Q. A week ago I think there were some people asking you questions about possibly moving Mr. Springer around in the lineup. Just you stayed calm. You stayed behind him. And obviously he produced at a very high level for the rest of the series, just your thoughts on his performance?
A.J. HINCH: You know, if you watch us play, you know guys like George, Jose, Carlos really bring it every night. And so when the stage got big and the anxiousness started, you just rely on your guys. And George, as one, when he goes, we all go. And I think that was seen the rest of the series, when he got going, it gets pretty scary, and he can do a ton of damage. But he's at the top of the lineup for a reason. He's the first hitter that we send up there to set the table for these guys in the middle of the order.
But to get through a seven-game series you're going to have some good games. You're going to have some games that aren't your best. But the belief in him in specific or our players in general will never go away from my chair.
Q. What was the feeling and did you get any chance at all to see Doc on the field and talk to him? Obviously he's on the other end of the spectrum at this point.
A.J. HINCH: Obviously, one man's celebration is going to be another man's demise. It's terrible to watch him in pain. I did, just before I walked in here I had a private moment with him. And as always he was full of class and appreciation for the moment.
Being friends with someone is one thing. You get on the field, you can be competitors, but the bond and the friendship will never go away. We'll reminisce about this series once the dust settles, and we'll get our families, get our families together this winter, because this was an incredible series. And I'm proud of him. I'm proud of the man he is, the manager he is. And he proved it again by how he responded to us winning.
Q. He also had a lot of personal problems, too (no microphone).
A.J. HINCH: Yeah, it's not been an easy year for him, on and off the field. I know they won the most wins in the league, and we won over a hundred, and it seems easy. We never really share our personal sides. We're people, too; we battle on and off the field. But it's a journey, and obviously it's very rewarding to get to the finish line and be the last team standing.
Q. Jose, congratulations and thank you for great baseball throughout the series and postseason. It's often been said that these two teams mirrored each other, great talent, great effort, everything, like two boxers going to the last round, fighting, slugging it out. What do you think at the end separated the two teams, what put the Astros on top?
JOSE ALTUVE: I mean, I think the key was staying very humble about the team we are. We all know how good and how much talent we have in that clubhouse. But we never take it for granted. We also knew that we were playing the Dodgers, and they are one of the best teams, most consistent teams in the league. And they were playing extremely good in the playoffs.
So we tried to make every pitch count, every swing count. And I think we did the small things in baseball, everything you've got to do. And of course this man next to me, he did the moves that he had to do. So I think we were all on the same page. And that's what gave us the victory tonight.
Q. A.J., what are the things you've learned since you first started as a manager eight years ago that you think you used over the last month this series, this game, to make this team the team it was to get over the top?
A.J. HINCH: I think the first thing that comes to mind is this game is about players. The players are what makes it all go around. And as their manager, my job is to get the most out of them. My job is to push them when they need to be pushed, to hug them when they need to be hugged, to believe in them always, and set a culture where they'll believe in themselves and they'll prioritize winning.
Obviously this sport is -- there's an individual side to it. There's a team side to it. And as you grow together as a group and you have a common belief system, and you're supported, it's amazing what you can do. But the players are really what makes the sport go. And the more you can get out of them, the more you can get them to trust in you, believe in you as a leader, the better you'll be as a manager. I'm not sure you know that right out of the chute when you first get one of these jobs. At least for me as a young guy, I didn't appreciate what it took to put your heart and soul into the players and let them see you for who you are, and in return ask them to be themselves.
Q. Jose, what has he taught you that others in baseball haven't?
JOSE ALTUVE: I think he gave us a lot of confidence. He's a guy that let's you go out there and do your thing. But he also says something when he think he needs to do it. And that's what -- it's really fun to play behind a guy like this. Like, okay, he trusts me, but if I do something that is wrong or something, he's going to get out there and let me know.
But he let us know what we have to do in the best way he could do it. Never lies. He never disrespect his players. He was very polite. And the best advice he can give you is in the best ways.
So I really appreciate -- I'm not very emotional, and I don't like to speak a lot. You can ask him. But I really have to give him a lot of credit because he really deserves it.
Q. What was the plan to oppose Yu Darvish? And talk about the success in carrying that plan out.
A.J. HINCH: When you're going to face a high-end pitcher, and even though we beat him up a little bit twice this series, it is not going to take away how good he is. We've seen him a lot in Texas. And obviously he's a difficult pitcher. And you have to pick a pitch. You have to find an area of the zone that you feel comfortable with and stay in the strike zone the most you can. If he gets you to chase, it's advantage Darvish. If he gets you to hit his off-speed pitches it's advantage Darvish. So you have to be very disciplined. And we did that two games in a row where we got hittable pitches and did damage.
In the first game there was a lot of extra-base hits and we drove in some runs. Today George delivered the big blow at the end. But how we scored our first couple of runs of just manufacturing runs against a top-end pitcher like that, our plan was to make it tough on him and give good, tough at-bats, because we didn't know how long he was going to be in. This is the most creative team in baseball in how they use their pitches.
