In spite of the fact that they fell into a 2-0 hole, with losses in each of the first two games in Minute Maid Park, Houston Astros’ skipper A.J. Hinch said his team got on the team plane and headed for the nation’s capital with a positive attitude when it comes to the challenge ahead of them in the World Series after an MLB-best 107-win regular season.
“We’re ready to play,” Hinch said upon arriving in Washington, D.C. on Thursday afternoon.
“This is a group of guys that have won a lot of games,” he continued. “And I understand that everybody wants the pressure put on us. That’s great. We’ve responded great to pressure. I understand they have a 2-0 lead. Their view of the finish line is a little closer than ours.
“But I wonder what everybody will feel like if we can win Game 3? And all of a sudden it flips a little bit. And all of a sudden we put up a few runs. And all of a sudden you can write that we’re back in it.”
Davey Martinez was clear when he spoke to reporters in his own press conference that he and his team weren’t taking anything for granted, even with a 2-0 lead early in the best-of-seven series.
“We’ve just got to focus on today and go home, rest and get ready to play and go 1-0 again,” Martinez said, reiterating the team’s mantra since the Nationals fell 12 games under .500 on May 23rd, then started trying to turn things around, which they did, going 74-38 the rest of the way.
“That’s been the message all year,” the second-year manager said. “We don’t try to get ahead of ourselves.
“These guys need to understand the focus on the here and now and do the little things. That’s what’s got us here. And we’ve got to continue to do that.”
After throwing Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg in the first two games, and using Patrick Corbin in relief in Game 1, Martinez decided to go with Aníbal Sánchez tonight, turning to the softer-tossing right-hander, who has made two starts, posting a 0.71 ERA, three walks, 14 Ks, and a .116/.208/.209 line against in 12 2⁄3 IP so far in October.
Sánchez pitching as well as he has, Martinez, said, and Corbin’s flexibility, has provided him with options in terms of his pitching decisions.
“It’s been huge. And like I said, everybody talks about our big three, but Aníbal has pitched unbelievable since he came off the IL all year long. He gives us a chance to win ball games every outing.”
The Astros, as a team, put up a .274/.349/.492 line against right-handers this season, good for first across the line among MLB teams, and they scored four runs on 10 hits in Game 1, before settling for three runs on nine hits in Game 2, but they’re still confident about their chances of getting back into the series.
“I sense our players will be ready to play,” Hinch said.
“It won’t be easy. Aníbal Sánchez is throwing the ball well. This lineup has found a way to catch momentum and [it’s] really tough putting them away.
“So it’s the World Series. It’s two of the best teams in the league competing to try to get to four wins. I understand that. But there’s no gloom and doom with us. We’ve got to try to do better. We’ve got an opportunity to do it in Game 3 and absolutely flip any sort of perceived momentum in our direction.”
After their loss in Game 2, the Astros held a players-only meeting to hash out what they’re going to need to do to get back in the series.
“I asked the guys about it, because I heard about it,” Hinch said. “Guys trying to pick each other up. I think guys are trying to fight for the season. It’s a seven-game series, four you have to win. They’ve won two and a lot of questions are coming our way as if -- yes, it’s an uphill battle, but it’s not impossible. Not when you have the best record in baseball over the course of 162 games.”