A.J. HINCH: I'm not sure. We'll see how the game goes. We'll go out, either one of us, whenever we think that it's necessary. I don't necessarily go in expecting the emotion to be a little bit too high. I know it's going to be -- he's going to be up there. But he's matured as the year's gone on, and I like the intensity. I enjoy the bravado and the intensity that he brings every day.
I would like him to be efficient today. That would be a big key for him. It's getting in the strike zone early and making the Royals have to adjust to his stuff will be key. But we'll see how the game goes. It's not as if I'm on the top step at the beginning of the game worrying about Lance McCullers. I mean we trust this guy in a big game to thrive and live in the moment, because he's a lot about what we do. He's young, he's energetic, he's got a lot of bravado and he's got the stuff to back it up.
Q. Ned Yost told us that he didn't sleep hardly at all last night. I wondered how you slept?
A.J. HINCH: Have any of us slept in this chair in like the last month? I mean, that's the -- I slept fine. I tried. When I say slept fine, I meant for a few hours. But that's this time of year. On either side of this series, if we were up -- we're up 2-1 versus down 2-1, these are anxious moments for managers, for me, I'm sure for Ned.
With more excitement than anything. You work with these guys and talk to these guys and we're around this club for the better part of seven months, eight months, you just want to see these guys relish in these opportunities and flourish when the game matters the most.
So, in a leadership position, you show a good face, you definitely are excited in the moment, but there's a few ceilings that I've stared at over the last month or so trying to find the answers.
Q. You mentioned yesterday that the starters they have thrown against you have for the most part been pretty similar. Do you think that it's an advantage at all when you're throwing guys that are very different from one another?
A.J. HINCH: I don't know, maybe. I think it's always nice to give different looks. Obviously, each pitcher presents their own challenge. Only one of their three pitchers has the little funky delivery wiggle that Cueto brings, or Volquez yesterday I thought had a really good fastball. Ventura, we only had a brief look at him in Game 1.
So stylistically I guess it's nice to have a few different options. McHugh is different from Keuchel, different from Kazmir, and now we bring McCullers. But it also -- when you go into their bullpen, you see 97 and above, doesn't make you feel any better just because all of them throw 97. You've got to make pitches and adjust to their pitches.
So, I think at the end of the day that the quality of the pitcher matters more than the different styles. But if it helps us win, then I like it.
Q. You guys have been on the road for a pretty lengthy stretch before yesterday. A, how do you think you guys handled the environment of yesterday's game? And, B, does it set a tone at all for what happens this afternoon?
A.J. HINCH: Well, I liked yesterday a lot better with all the fans behind us. We hadn't played a home game in a while. I thought that was very notable to have that type of atmosphere on our side. There was a ton of excitement in our clubhouse about building an anticipation on what yesterday was going to be like.
And the fans delivered. And then the players delivered. So it was nice to see everybody outside of the traveling Royals contingency feel good at the end of the day. And I think that can build a little bit of momentum into today. Obviously, it's a quick turnaround, this 12 o'clock game. The fans will be into it, the players are into it. We know what's ahead of us. We also know that the team across the way is not going to concede the series after one loss here yesterday.
So, I hope we can use any of that to our favor and channel all that energy and emotion into a very productive win today.
Q. You mentioned you only got a quick look at him, but you did -- your guys did do a good job against Ventura. What do you feel like they did, and if you could look back to McCullers' start against the Royals where he was very good?
A.J. HINCH: The start the other day in Kansas City where we got to Ventura in the first I thought was big. We put up five quality at-bats early in the game, with leadoff double by Altuve, and then Correa gets -- George gets a walk, Correa gets a base hit, Rasmus near base hit but gets the run in.
So we just went methodically through the top half of our order with really quality at-bats at the beginning of the game. And that's important to do. And on the flip side, it's important to limit that on our side.
So, I think with Ventura, he's going to pitch with a lot of emotion. He knows the season's on the line. He's a very high-energy type of pitcher. He's going to come out throwing probably absolute gas when it comes to velocity.
We're going to have to control that and swing in the strike zone for us to be effective against him. He was good against us in Kansas City and in July, obviously short look at him where we got a couple runs off of him the other day.
With McCullers, it's mostly about him and not about the team he's facing. When he's in the strike zone early and he's dictating things, he's a different pitcher. When he's landing his breaking ball, he's very, very tough. When you see that little skip on the mound, when he's got a lot of confidence and his tempo is really good, he's a difficult pitcher.
So he loves the big moments and obviously has strikeout ability. He's got 97 in his back pocket whenever he wants it, and he believes. He used that early in the season against Kansas City in a big game. When they rolled into here and we beat them three out of three, that was a big deal for our team at that point of the season. That was a nice step forward for us to believe even further that we were legitimate contenders in this deal. So, I'm hoping for much of the same.
Q. What kind of conversations have you had today with Gomez, if any?
A.J. HINCH: I posted the lineup before I talked to him, so I had a lot of belief that he was going to play. And I saw him in the clubhouse afterwards and he just had a big smile and said he was ready to go. I don't think -- he told me he doesn't feel any better, he doesn't feel any worse. It's much of the same for him.
So, maybe I'll have to figure out the right time to question when to bring him in or out. Maybe try to figure out how to maximize what we get out of him. But this guy's going to show up. He's going to play. He's not going to look particularly wonderful all the time. He's going to look uncomfortable, and he's going to come through in a big moment again.
Q. Any surprise that you're in this position with Altuve and Correa not hitting their best, kind of like Gattis, they're a combined 8-for-35?
A.J. HINCH: I'm not surprised because we have a good team. I think what's maybe been a little understated about our team is the length of production that we can get. We don't always get it. I think the bottom of our order is very potent, very dangerous. I got guys with 20-plus homers who are hitting in the seven hole and below. I got guys on the bench that arguably could be playing a little bit more when you talk about Marisnick and Tucker and Lowrie.
So I think our team as a whole has a complete offense in there if we can find a way to get that out of them. So I'm not surprised that we don't have to rely on one or two or three guys. We're our best team no doubt when the top of our order is doing their thing. We're pretty dynamic, but we can win games with the balance of our roster too.
Q. Why is Rasmus such a good fit for you in the four hole?
A.J. HINCH: Because he's killing the ball right now. I mean, this guy is as hot as any player in the Postseason. He's getting good pitches to hit, he's taking his walks, he's doing everything a middle-of-the-order bat should.
Now, to answer your question, the left-handed presence in the middle of the order is a big deal for us. We're very right-handed at the top. Having him in the middle after Altuve and Springer and Correa before Gattis and Gomez, that left-handed bat's important. And I like having that in the middle. I like it even more when he's taking the type of swings that he's taking and really impressed with his walks yesterday. I know one of them was intentional, but he's locked in. And when you're locked in, that puts you in the middle of the order.