Since I was traded to Baltimore back in 1976 one thing became very clear to me early on: The second half of every year was going to belong to the Orioles.
We prepared ourselves for July, August and September right out of spring training. We always played hard the first couple of months, but it seemed then that Earl jockied everyone around until he found out just who was going to head the stretch run.
Pitching got lined up in the right order and those players who showed they were having good years were aligned in positions where they had the best chance of producing.
Any plays or fundamentals that needed to be addressed were given attention, and we solidified our approach for the second half. It always seemed to work out well, so I came to trust, like everyone else, that if we were within five or six games of first place at the break that the season was ours.
Some of those years we weren't the best team, but we found ways to win ballgames by
changing our approach.
The Yankees were a very tough team to beat with Reggie Jackson heading up the offense. We knew how much he loved to strut in front of the crowd and take his time digging in and how he liked to settle in the batter's box and make a big display before one of his mighty swings.
Well, we changed the tempo of the game on him. As soon as he got close to the box, we were already ready to throw the ball. This disrupted his rhythm to the whole AB, and as it turned out, he had no time to comfortably get ready. He would complain, but umpires wanted to get the game going, so we played a little cat and mouse. It was just one of the things we would try, and it worked on just about everybody.
We had preset plays that we used on the bases that were triggered by the count on the hitter and whether the pitcher was left or right handed.
EXAMPLE: Two men on, full count, everyone running, pitcher lifted his leg, runners took off and Murray would break behind the runner at first--we'd execute a pick-off and we stopped a rally.
I could go on for pages, but those kinds of plays are just one more example of being creative. Whenever we got in trouble with a runner at third base and less than two outs and we needed a strikeout--with a right-handed pitcher on the mound, Martinez, Stone, Davis, Boddicker and a right-handed hitter at the plate with two strikes, we would throw the only pitch a right-handed hitter never looks for in that situation--WHAT IS IT? A curveball on the INSIDE CORNER.
We'd throw it right at the hitter and he would jump out of the way and bang, we had 'em.
As long as you whispered to the umpire and told him what you were doing, he wouldn't get fooled and we got through a lot of tough innings using those kinds of weapons.
The point is that you have to be creative to beat better teams, and there are ways to do it. Play hard ball and push people away from the inside corner. Maybe unintentionally (or intentionally) graze a hitter you would rather walk. He gets mad and loses his poise and swings too hard the next time up and you win, point in case.
There is so much you can do if you just play the game. Be creative and you can contend.
And obviously its not just about hitting--I proved that by the many 0-for-4's I took.
BTW I try to answer everybody who sends in a comment, but some answers apply to more than one of you so read them all if you would. TTYS.