When the Houston Astros bounced back with a win in the first of three in Washington, D.C., after dropping the first two games of the World Series in Minute Maid Park, A.J. Hinch told reporters that he felt they had some momentum on their side coming out of Game 3 with the Washington Nationals.
He was asked how the win affected their mindset going into Saturday night’s game in the nation’s capital.
“I don’t know that it affects our mindset as much as it kind of reestablishes us in this series,” Hinch 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.”
After their second straight win tied things up at 2-2 in the best-of-seven series, Hinch said they felt more like themselves, the team that won the most games in baseball in 2019.
“We have a good vibe about us,” he said.
“We haven’t changed a bit. This is the same team that won a hundred-plus games. This is the same team that won the Division, won two playoff series.
“There was a lot of noise around losing the first two games, and rightfully so because the Nats had outplayed us, like I said. And I think we turned it around and now we’ve outplayed them for a couple of games, and now we have a three-game series, the winner of two of three wins the World Series.
“But our mojo, our vibe, our approach, our banter in the clubhouse, we’re the same.”
“We’ve been here pretty much all year,” Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez said, having guided his team back from a 19-31 start to the Wild Card, into the NLDS, through the NLCS to the World Series.
“So now it’s the best two out of three; right?” he asked rhetorically.
“We’ve got two of our big horses going in the next two games. We just come back.”
Max Scherzer is one of the two horses he referred two, and Stephen Strasburg is set to go in Game 6 back in Texas, where he tossed six strong, giving up two runs on seven hits in a 12-3 win.
“We haven’t hit the last couple of days, but I’ve got confidence we’ll bounce back and be ready to play tomorrow. It’s just one of those things. It’s baseball. And it’s the World Series.
“I just told the boys, ‘Hey, we’re in the World Series. We’re going to play Game 5, tied 2-2.’
“Who would have thought that in the beginning? So here we are. Let’s forget about it, can’t do nothing about the last two games. Let’s look ahead and get ready to play tomorrow.”
A combined 1 for 19 with runners in scoring position and 21 left on base in the last two, the Nationals need to find a way to slow the Astros’ roll and avoid a third straight loss before it ends up being another win-or-go-home scenario, though they’ve been playing like it’s all on the line since May, and managed to win when the season literally was on the line in the Wild Card and Game 5 of the Division Series.
Martinez was asked if the team is more comfortable with their backs against the wall?
“I wouldn’t say more comfortable,” he explained.
“But the guys, they get it. It’s been preached all year long: ‘Hey, let’s just worry about the here and now.’ And that’s what I told them. I said, ‘Hey, wake up tomorrow, think about going 1-0. Don’t think ahead of the next game.
“‘Let’s focus on the here and now, and let’s go with that.”
“The series is back at zero, you know what I mean,” Anthony Rendon said, after a 2 for 4 night in the Nationals’ second consecutive loss.
“So the race to two wins,” he added. “We’re going to try to treat it like it’s a regular season series, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and try to win two out of three.”
“We’ve got runners on base,” Trea Turner said, after an 0 for 5 night at the plate in Game 4.
“We’ve had the at bats, we just haven’t gotten the big hits. Today I thought we hit a lot of balls right at people pretty good too.”
Patrick Corbin, who gave up four runs on seven hits in Saturday’s loss, said they need to be focused on the task at hand as they try to avoid a third straight defeat.
“Obviously we wanted to these last two, it didn’t come out our way, but we’ve been doing all this all season, we’ve had losses, big losses, and have bounced back fine, and the guys will be ready to go tomorrow.”