THE MODERATOR: We'll get started with Astros manager A.J. Hinch.
Q. Just talk about where Gomez is at and how you plan to use him these two games.
A.J. HINCH: Gomez is continuing to get treatment. He came in yesterday on the off day and got treatment. He got treatment all day today.
This guy's battling through some soreness, and I took it out of his hands and decided that I was going to play him one of these first two games. I'm aiming for tomorrow. But we'll see how tonight goes. He's available and wants to play.
But I'm obviously being very cautious with him. With the type of injury that he has, he's one swing away or one torque throw away from things not going our way.
So I'm trying to pick and choose when's the best opportunity to use him. I didn't feel like today was that day so I'm going to have him come off the bench. He's available. He'll probably find his way into the game. He'll be asking me to go into the game from the second inning on.
I'm proud of how he's going about it. He's one of the toughest guys I've been around. To have him on our side and willing to fight through this is pretty cool.
Q. A.J., I want to talk just about your home ballpark for a second, even though I know that you're onto right now, but your players really don't have any kind of background knowledge about how loud that place gets in a Postseason. Can you just address just how important -- you guys played so well at home and you've had some good crowds. Can you appreciate what's about to happen at that place?
A.J. HINCH: Probably not until we get there. We've been on the receiving end of the other side a couple different times. We came here during the summer in July and had an electrifying night of a big crowd in a walk-off win for the Royals.
We played at Yankees Stadium at the Wild Card game. That was a pretty rowdy bunch. To have it on our side here in a few days is going to be a new experience. We've had a couple loud games. Our fans have been tremendous this summer, as we've evolved as a team.
Some of the weekends where we've had the most fans has been pretty loud. But with the roof closed, 40-plus thousand people there, predominantly Astros fans, is going to be an experience that our guys are going to remember. Having them on our side and having them pull for us when Keuchel takes the mound on Sunday, you know, we're either going to be up two games, down two games, or split two games.
Regardless, that will be the moment where playoff baseball is back in Houston for a long time, and I'm sure everyone, including the players and the coaches, are going to absorb it.
Q. A.J., a lot's been made of the top of the lineup. Talk about throughout, you guys have gotten great production from Chris, Jake, Valbuena. How you get timely hits?
A.J. HINCH: When we're at our best, we're doing damage throughout. When you look at our lineup and really throughout, we have double-digit homers. We have run production-type hitters. It's not always pretty and it's not always consistent, but we can do a lot of damage.
And that type of threat adds to how we're pitched. You can't just get through the middle part of our order and then lighten up against the Luis Valbuena, Chris Carter, you know, Castro's got double-digit homers. Marisnick is in there tonight. He's got a ton of speed. He gets on the bases and the lineup rolls around.
We can have a dynamic offense. I think a lot is spoken of our power. And rightfully so. We have hit a lot of homers. But we do a lot of things to create some stress on the opponent by stealing bases, by hitting them out of the ballpark, by drawing a few walks. That's more of an entire offense than we're probably given credit. As the season started out and we were mostly power, low batting average, things have started to even out over the year.
So I like that we feel like we can score in every inning. We can do that because we have some thump throughout.
Q. Hey, with this being such a big year, does Marisnick's defensive ability and ability to run sort of at least make him a good fit for this place and maybe somewhat mitigate the loss of Carlos?
A.J. HINCH: Yeah, so it happened the other night at Yankee Stadium, too, with putting Jake in. It's easy to make a good decision and protect Carlos when you have Marisnick on the bench coming off to play defense.
Even tonight, I thought about starting Tucker in left field, moving Colby to center versus Jake in center field. But I remember being in this series in July where we came and Marisnick's diving all over the place in left and center and making plays. The things that he can do defensively may not show up in a box score, but it shows up in our dugout, and we know what he brings to the table.
When he gets on base, I know we run with our hair on fire, and he's a part of that, literally. So he's a dynamic player that can impact the game in lot of different ways. When you take out a guy like Gomez, who provides so much of that energy and that electricity, Jake's going to make a great play tonight, there's no doubt about it, if necessary. And I'm not sure where it's going to be and how far into right field, into George's territory or how far into Colby's territory. But I've got four center fielders on this team, and the best one's Marisnick. He can really do a lot of things. So it's -- I feel at ease when the ball's hit to center.
Q. A.J., when Scott joined the team, he pitched well in the small town here earlier this year.
A.J. HINCH: Oh, I remember. I remember.
Q. Was that a factor in deciding to pitch him here in Game 2?
A.J. HINCH: Yeah. I think he's had three games against the Royals this year. He's done very well in all three of those games and held them in check quite a bit. I mean, I'm not sure. It factors in a little bit in the decision-making. He's comfortable in this ballpark. Maybe he likes the mound. The ballpark's suited to his style of pitching.
