with a lot of passion, a lot of energy. It looks to me like their chemistry is outstanding. I think A.J. Hinch has done a great job with that team in molding them and allowing them to be who they are and letting them use their best assets -- their energy, their passion, their athleticism -- to be successful.
Q. Ned, your impressions of McHugh and what he presents for you guys.
NED YOST: Their starting rotation is tough. We saw McCullers earlier in the year and he was tough, got an outstanding breaking ball, good slider, good cutter.
They command the ball really, really well. All of their starters, Gregerson has been great in the pen. Harris has been great in the pen. Sipp has been really good from the left side. He's not just a situational lefty. He's a guy that gets righties and lefties out.
So again, they're a tough team. It's going to be a great series.
Q. Ned, is there one key to beating these guys? Or is it just a matter of you guys playing your own game?
NED YOST: No. You just have to execute. You get in these types of series, you have to execute. We've got a game plan. We've spent hours and hours going over their club. We know their strengths, their weaknesses. Now we just have to go out and execute.
You've got to really stay focused a lot like teams did with us last year. You've got to really control the running game and you've got to be able to use your slide step. Give Sal, who is one of the best throwing catchers in the league, an opportunity to throw runners out. You do it with slide steps varying your times.
They're very, very aggressive team on the bases.
Q. Ned, you had a few guys dinged up that last week of the season. What's your health like going into the series now?
NED YOST: It's good. Everybody feels good. Everybody's ready to go. Everybody's dinged up this time of the year. You can't go through -- after tonight there will be eight teams left. Everybody's got little dings and nicks. You just play through them. So we're in actually pretty good shape right now. Everybody feels much better. Lorenzo Cain feels must better. Morales feels good. Everybody feels rearing to go.
Q. Ned, can you discuss, just going back to the similarities, A.J. Hinch has done a real good job nurturing these young guys. You did the same thing for years where you gave guys opportunities. Can you discuss how you built your team and gave them the confidence and the experience to succeed last year in key situations?
NED YOST: Well, again, I think a lot of it had to do with patience. If you're patient with them, they'll find a way to get through any adversity that they face because they've got talent.
You look at that group over there, they're a very talented group. Some of them are young, but they're extremely talented. For me, just letting them be who they are, because there's a definite generation gap between 22-, 23-, 25-year-olds and 60-year-old guy like myself.
So you've got to kind of understand what the times are, what makes them tick and what makes them most comfortable so that they can be their most successful.
I think A.J.'s done a great job of that. I got a chance to get to know A.J. during the All-Star Game, when he came from Houston to help us out, him and Lloyd McClendon. I came away really, really impressed with A.J. We talked about some of the differences that we both had, I think, in our first jobs and how it made us better in our second jobs.
So I think he's done a great job of letting those guys be who they are, letting them play to their strengths and not trying to temper the enthusiasm, not trying to temper their energies and letting them go out and play like their hair's on fire.
And they do. I mean, they run the bases like their hair's on fire. They play defense the same way. That's fun to watch. That's exciting type baseball.
Q. Ned, what's the difference this year, managing a club that has significantly higher expectations?
NED YOST: There's no difference. We're out to play the game. From day one our expectations were elevated greatly this year than any other year that I've been here. So we've been dealing with those expectations from the first day of Spring Training.
I think we set goals as a group where we wanted to win the division. We wanted to have home-field advantage, which meant we were the best team in the American League, and kind of personally I wanted to make sure that we secured home-field advantage for whatever American League team played in the World Series.
They went out and they accomplished every one of those goals. So there's nothing that they haven't set their mind to that they haven't accomplished this year.
So I think that we're all very comfortable with the expectations. We've set lofty goals for ourselves, and we're going to go out and try to achieve them.
Q. Ned, could you talk about Carlos Correa and the job he's done at the age of -- he just turned 21.
NED YOST: You know, he's legit. You watch him play, and we had a chance to watch him play a couple of games, and he's going to be a superstar.
He kind of reminds me a little bit of when Manny Machado came up, you hear so much about him. You go in and watch him play and you say kind of secretly to yourself, okay, let's see if this guy's as good as everybody's talking about.
Then like Manny, you walk away saying, boy, he is.
So he's going to be not only is he a superb player, he's going to be a really, really good player for years and years to come.
Q. Ned, kind of a two-part question. How special is it to be the only team that returned to the playoffs this year from the teams that were in it last year? And your guys are having to answer a whole different group of questions now, and they're handling it so beautifully. I mean, how special is that to see their maturity, their confidence?
