THE MODERATOR: Questions for A.J.
Q. What's up with Carlos Gomez?
A.J. HINCH: He's doing great. In great spirits today. He's continuing to battle his stuff. He doesn't feel great. He's willing to do anything. I've got the dilemma of I've got Jake Marisnick coming off a great game. He's a really good center fielder at 100 percent versus taking the risk with Gomez at less than 100 percent.
So I made the decision, met with Gomey and just told him I'd like to stay with the hot hand with Marisnick.
So he's completely on board, understands where I'm coming from, and he's willing to do anything that will help us win.
Q. A.J., a minute ago, Ned Yost said they executed last night, we didn't. That's it. Is that it? It's that simple?
A.J. HINCH: I think any time you get in these games, execution matters. I mean, obviously, we hit the ball out of the ballpark. They did too. I think our first inning execution, being able to get a run or two without a homer was nice. So I think he's probably talking a little bit about making some pitches on Hosmer when Perez came in, the Tony Sipp inning. He executed really well. Will Harris got his couple outs. Gregerson came on outside the ball to Moustakas's foot. Executed pretty flawlessly.
I think the winning team feels like we executed a little better than the team that didn't win. But we played a pretty good game last night. We played pretty good defense, a couple plays that, you know, that really could have shifted the innings and shifted the game a little bit that our guys came through with.
Q. A.J., how's Gomez managing the pain? Is there a thought that three days off here gets him ready for Game 3?
A.J. HINCH: Yeah. So he's continuing to get treatment every day. I don't know exactly everything he's doing outside of he's showing up as early as anybody and getting his rounds of treatment in.
We usually send him in mid-game to get heated up and begin to go because we do want to use him. Yesterday, the pinch running was a perfect time for him. I thought he had the base stolen on the foul ball. It's yet another stadium in which the crowd had a roar after which he does something on the field. They didn't like his slide.
But he's always ready to do things and be well. I think it's hard to keep him out of the lineup continually, but in some ways, if we can avoid setbacks in these days and you feel like you're stealing days a little bit away from bad outcomes, then that makes him even more available for later.
I haven't thought about Game 3 quite yet. I know the environment in Houston is going to be awesome, and that usually brings in a lot of adrenaline and a lot of pain goes away in players' bodies. So we'll see how it shakes out.
I'm not against using him in Game 2 here in some capacity. He could pinch-hit against any of their relievers. He could go in for defense if I need to do something. He could pinch run again like he did last night.
So we'll see how today goes before I get into the future.
Q. Sticking with the theme so far --
A.J. HINCH: Gomey?
Q. Yeah. Obviously, you played him in the Wild Card game. If you guys are down 0-1, or if this is a must-win game, does your thinking change? Do you play him in that situation?
A.J. HINCH: If you're around me enough, you know I don't really deal with hypotheticals. This is what I did. I don't have to worry about what ifs on the down one game, because we're up one.
I can tell you I'd use him today and he's available and would gut through anything for this team. We'll see how the day plays out.
To defend Jake Marisnick, we've won a lot of games with this guy. He's a good center fielder. He carried us quite a bit through the first third of the season. He's made highlight reel catches time and time and time again. So he's almost got double-digit homers. He steals a lot of bases.
So I don't think I'm taking a step down from production so much. I know that Gomey is a more accomplished player. He's a more -- a player maybe more people know his personality. But I'm very, very comfortable with Jake Marisnick.
Q. Will you have McCullers or Fiers available in relief?
A.J. HINCH: Yeah, so Fiers will go to the bullpen with the rest of the relievers and will act as a reliever today. McCullers will start a Game 4, if necessary.
Q. A.J., what have you seen from Castro at the plate? How much do you think his leg is affecting him there and how important is he on the other side of things since he's come back?
A.J. HINCH: Castro has had a rough go of it offensively. He hasn't carried it behind the plate. I've been proud of how he's handled our staff, how he's handled the games, the game planning. He controls the running game. He's blocked really well.
I know he doesn't feel great. He hasn't really gotten hot after coming back with the bat. He swung the bat pretty well at the beginning of September until he got hurt. And then things have been a little bit rough for him.
So I don't know how much of that is health and how much of that is just a complete commitment to the defensive side of things.
