COLLIN MCHUGH: These guys are professionals. They have been nails all year. I think up until September we had the best team ERA in the Major Leagues. We had one of the best bullpens in the Major Leagues.
These guys have been around. They have seen it. They know what they're up against. And so one bad day is not going to make or break them. Not going to make or break their season. They don't need a hug. They don't need a pat on the butt. They're professionals, and I wouldn't take anybody else behind me.
Q. Considering the magnitude of this start, do you think you'll feel any extra anxiety or nervousness or anything? And, if so, how do you combat that?
COLLIN MCHUGH: Honestly, no. This is another game for us. I feel like the last month of the season has been every game has been progressively the biggest start of my career. I think that for all of us starters it's been the same thing. We have had a lot of must-wins coming down the stretch. We have already played an elimination game against one of the best teams in the American League, we beat 'em.
I think that for us we got to go in and play loose. We got to play our brand of baseball, play aggressive and just try and execute on every facet of the game. If we did that, we have shown that we can compete with anybody.
Q. A.J. talked about if you guys lose a series, lose a game, you're taking a flight. He likes to keep it fun and loose, it's not like a morgue on there. Was that flight here any different? When did you notice you guys clicked off, and what was the vibe like once you got outside of Minute Maid?
COLLIN MCHUGH: I think we have lost like 60-something games this year. So, that's not new to us. Losing is part of the game of baseball. Like I said before, it's a lot of professionals that we have. It's guys who have been there and done it before. And one game is -- one game was not going to hurt our morale.
The flight was fine. The flight was like a lot of flights we have had this year. We knew we had a job to do coming back here. None of us wanted to come back to the park, to this park, but we are here now and we know we have to get the job done.
Q. You're the outgoing, friendly guy. Do you think the competitor side of you, the fiery side of you might be a side that the public at least doesn't really realize is there or get to see as often as it does with somebody like Dallas or other pitchers?
COLLIN MCHUGH: I don't know. I don't know how I come off to other people sometimes. It's always interesting to me. I have to ask my wife a lot how I look to everyone else. She usually gives me a pretty honest feedback.
So, I don't know. I'm not afraid to yell and scream and do whatever I have to do out there, but for me, focus is the most important thing in the course of a game. The more I can focus, whether that's an intense focus, whether that's a relaxed, calm focus, whatever the moment demands is what I'm going to try and do. So however that comes across is however it comes across.
Q. You touched on it a little, but how special is it for you to have the ball? You said yesterday: I want the ball. To have the ball in this scenario with everything on the line?
COLLIN MCHUGH: It means a lot. Like I said before, I've come from a strange background to get here. Through a lot of different teams, through a lot of different scenarios to get to this point. But I think any starting pitcher in the Major Leagues is going to say and tell you that they want the ball in a big game. And I don't think I'm any different than a lot of those guys. And I'm not different than any of the guys we have on this staff.
If anybody else was on their fifth day of rest, they would want the ball too. So I feel confident going into it. I feel confident with the guys coming in behind me. And I'm ready. I wish the game was in three hours, but we got to wait another 24, and we'll see what happens.
Q. How surprised or not surprised would you be if Dallas Keuchel comes in tomorrow and tells A.J. he's good for an out or two in support of you tomorrow?
COLLIN MCHUGH: I'm pretty sure he said that every day since he's pitched the last time. Dallas is a competitor, man. Dallas, he's a riot in there. He knows what he wants to do. He knows what he's capable of. And I think if he could take the ball every day he would.
So, we'll have to see what happens tomorrow. My plan is to go nine. And then if I don't get to go nine, we'll see who comes in behind me.
But, yeah, Dallas is -- what he's done this year is nothing short of amazing, and he's been a leader for us.
Q. What has Jose Altuve meant to the team and how important is it for him to get in the Postseason for you guys?
COLLIN MCHUGH: What he's done to this point for this ballclub is -- can't be overlooked. It just can't. You get 200 hits two years in a row for a team that really needs it, a team that is not necessarily going to hit for the highest average, a guy that gets on base that's led the league in stolen bases, that plays in Gold Glove-caliber second base. You can't overstate that.
He's been our leader. He's been our spark plug. He's been the guy for this club all the way along the way for the last two years. So what he's done to get us to this point speaks for itself, and what he's able to do on any given day I think is probably -- watching him every day is one of the most exciting things in baseball, in Major League Baseball today, what he's able to do on the field.
So, we're excited to have him in the lineup. I'm excited to have him leading off for us and excited to see what he's able to do.
Q. On the technical side, what have you done in between starts? Are you still at the point in the season where you're throwing a real bullpen, or is it a light side session? What's been going on in between here?
COLLIN MCHUGH: Yeah, it's basically a listen to your body type of thing for me. I played catch every day. Yeah, it's really normal, as normal as you can possibly do at this point of the season. I think I'm on one extra day of rest this time, one extra day of throwing, and that's it.