Q. What's the emotion like after a game like this, and can you take me through the 8th inning just as it unfolded for you a little bit?
A.J. HINCH: Sure. Well, the emotion is great on the back end. It's pretty agonizing during the game and we're pretty exhausted. But what an emotional day for us. Obviously it was a big game. You got a lot of different things working throughout the whole game, really from the very beginning. Was it going to rain, was it not going to rain, the two big boys, Sale and Verlander both get into the game, everybody did well. Nobody really wanted to concede the game. In the 8th inning, the Bregman Homer was really something that was very emotional for our dugout. I think that Chris Sale had pitched so well for the entire stretch, we did feel like he was tiring a little bit. But that doesn't make him easier to hit. So our guys just hung in there the whole time. We had a ton of opportunities early. So to be able to get back in the game, even though it was a one-run game. Was pretty emotional. Our dugout woke up.
Q. What does it mean for you to lead this team to the ALCS and represent the city of Houston after all you've been through?
A.J. HINCH: No, it's big. We felt like that we could win this series, but we knew it was going to be tough. We get out to a 2-0 lead, and then you come to Fenway and it's just a different animal. These fans know baseball, they're excitable. They know the moments and it's a tough place to play. You play a couple close games, they stretched their lead yesterday, but it was still a close game until the end. It's not easy to close these guys out. So hat tip to the guys across the way. They played extremely hard. But our guys just stayed the course, and to advance -- obviously, we have a couple guys that are playoff tested, but to advance is the whole goal when you get into this division series. So now we have one more challenge ahead of us and then we'll continue to try to work towards our ultimate goal, which is to win the whole thing.
Q. Can you go into what went into the decision to ask Justin to do something he's never done before in his career and how did that conversation with him go pregame and what led you to do it when you did it?
A.J. HINCH: Well, the number one question for us is how long was the rain going to stay off or when was it going to come or what was going to happen. So we thought it could be a broken game from the very beginning. So we talked to Verlander before the game and just said, hey, if Charlie goes and then there's a pause or there's a break in the action and we need to resume and we have the lead, we may turn to you for the bridge to try to get to Giles. And the game didn't end up that way, right? It ended up the rain came on and off again, and we and once I saw Sale pitch, before any sort of rain delay, there was an indication -- they know the weather better than we do, there was a little bit of an indication that, hey, we may have a bigger window than we expected. And then as the game unfolded and we got the lead, I felt really good about it. And Justin Verlander wanted the ball. He was very good about preparation. It did cut out of his routine, which is the one thing you question. He's been doing this routine for 13 years, but he comes in and has the emotion of the home run, and just like that, kind of a lesser man might have caved in that situation because of the big moment, woke up the crowd, Benintendi's circling the bases. Those outs after that were pretty huge. And getting the ball to Ken Giles with the lead was the whole goal. I'm glad our team came back and ultimately got the lead for Justin.
Q. What are your emotions right now? It's been along journey, the next step?
A.J. HINCH: I'm exhausted. Those are my emotions. This is a hard fought, a lot of moving parts type series, where they're not easy outs over there. So trying to matchup with those guys, trying to win in this ballpark was tough. But we're thrilled to advance and that's what we came out to do. When we had the 2-0 lead, you got to be careful not to assume too much. We brought our bags to the ballpark today because we were going back to Houston one way or the other. We're happy to go back as the division series champions, but there was nothing assumed here. We knew we were going to have to face some of their best pitching to get to the finish line and we ended up beating them. You give them a one-run lead and you have Chris Sale handing the ball to Craig Kimbrel, more times than not, it's an uphill battle. But our guys fought.
Q. What's the pride you have in your group, the way they endured this series, the whole season?
A.J. HINCH: I think that it's the steady approach that our guys have been able to maintain. We got a ton of energy, we got a ton of athleticism and we have a lot of different players that are in different parts of their career. We got some young guys that are just getting here who came up huge. Alex Bregman's home run. We got guys here who have been here and had the lean years and really are enjoying being on good teams. Altuve, Keuchel. And then you have some veterans with Beltran, and McCann, and Reddick, Charlie Morton signed here. To see that all come together into one of the closes knit teams that I've ever been on or been around, I'm very proud as the manager because they represent the Astros, they represent the city of Houston, ultimately me as their manager. You walk into that room every day and you're happy to be there. And that's a definite responsibility of the players to create that chemistry that everybody feels.
Q. So they have Chris Sale in there and he's going good and you're down, you're in a close game, what's the dugout like? What's the tension level?
A.J. HINCH: It wasn't really tense as much as it was just grinding. You're out there trying to find any semblance of an opportunity and you try not to think back to the first and the second. We had Porcello on the ropes a couple times. He got a couple big punch-outs. We had Sale a couple times, guys on base, we couldn't quite create anything. So there wasn't any tension. Our team's never tense. There was dancing going on, there was yelling going on. We're a loose, loose team by nature, and our guys stayed that way. We were just, stay after him, stay after him, stay after him, and someone was going to come up with a big hit. Happened to be Bregman to tie it, and then those at-bats in the 8th, the at-bat by Beltran in the 9th. It's been a consistent characteristic of our team to keep fighting, and today we needed it.
Q. Rooting for the Yankees now?
A.J. HINCH: I don't really root for anybody. I root for the Astros, so we'll play anybody that advances.
Q. From a manager's perspective how tough are these decisions to pull the starters? And two straight days, Liriano and Verlander, what's that like, your personal journey today?
A.J. HINCH: Yeah, no, it's, managers, we're judged on results, but yet we work on process. We're prepared, we want to put our guys in a position to be successful. When they're successful it's the proud, the proud father moment. When they're not successful you take all the blame. But the one thing I try to make sure that I do for me is, you can lose playing conservatively, too. It's very easy to go to the bullpen and leave Justin Verlander out of it. But our job's to try to win, it's not to try not to lose. And we had an opportunity to do that, when it doesn't work out, as long as I'm prepared, as long as I feel like I did the right thing by what our plan was, then I can live with the result. Doesn't make you feel any better when Benintendi's running around the bases, that's a pretty low moment for a manager, probably just under the pitcher. But I'm proud of the fight that these guys have and, quite honestly, it's just a staple of who we are.
Q. You guys seem to have changed coming home from Tampa, the hurricane, Verlander, Correa, all that, you've just been a different team since then. Do you agree with that?
A.J. HINCH: Well I agree with it in the sense that, where we were in the season, that the focus shifts a little bit. We would never assume that we were going to win the division until we won it. But there was a sight line in line. We had 10 or 11, 12, 15-game lead whatever it was, with 30 days to play, you start to sense that moment where you're going to clinch. And then the postseason. And so our guys collected ourselves. The Justin Verlander trade and the Carlos Correa getting healthy are two major acquisitions at a time where we needed it. And so we weren't really a different team as much as we started to focus on the right things.
Q. What you did for the city, and what the city did for you.
A.J. HINCH: Yeah, the city, the city of Houston is still rebuilding and it's easy for us to look in the rearview mirror and think that the hurricane is over and the rebuild starts and is not going to stop for a long time. So our -- we're proud to wear our patch -- I don't have it on this T-shirt -- but we're proud to wear that Houston Strong patch, it was very emotional, probably the most emotions I've ever had on a field the day we played the double header, when you had our city under water and some fans that came out. And then we want to win, we want to win for them, we want to win for us we want to win because we showed up in spring training to try to win a World Series.