A.J. HINCH: Well, one, the success will start to convince you when you're around it every day, the way we are.
I wasn't here last year for his breakthrough year. But I was told about it. The way he -- he had some finish pitches that are really tough to hit. Both breaking ball, cutter. He threw some finish fastballs tonight.
That wasn't even his best tonight, and he got through a pretty good lineup and battled. That was a little tougher. He didn't have as many strikeouts as he normally has. Man, he gutted it out with some really good breaking balls and some really good cut fastballs. Even the ball that he gave up to Morales, the first homer, was a really good cutter up and in and Morales kept it fair and got on the barrel.
He never really throws the same pitch twice in a row. He never really ends up in the middle of the plate. He can back door things. He can cut in on guys when they've got some lefties in there.
His big breaking ball looks like it's tough to pick up. He's able to carry a fastball. He has a lot of weapons to pitch to some weaknesses in the hitters. And he's put together a string of starts that will convince you that you don't sneak up on 19 wins. That's a lot of wins.
Q. I know they've been doing it all year, but how much did the one, two, three in your lineup allow the rest of the guys to exhale?
A.J. HINCH: There's no doubt the first inning set the tone and gave our team a little bit of an exhale. You come into an environment like this, you've got the defending American League champions. It's a packed house of a lot of blue out there, and it's not our color blue.
There were some Astros fans, but it was very dominant Royals fans. To put up five quality at-bats in the first inning and get two runs, that's sort of announcing your presence there. I loved how our team came out and did that. We were a foot away from maybe having even a bigger inning with Rasmus's ground balls. Zobrist made a good play.
So we came out loose. We came out firing. Altuve set the tone. I thought Springer's at-bat was exceptional. Correa doesn't try to get too big, takes the base hit to right and off we go. We have a tough one, two, three to start the game. As do a lot of teams.
But they really set the tone tonight.
Q. What was your reaction, the team's reaction to Yordano not returning. Any surprise? Was that what you were expecting after that rain delay?
A.J. HINCH: Not really. We didn't really love seeing Young. You saw our bats against young. We certainly didn't like it. But Ventura's tough. They're definitely different stylistically. But he's going to manage his own team and his own bullpen and things like that. It took us a few innings to even make contact off of Young. So we were -- we didn't really adjust too well to him until Springer's homer.
But we just needed to know who we were going to face and try to get the information to the guys.
Q. You mentioned -- you touched a little bit on Morales' at-bat. That was the one success that they did have off of McHugh. The history didn't say that there was anything that Morales had on him. Did you see anything in particular?
A.J. HINCH: He was swinging hard and he got two pitches that he handled. The second homer was a change-up out over the plate that he hooked. He's good hitter. 106 RBIs or whatever he has, the 2046-plus homers. He does damage to the pull side left-handed.
I didn't want him to see him again. The next time he came up, he had nobody on base. I had the bullpen hot, but he was just a tough matchup for him. I thought Morales put together three of the best at-bats against McHugh of anybody in their order. But he was able to get a line out to right his last at-bat. More quality at-bats than necessarily anything Collin was doing.
Q. I know it's a small sample size, as they say, but Springer hits very well here. Is there any explanation for that or when a player just has a good time?
A.J. HINCH: Sometimes guys see the ball better in one park over another. They don't pitch Springer any differently than a lot of teams do. Everyone's well aware, has all the information. But he sees the ball very well. Obviously, this time of year, big-time players come through and find a way to contribute. So he's obviously announcing his presence on this center stage. He likes playing here.
Q. A.J., you come into the Postseason, Keuchel pitches on short rest for the first time ever in his game. McHugh, more of a spotlight than he's probably ever had in his life. Talk about what that means now that you have Kazmir going tomorrow?
A.J. HINCH: Our team, this is a first for a lot of our team. We've never denied that. We haven't pretended like we've been there before. We haven't tried to govern any of the excitement or exuberance that goes on when you're on the stage for the first time.
We've embraced it. I think our players enjoy the moment. They're enjoying bringing their best to the ballpark every day. We're going to have to deal with a lot of firsts if we're going to get to where we want to get. To watch our guys do it with some calm and some ease, but yet keep their competitive edge and not let the moments get too big, I'm very proud of.
Whether it's -- think of a start like this for McHugh where he's got to wait for an hour in a rain delay. That shows a lot of guts and a lot of preparation and a lot of professionalism to be able to keep his mind right in that delay.
And so when you see some of our hitters, we're playing center stage and they continue to put up quality at-bats. We're not a perfect team. We've made some mistakes, but we know at the end of the night that we bring our best, we have a chance to win. That mentality has ruled the day.
Q. A.J., can you discuss the moves you've made? Bringing Gomez, he homers. You bring in Marisnick today. He hits a clutch. He makes a diving catch. It seems like almost everything you -- every move you're making is working out?
A.J. HINCH: Makes you look smart. Makes you feel smart. You can be humbled in a heartbeat. I've made a few mistakes along the way. The players have responded. My job is to put them in a position to succeed, but Perez has to make the pitch to Hosmer or Marisnick has to face a guy throwing 97 miles an hour. He's got to read the ball off the bat and make the diving catch. Valbuena playing defense.
This is about our team. We some good players, and the industry is starting to find that out a little bit as we play more important games and more and deeper into the playoffs.
But I'm just so proud of these guys, the way that they're focused, the way they're playing for each other and then ultimately the way they're contributing. They're all contributing in different ways to find the way to end the night with a win.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks very much, A.J.