Houston Astros’ skipper A.J. Hinch, whose team finished the regular season with an MLB-best 107 wins, talked before Game 3 of the World Series about finding a way to get back into the series after dropping the first two games at home in Minute Maid Park.
“We’re ready to play,” Hinch told reporters. “This is a group of guys that have won a lot of games. 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.
“I sense our players will be ready to play. It won’t be easy. Aníbal Sánchez is throwing the ball well. This lineup has found a way to catch momentum and be really tough at 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,” Hinch added, “and absolutely flip any sort of perceived momentum in our direction.”
Hinch’s club did just that, at least in his mind, jumping out to a 2-0 lead over the Nationals early in the nation’s capital, and taking the third game of the series behind an abbreviated start by Zack Greinke (4 2⁄3 IP, 7 H, 1 ER), and a dominant performance from his relief corps in a 4-1 win.
“We just had a nice team win,” the Astros’ skipper said. “We did a lot of things well tonight. It was hard. This is a really good team. So you have to earn everything you have against them, and take opportunities when they present themselves.
“And I think our guys came into the game in a great mindset.”
Davey Martinez’s team went 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position and 12 left on base, failing to come through in a few opportunities that they did generate against Greinke and the Astros’ bullpen.
“Tonight we were a little bit aggressive outside the strike zone,” Martinez said after the loss.
“We took balls I thought we should hit, uncharacteristic of what we’ve been doing. Greinke got out of some jams, got opportunities early. We couldn’t capitalize.
“So let’s get some rest and come back tomorrow and do it again.”
Did the Nationals go into the game trying to be aggressive in their approach against the Astros’ starter?
“We want to be aggressive in the strike zone. That’s our goal. Get ready to hit, especially guys in scoring position. It just didn’t happen tonight,” Martinez told reporters.
Does Hinch think the Astros successfully flipped the “perceived momentum” after the Nats’ two wins in Houston? And how does it affect his team’s mindset going into Game 4?
“I don’t know that it affects our mindset as much as it kind of reestablishes us in this series,” he said.
“When they come into our ballpark and beat Gerrit [Cole] and Justin [Verlander], that’s a big punch. They threw a big punch at the beginning of this series.”
“Now, we’ve got enough experience and enough feel about how series go that we knew we win today, get a little mojo back on our side, get a little bit of momentum, start to swing the bats a little bit better, we’re not afraid of playing in any venue. This is a great atmosphere.
“The fans here were incredible and just alive like you would expect in the World Series. And our players thrive on that, too.
“Mindset-wise, I think we’re going to be really good at taking it -- that old cliché, one game at a time, we’ve been good at it. But a win was huge for us tonight to sort of reenergize the fact that this series is clearly not over.”