Royals on a roll: How believing you will win helps you win

08/01/2013 9:27 AM

08/01/2013 9:27 AM

Bad teams believe they will lose, so the first thing that goes wrong reinforces that belief. Someone makes an error in the first inning and a dugout full of players think: "Well, here we go." If something goes wrong they believe it’s just the first in a string

of things that will go wrong. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy: play with your head down, play like you believe you will lose and there’s a good chance you will.

Good teams believe they will win, so if something goes wrong, they believe it’s an aberration: yeah, we made an error, but we’ll cover it with good pitching. Or: sure, they tied the game up, but we get to hit too. Believing you will win can also be a self-fulfilling prophecy: you play the game eager for an opportunity to make a difference. Right now the Royals are playing like a good team; a team that believes it will win and any bad thing that happens is an aberration. Look at the things that went wrong in this game and how the Royals responded:

• In the first inning Jamey Carroll steals second base, Joe Mauer walks, but Jeremy Guthrie gets Justin Morneau and Ryan Doumit to end the inning.

• In the third inning David Lough misreads a line drive, turns it into a double, but the runner on second never scores.

• Guthrie has the bases loaded with nobody out in the sixth inning, but only gives up one run before getting out of it.

• Kelvin Herrera starts the eighth inning with back-to-back doubles, the tying run is in scoring position with nobody out, but he and Aaron Crow get out of the situation by striking out the side.

• In the bottom of the ninth inning, Alcides Escobar makes an error, puts the tying run in scoring position with one down and closer Greg Holland responds by striking out the next two batters.

This is how good teams play; they’re not perfect, they make mistakes, but they step up and cover those mistakes. Teammates pick up teammates. The defense helps the pitcher, the pitcher bails out the defense. Do that often enough and you believe you will continue to do it. Believing you will win actually helps you win.

The Royals beat the Twins, 4-3.

Game notes

• Miguel Tejada started his fifth consecutive game and picked up another hit and an RBI. The Royals are looking for offense wherever they can find it; maybe they’ll ride Miggy as far as he can go and see how he holds up.

• Jamey Carroll stole second base in the first inning and Alcides Escobar took the throw from catcher Salvador Perez. But Esky came out in front of the bag, caught the ball and had to reach back to make the tag. It’s faster if the middle infielder straddles the bag, catches the ball and drops the glove straight down in front of the base.

• David Lough doubled in the second inning and it was possible because centerfielder Aaron Hicks was moving sideways when he got to the ball. Anytime the outfielder is moving away from a base, the runner has a chance to advance. Anytime the outfielder is moving toward the base, a runner may need to shut it down.

• Eric Hosmer got thrown out trying to advance to third base in the third inning, but at least he tried it at the right time. The rule of thumb is to never make the first or third out at third (there are exceptions), but Hosmer made the second out trying to get to third base. Get there with one down and a runner can score without benefit of a hit.

• In the fourth inning the Royals had what looked like a busted hit and run. When a runner takes off from first and looks into the plate, it’s probably a hit and run as opposed to a steal. No idea who missed a sign—maybe it wasn’t a hit and run, but it sure liked like one.

• Here’s one I heard from a veteran player: if a guy makes a mental mistake it’s sometimes

because

he’s hitting well. Get a couple hits and a player might start digging himself, looking at his average on the scoreboard; then he’s not paying attention to the game.

• Mike Moustakas pulled two home runs Tuesday night so the Twins were pitching him away on Wednesday. Moose made an adjustment and hit a single and double to the opposite field.

• In the sixth inning the Twin appeared to ambush Guthrie. An ambush occurs when hitters believe a pitcher is going to try to get ahead with a first-pitch fastball, so they come out swinging. Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Ryan Doumit all got fastballs to start their at-bats and they all took a hack.

Three in a row of anything is kind of a warning sign: one guy swings at first-pitch fastball, OK. Second guy, maybe it’s a coincidence. Third guy, no way—time to change things up. When the fourth hitter, Trevor Plouffe, came to the plate, Guthrie and Perez started him with a slider and he hit a groundball to Mike Moustakas—a key to getting out of the inning while giving up only one run. There are patterns in the game and the first one to recognize a pattern has an advantage.

Why they won’t admit someone is hurt

I got a call from someone who wondered why the Royals would pick up another outfielder, Justin Maxwell. I was asked if Lorenzo Cain was hurt worse than we’ve been told. I’ve got to confess that I have no inside information on the subject, but I do get why teams are close-mouthed about this stuff.

A guy who is slightly gimpy can change the game just by sitting in the dugout and appearing to be healthy. The other manager might not use a reliever because the guy on the bench hits him well. It also works the other way: a reliever who isn’t healthy enough to pitch can keep a pinch-hitter on the bench just by getting up and moving around the bullpen.

Why would any team tell its competitors that they really don’t have to worry about a player making an appearance? If the guy’s gimpy, keep it to yourself.

An interesting idea

Sometimes I sit around with the Royals ground crew and shoot the breeze while the players do early work and those conversations often turn interesting. Here’s an idea we talked about last week: if a player gets suspended for performance enhancing drugs, his team does not get to fill that roster spot.

The team got the benefit of a player on PEDs, let them also suffer the consequences.

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