He's working hard. He's getting his swings in. Things have obviously been a little bit rough for him lately. But the impact that he can have on the pitching staff, on the game plan, on the other intangible parts of the catching position is very, very important to what we're doing.
Q. A.J., this Club Astros thing that you guys do, did George and the guys kind of keep you in the loop as they were putting all this together? Have you ever been around a team that celebrates a victory in this elaborate fashion?
A.J. HINCH: So they kept me in the loop to the point of every time they upgraded their version, we got the hand-me-down in my office or in the coach's room. The strobe lights, a few of the fog machines have made their way through the back of Minute Maid. But they've been great about it.
I've encouraged them to enjoy every win. Winning in the Big Leagues is really hard. On a nightly basis, we're reminded of that. So as we got into the season, they kept me in the loop on some of their plans. Things maybe moved a little bit faster than I expected in terms of how grand some of the celebrations would get.
But why not celebrate when you work so hard that we do to win a game. One thing I liked about our team is they turned it off pretty quickly and got to the next day. So there was a small window -- the fog stayed around for a while for all the reporters to come in and enjoy. But the mentality switched over to the next day's game pretty quickly.
So there's a small little song, a little bit of banter, a little bit of smoke, a little bit of strobe lights, and then we get on to the next day.
So we're having a good time with it. It doesn't travel as much as it used to. We feel like that, plus the orange uniforms, have really shifted our luck on the road.
But the guys are pretty good about it.
Q. A.J., what kind of leash with Kazmir today, with his recent struggles?
A.J. HINCH: So this time of year, I think starters in general are on a little bit of a shorter leash. There's always a greater urge to go to the bullpen when things go astray.
We've seen that in all these games. I watched these other playoff games, too, and there seems to be a little bit more activity in the bullpen earlier than normal. We saw in New York. We saw it a little bit yesterday on some of the other games I've watched.
But I trust Kaz to get into trouble and get out of trouble. He's still Scott Kazmir. He comes with a great resume and some really good stuff when he's on.
He's made a couple of bad pitches in the course of September that have really burned him, some three-run homers that have hurt him to some left-handed hitters. So I'll be watching closely how he pitches against these left-handed hitters in this game. They match up. They're the same lineup, righties versus lefties. Their lefties hang in there. He's pitched seven-plus innings in all three of his starts against the Royals this year.
So there's great comfort with that. But like any playoff game, I know I pulled Keuchel maybe a little bit earlier pitch count-wise than people are used to. Collin came out a touch earlier. I think the intensity of playoff baseball tends to -- lends itself towards a little bit of shorter leash. On top of that some struggles, you just don't want to get caught with a guy struggling too much.
I still believe this guy is going to come out and throw very well on the biggest stage in the biggest game of the year for him. That's why we're starting him.
Q. This may be cliche-ish, but to come in here and get a win, you said turn the page, move on to the next game. Is there some carryover, momentum-wise, going into Game 2?
A.J. HINCH: There's confidence that carries over. We won a game in a tough environment on the road against the best record in the American League. I think the confidence has carried over. I don't think Johnny Cueto cares. I think he's going to come out and give us his best. It only goes so far.
I don't think once Altuve steps in the box, we can really dwell on last night's good feeling after the game. So I like the confidence that we show up with. I think everyone knows you come in on the road, you get Game 1, you sort of steal home-field advantage back. We've got two games back at Minute Maid. That's great. But it won't feel like it if we don't win today.
Every game is magnified in these settings. So I'd like the momentum to carry -- the momentum carries all the way through your next win. It doesn't carry much further if you lose.
Q. When you go home, do you want the roof closed? Because that's what you played in most of the year because of the environment?
A.J. HINCH: How hot is it? Is it hot there?
Q. Not the weatherman.
A.J. HINCH: You're not the weatherman?
Q. Upper 80s, I think.
Q. It's going to be in the 90s.
A.J. HINCH: There's a nine involved? It's pretty hot in Texas. I've learned that in my first summer in Houston. I don't really have a dog in the fight, so to speak. I don't want it to be uncomfortable for our players, for our pitchers.
There's some 'tweener games where it's really hot. So it's more of a temperature thing. I think it's going to be loud any way. Our ballpark, fully enclosed, can get really loud, and that's without it being full all the time. When it's 40-, 50,000 people, it's bring your earplugs.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, A.J.