In his final briefing before the Royals’ first full-squad workout of spring training, manager Ned Yost collected many of the thoughts he’s expressed about the team’s success since the end of the last season. He delivered a one-breath testimony about the team’s turning point:
“I spent all winter trying to figure out what clicked in the eighth inning of the (American League) Wild Card Game,” Yost said. “We had like a 2 percent chance of winning, down four runs against a guy (Jon Lester) against a guy we’ve never beaten, and it finally took me to about three weeks ago to figure it out.
“They came in the eighth inning and they believed. They believed they could do it, they believed in each other and the rest is history.
“That’s always the last little thing that gets you over the hump. When a team finally believes. Because in belief — it’s black or white — you either believe or you don’t. You can try to believe but that doesn’t work. Until you have total full belief in your teammates and ability …
“You’re going to have games where the press is asking why your team doesn’t play good in front of big crowds. It’s because they press, they try to do more than they’re capable of doing. But when you believe, as a player, in yourself, and in your teammates, you can stand up to even the brightest lights, under the most intense scrutiny, under the most pressure, and perform.
“That’s what happened in the eighth inning of the Wild Card Game. They believed. It was a definite point in time. You could see it. They stood up under the most glaring spotlight and most pressure they can have and they performed quite admirably.”
That eighth inning against the A’s produced three runs on three hits, four stolen bases and a wild pitch. The Royals reduced a 7-3 deficit to 7-6, tied the score in the ninth and scored two runs in the 12th for a 9-8 victory, the first of a major-league-record eight straight victories to start a postseason.