Closing Out A Game When in The Lead
The San Francisco Giants won the 2012 World Series against the Detroit Tigers in four games with a strong mental game for baseball by staying focused and intense for four straight games.
In playoff games, such as the World Series, coping with pressure and playing with intensity are key to winning.
The pressure of each game alone can become a distraction, and cause players to tighten up. And playing with a lead in the series, like the Giants did during the World Series, can be a challenge for many teams.
Sometimes, a team will try to protect the their lead in the series and then lose momentum.
Protecting the lead can cause players to avoid mistakes and play safe. Other players become complacent with the lead and allow the opposition to make a come back.
Does your team struggle with closing out the game because they are trying to hold onto the lead?
A comfort zone is based on an expectation about how you think you should perform.
You might expect to lose to a certain team or win by a lot of runs. When you are playing better than expected, you start to protect your lead and avoid making mistakes.
Comfort zones distract baseball players from doing what they need to do during the play, pitch, or at-bat.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy said that his team was able to put everything aside and do what was best for the club.
“I think when you look at this club, the terms ‘teamwork,’ ‘team play,’ ‘play as a team’ come to mind. They set aside their own agenda and asked what’s best for the club.”
Each player on the team has to be committed to going through his routine with intensity. A common mistake players make is “going through the motions” without being fully focused.
A proper level of intensity and focus helps you perform at peak levels.
Giant’s center fielder Angel Pagan said that the team was committed to playing with intensity instead of just going through the motions. He also said that they wanted to stay hungry for the win, even though they had a 3-0 lead:
“We wanted to throw it out there that we couldn’t just go through the motions. We had to play like there’s no tomorrow, like we’ve been playing in the last series. That’s the kind of intensity we brought. That’s why it was that good of a game because we never gave up. We were playing with a lot of hunger. That’s the way you have to play even if you have a 3-0 lead.”
When you have a lead, continue to play aggressively. Set a challenging goal to help you stay on offense.
The key is not to back up and try to avoid making mistakes.
If you think too much about mistakes, you lose focus on what will help you perform the task on hand.
Focus on what will help you feel confident and mentally prepared.
Giant’s starting pitcher Matt Cain said that his team needed to bring the confidence they showed on their home field to Texas:
“Yeah, we’ve put ourselves in a good situation. We’re definitely going into their ballpark where they’re going to feel more comfortable, just like we’re confident playing here at home and we’re used to the park. We’ve just got to take that confidence and some of the good approaches that we’ve had into these last two games and take them down to Texas with us.”
The key is to keep playing hard and playing aggressively even when you’re in the lead.
Forget about the lead in the series or game and focus on execution instead. Follow your pre-pitch or at-bat routine with full intensity and avoid complacency.
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