So before the game, we stood behind second base and said, you might only get one at-bat against Darvish. Now, I didn't know that was going to be because we scored a lot of runs. I thought it was going to be just how creative they were going to get.
But the plan of attack, like always, is to get a good pitch to hit.
Q. It was just over two months ago with you guys in St. Pete where you had been relocated. And at the time there was a lot of anxiety because everybody wanted to get home so bad, and you didn't know then when you would get back, and you went back that weekend. Now I imagine everyone is anxious to get back to Houston for a whole different reason.
A.J. HINCH: It started before Tampa. It started in Anaheim, when the storm hit. I'll tell a quick story about Jose, who was separated from his family, a lot of guys, a lot of our families; some were with us, some weren't. And Jose came up to me and asked how long would he have to play like this, with his family back in Houston, getting surrounded by water. They were safe but scared. That's not easy to ask your players, "Jose, now, go out and get your normal two and three hits. Be the three-hole hitter. Play hard. And deliver us a win." And we did. We won a couple of games along that stretch. But if you want to humanize baseball, look at that story. And it will show you what these guys go through daily in their personal lives that leads to the professional lives. And on top of that I think we were able to really keep in perspective what was going on in Houston.
The baseball was important. We were chasing the pennant. This is a team that wanted to win the Division. We'd been knocked out of the Division a couple of years in a row. But we never lost perspective of what was important. I saw these guys at the community center the day off that the Mets gave us on Friday night. I saw these guys do good deeds for people as they start to rebuild the city. And I think that's why the city fell in love with this team all over again, and why we had that Houston Strong strength that carried us a long way.
Q. The way you used Morton was kind of similar to the way you used McCullers in your other Game 7 win. Was that something scripted, if you had a lead or was it working --
A.J. HINCH: It sort of worked out it that way. I didn't plan on pulling McCullers early tonight. I thought he was going to pitch a little bit deeper in the game, but what we were seeing were just some pitches that weren't being executed. And we felt like we could pass the baton onto the next guy and we would piece together. We had every pitcher available, basically.
And so as the game started to unfold, Liriano comes in and gets a huge out, Devenski comes in and gets a huge out. Really what pushed Morton in the game was the pinch-hitting. I pinch-hit Gattis, they walk him to load the bases, which surprised me. It worked out for them when Maybin popped up. But that got Morton in the game an inning earlier than we had initially anticipated.
I was comfortable with him closing the game around three innings, but he did it with four. But we had reinforcements if we needed help. As much as I scripted this game, it never plays out the way you expect.
Q. Please describe this team.
A.J. HINCH: Champion.
Q. You just talked about Jose Altuve and his family being separated from him with the hurricane in Houston. Did you have to follow it up with what happened in Puerto Rico, and your players there?
A.J. HINCH: Sure. We had three hurricanes in a row, and the last two hit a lot of people around the league. It wasn't about the Astros, but a lot of our family, the Astro family was there. The second hurricane hit South Florida, and got some of the -- clipped some of the islands. And then the third really did a ton of devastation in Puerto Rico. And we have a ton of Puerto Rican love on our team with Correa and Beltran and Juan Centeno and Alex Cora, our bench coach. We just really had a bonding experience, when you're just getting beat by these hurricanes time and time again.
So our owner stepped up through every hurricane and did something positive for somebody. And we'll continue to have to do that because as we celebrate this championship, somebody is still rebuilding their house in Houston, somebody is still without power in Puerto Rico, somebody is still devastated in South Florida. We'll continue to do our part to rebuild these places.
Q. Jose, I see your phone there, you've been checking a couple of times. When you win a world championship how many texts do you get in?
JOSE ALTUVE: I don't know, I've been checking my Instagram followers. They went up 20,000 in the last ten minutes. (Laughter). That's what I'm doing.
Q. Back in 2011, before your Instagram account had so many followers, when you were called up, that was the first of three one-hundred loss teams in a row, as you were trying to establish yourself. Can you sum up what it feels to go from those teams to break in the majors to where you're sitting right now?
JOSE ALTUVE: It's a crazy journey, man. But I think I was the only one in 2011, '12 and '13, those hundred losses, three years in a row. It's not easy. But I kind of like believed in the process. I believed in what Jeff Luhnow and Jim Crane used to talk to me, "Hey, we're going to be good. We're going to be good." Then okay, let me keep working hard. Let me get better every year and try to be part of the winning team. Like I always believed that we're going to become good. Then I saw Springer get drafted, Correa and Bregman, and I was like, okay, here we go.
We got to the playoffs in 2015. Very young team, we didn't have that much experience. We couldn't go farther. But last year we have another great year. I think it was a good year, we didn't clinch, but it was another good year. And then this year in Spring Training I realized like, this is the team. It's something in our clubhouse, like a lot of chemistry, like good relationship between players, coaches, players with everybody, and I was like, okay, I kind of like believed it was the year. Everybody did it, and now we're here.