A flight to Kansas City wasn’t in the Astros manager A.J. Hinch’s day planner for Tuesday.
“The flight was fine,” Hinch said. “We really didn’t want to get on it, to be honest, but we did. … Our guys bounce back pretty quickly.”
The tone in the Astros’ clubhouse after Tuesday’s workout confirmed just that. This was a loose team, loud and laughing, similar to how Royals manager Ned Yost described his team before facing a do-or-die Game 4 in Houston.
The Royals won that game in amazing fashion, 9-6, scoring seven runs over the final two innings to erase a four-run deficit. It was the kind of outcome that buoys the winner’s spirits and deflates the loser’s, and that happened in the game’s immediate aftermath.
Tuesday was a different day.
“There’s no reason for us to hang our heads,” Astros left fielder Colby Rasmus said. “We’re ready to get after them.”
The Astros have been the more aggressive team throughout the ALDS. They jumped to 3-0 leads after the first two innings of Games 1 and 2, took the lead for good in the fifth inning of Game 3 and owned a 6-2 lead after seven innings on Monday.
But the inability of the bullpen to hold leads put the Astros on the plane for the winner-take-all game, a condition Hinch was quick to remind covered both dugouts, and one Rasmus reminded was familiar to his team.
“It’s not like we haven’t been in this situation already this year,” Rasmus said. “Playing that Wild Card Game against the Yankees, that’s as gut-wrenching as you can get.”
Rasmus got the Astros going in that game at Yankee Stadium with a solo home run in the second inning. He’s added three more in the ALDS.
Jumping on Royals starting pitcher Johnny Cueto and keeping him uncomfortable is the idea for Wednesday. In Game 2, the Astros opened a 4-1 lead after three innings before falling 5-4.
“I did like the way that we came out aggressive against him,” Hinch said. “Against good pitchers, you have try and get to them early. If you allow them to settle in it can be very, very difficult for you.
“We’re probably the most aggressive team in baseball. So it’s not going to surprise anybody that we’re going to be ready to hit on the first pitch.”
As for crossing a mental hurdle, the Astros have already accomplished that. Months ago.
“We had a belief about this team as a group inside the clubhouse before anyone else did,” Hinch said. “So there’s great confidence for us. We didn’t make the playoffs by mistake.
“We’re in Game 5 of the division series (and) control our own destiny. It can’t get any better than that.”