A.J. Hinch told reporters he learned when they did that Max Scherzer wasn’t going to be the one starting for the Washington Nationals in last night’s World Series matchup. As for how it affected the Astros’ preparation for Game 5?
“I think it just affects our preparation a little bit because we got a late notice that they scratched their starter,” Hinch explained.
“It’s happened before to us. So we’ve got to get to working on our game plan against Ross as opposed to what it was against Scherzer.
“Obviously, I know there’s a lot of attention that comes with it. We know Max Scherzer, something must be going on with him if he’s going to miss this start.
“But it immediately goes into sort of game prep mode and get after it. We were prepared for Ross as a reliever.”
“But I found out when you guys found out.”
He added some details about how he learned Ross would go instead of Scherzer.
“I found out from Alex Bregman, by the way, which is part of the story,” Hinch said.
So, Bregman’s tapped into Nationals’ roster moves?
“He’s just closest to his phone whenever it started hitting the social media part. He came in and asked me if it was true. I did a little investigating, and turned out it was.
Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez said he told the Astros as soon as he knew for sure that Scherzer, who was dealing with spasms in his right trap and neck, wouldn’t be able to go.
“I had other meetings to do before this,” Martinez said in his pregame press conference four hours before the scheduled start of the game. “I had [Bench Coach Chip Hale] just relay the message that it’s going to be somebody else starting, and he did that.
“So [Hinch] knew about a half hour ago.”
“We knew it was delayed because we assumed it was [Kurt] Suzuki,” Hinch said, since Suzuki’s injured hip left him questionable for the game.
“[Suzuki] had caught Max quite a bit. And any time you have an injury you kind of expect a later lineup. I have no problem with how they informed us.
“Chip Hale and Joe Espada, the bench coaches, were both in contact the entire day, waiting for the lineup and the decision making. They were top end across the board.
“Exactly how you would expect them to let us know as soon as they knew.
“I would imagine, and if I put myself in their shoes, I would wait until the very last minute until I absolutely knew that he couldn’t go.
“If they were deciding on Suzuki, as well, what his situation was. The Nats were great.”
Was there a sense of relief among the Astros when they learned it would be Ross instead of Scherzer?
“I mean, it’s different,” Hinch said. “I don’t know — ‘relief’ is probably not the word I would use, because we still need to go out and win a game. If we need any example of a young rookie stepping up and doing well in the World Series, we could rewind 24 hours and our guy [José Urquidy] did pretty good.
“You can’t be overly confident. You can’t just assume that it’s going to be an easy game for you. It’s a different matchup. Different style.
“Totally get the Max Scherzer shock of going from one of the top pitchers in baseball to a young kid, but we don’t -- we’re not going to high five.
“We’re not going to have that moment where we feel like we have some sort of advantage. We need to go find a way to beat Joe Ross now.”
Scherzer said that as soon as he figured out that he couldn’t go, he sent Ross a text to tell him to get ready.
“When I was coming to the park today, I knew there was just no way I was going to be able to get ready. I gave him a text to tell him, ‘Hey, get ready, you’re going to be starting today.’ There’s no way I’m going to be able to start,” Scherzer explained.
“I didn’t know for sure till I was here,” Ross said, “but I got a call from [Paul] Menhart, the pitching coach, and then Max texted me probably five minutes after that, but yeah, you know, just, ‘Be ready,’ and I guess it was pretty fortunate that I was able to have a full day of preparation, it wasn’t like I went out to play catch with the relievers early on, so I guess it went best case scenario.”
While he didn’t know for sure, Martinez acknowledged after the game that he had told the right-hander to prepare for the possibility.
“We kind of gave him a heads up last night. And when he came in this morning we told him he was definitely going to start,” the second-year skipper explained.
Unfortunately for the Nationals, Ross gave up two two-run home runs in his five innings of work on the mound in what ended up a 7-1 loss, and the Astros made it three straight on the road after they dropped the first two games of the World Series in Minute Maid Park.
“I thought he did really well, I really did,” Martinez said after the game. “I told him, Hey, we want to keep him right about 80 pitches and he gave us five good innings. And I said, Hey, you need to be ready to pitch in a few days again. I said, You did a great job.”