NED YOST: It's fun to watch them grow and mature and be successful. I think if you talk to any of my coaches, that's what they live for. None of my coaches are in this to make a name for themselves. They're in there to teach and to watch players and help develop players and help them get better.
You're always proud when you see your guys do that. In terms of coming back to the playoffs again, it's special, but it's what we expected from day one of Spring Training. So we're not like jumping up and down for joy, because our ultimate goal is to win the World Series.
So we've achieved every little minor goal, if you will, up to this point. We've got to keep fighting. The big one's still ahead.
Q. Ned, we've talked to several people in the last few days about the Astros. How surprised are you that they're where they're at right now, considering where they've been in previous years?
NED YOST: I'm not surprised a bit. You watch that team play all year long, and I was kind of laughing at myself a little bit, because we went in there -- or this morning, driving in, when we went in there, we played two exhibition games with them to start the season. We went in there and won both games.
Talking to some of their guys, I thought boy, we thought we had a really good team coming out of Spring Training, and I was looking at them thinking you guys do have a good team. We played Spring Training baseball, and then we went back in there and they whipped us three straight in Houston. It was a dogfight when they came back here, and we won two out of three.
It's not a surprise at all. You could tell from the very onset that this team was going to be in it for the long haul this year and were going to probably get to this point.
Q. Ned, you talked about the similarities of the two ballclubs. Also, a contrast in styles. They love the longball. If they don't get it, they have a hard time winning at times. Can you talk about the contrast, the way you guys play?
NED YOST: For me, you love the longball when you're playing in Houston because it's easier to hit. You can hit fly balls in Houston that are home runs that won't make the warning track here.
So if we played in Houston, we'd love the longball too. This is a bit of a different -- this is a different animal here playing in this park. I mean, you can hit homers here, and they have power. They don't have cheap power. I'm not saying that. They've got power that can drive the ball out of the ballpark at this ballpark.
Us, it's harder to hit home runs here. We love the longball, too, don't get me wrong. But we play more of a gap-to-gap style, aggressive base running style, solid defense and great bullpen style here because it fits us in our ballpark.
That's the way Dayton Moore tailored this team, to play in this park. And they've done a great job of tailoring their team with the additions of Gattis and Correa coming up and Altuve who can hit the ball out of the ballpark, to tailoring their team to their ballpark.
So it's going to be fun because you're playing the two opposite scales in terms of ballparks in this series. So that, in itself, is going to be very interesting for me, I think.
Q. The Yankees generally thought if they could keep the ball in the park, if they could not give up the Astros home runs, they could be in that game.
NED YOST: Well, they would have been. I mean, you know --
Q. Similar feeling?
NED YOST: No, we don't worry about it. We just go out and pitch. We don't go out there and saying we're not going to let them hit home runs or we can't let them hit home runs. We try to execute pitches.
Again, at this point in the season, execution is going to be important. You execute, you're going to win. You don't, you're not. You look at that game last night and Rasmus got a pitch, I mean, down and in, boom. He didn't miss it.
Gomez got a pitch, breaking ball up in the zone, boom, he didn't miss it. You go back and look. They did have opportunities, and there weren't many, but they had opportunities with pitches they could have hit out of the ballpark and they hit little fly balls.
They missed their opportunity to do the same thing Houston did. Again, it's about executing defensively. It's about executing your pitches. And as an offensive group, if you get a pitch to hit, try not to miss it.
Q. You talked earlier about the way your team has matured. Can you talk about how, in these series, every pitch is important. Every -- and how they've bought into that whole program.
NED YOST: I think, again, you have to experience the playoffs to understand what it's really like. Because it's not like anything that you go through during the regular season. It's just not.
The regular season is a marathon. It's a grind. You work hard to get to this point. But once you get to this point, everything is a bit of do or die. Every pitch is important. You can't take a pitch off. Your focus has got to be razor sharp because you know everybody in the world's watching.
Like I said, it's going to be down to eight teams after tonight. The entire baseball world and sports world is watching every pitch. Victory or defeat can hinge on one pitch. So you've got to be ready to go.
Q. Regarding that pressure and sprint type of attitude, is there more pressure on the home team in a short series like this in the fact that you almost feel like you have to win the home game, or the opportunity's left, gone away?
NED YOST: Pressure's what you make out of it, all right? It's kind of like -- pressure's kind of like your little friend you had, your imaginary friend you had when you were four years old, right? If you think it's there, it's there. If you don't, you don't. That kind of the way we go about it.
Q. You had an imaginary friend?
NED YOST: I don't. I don't feel any pressure at all. I love playing here at this ballpark because of our fans, and it's exciting to go to an opposing park because of their fans.
So the whole thing, just go out and have fun, do your best. That's what it's about.