I'm not entirely sure how that directly impacts tomorrow night's start. Once you toe the rubber and you've got the environment we know it's going to be tomorrow afternoon, the intensity of the game, all bets are off.
But I like the comfort of knowing he's pitched well in this park. He's pitched well against this team. He's been there, done that before. And that factored in. Their balance of left-handed and right-handedness creates a little bit of havoc for a pitching staff.
You've got to be able to handle righties and lefties. Otherwise, you're going to run into one or the other. You can dance around Cain all you want and then you've got Morales behind him who's switch-hitting. Or you have Hosmer in the middle of that. Here comes Moustakas, here comes Perez. Here comes Gordon all the way at the bottom of the order.
This team was built to create a little bit of havoc on lefties and righties. Scott, having done it before and certainly he's only a few starts away from being in the top five in ERA in this league. And we hope he returns to that tomorrow.
Q. A.J., in an alternate universe, Cueto might be starting for you tomorrow. As someone who's been in the front office, how difficult is it when you're trying to choose which player to trade for to forecast what they'll do and how those decisions get made?
A.J. HINCH: There's always a lot of anxiety in the end of July in every job. You're either adding somebody or your opponent is adding somebody. If you're talking about adding somebody, that means you're in it. There's a lot of tension involved in what those deals look like.
There's no predicting -- even at the time, I think when both players were traded to each of our teams, David Price was an afterthought, and he ended up in the middle of this and he's pitching currently right now.
So the unknown of who's getting traded, where they're getting traded, how they fit your team short term, long term, you know, for me as the manager, I want to know how it's going to impact our clubhouse and the vibe that we've created, whose spot is he going to take, how does it change the dynamic of your rotation. For us being able to add a second left-handed pitcher was important.
So all that factors in at the end. Then you work so hard. Having been in the front office, I know how hard trades are to make. You spend so much time and energy getting to about the five-yard line and then the deal either dissolves or a team plays well and all of a sudden they're not going to trade anybody.
It's a difficult task at any time to make trades, but specifically at the end of July when every rumor's true, every pitcher's going to help you be better, every position player is going to help you be better. I've got to manage 25 guys and make them understand if nothing happens, we're still a good team.
All that is sort of organized chaos at the end of July. When the dust settles and Kazmir comes out and throws a great game here in Kansas City, you feel really good about it. Then on top of it, we obviously added Fiers and Gomez and felt like we had really augmented with a good team.
Q. How do you envision Conger will be used in this series? Do you envision a place you could try to get him in the starting lineup?
A.J. HINCH: Conger does a good job handling the pitching staff, the pitches. He's provided some thump on the bench. He's one of our guys in our reserve role who has double-digit homers. We have a few of those guys.
So I see him as a backup catcher in this series. Jason Castro has been our starting catcher, has done a really good job. Conger filled in admirably when Castro went down with a groin injury or hip injury.
I envision seeing Hank off the bench as a left-handed bat or right-handed bat and more in the backup role. With the days off, there is no rest in the Postseason. There is no time where you're specifically trying to play your backup players or your bench players.
You may see a pinch-hit for Castro. You may see a pinch-run for Castro. It won't be Conger in those situations, but he would come in and catch behind him. I have a lot of confidence in how he handles the pitching staff, how he blocks, how he receives. If he needs to close out games, he's a good catcher to have.
Q. You mentioned everybody kind of has little nicks and things like that, and Jose got slid into pretty hard the other day. How's he doing?
A.J. HINCH: He feels okay. He felt it. It wasn't a no-contact rule. So he's done a little bit of damage to himself. He's fouled a few balls off of his ankle in the last couple of games. That doesn't feel good. I would imagine he'll have a lot of adrenaline and he'll be fine. He's not limited. He'll be bouncing around and be looking to go either steal or go base to base or first to third.
This time of year, the feel of these type of games have a way of you forgetting, at least until the end of the game, how sore you are, how tired you are and how banged up you are. So he's recovering fine. Most of these guys are finding their way into these cold tanks and ice packs, and obviously the medical staff is working 24/7 with these guys.
Q. A.J., you guys have had two all-night parties here in the last few days. Have you factored that in? What steps have you made to try to get them back?
A.J. HINCH: They weren't all night. They weren't all night. We had to fly here all night. They weren't all together. There might have been a few guys that branched off. Such is life of managing a bunch of 20-year-olds, right?
I have no doubt whatsoever our guys know how to show up ready to play. We're not a group of partying guys. We've lived it up, having made the playoffs and then having won the Wild Card. But when it's game time and guys are showing up ready to play, we know the seriousness of what's going on.
We're going to still be a loose team. You're still going to see us act like kids sometimes because of the environment that we have and some of the looseness that we have.
But when the first pitch is made and Altuve is in the box, partying's over. The competing is on. And we'll give our best.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks a lot, A.J. Good luck tonight.