The Pirates and the Royals won again and again, pitching was the key for both. Paul Maholm improved his record to 3-0 and though his ERA rose a bit to just over 2, it was still a successful outing against a tough Florida club. Meanwhile, up in Cleveland, Brian Bannister returned triumphantly from the minors and pitched a gem for the Royals as they shut out what had been a hot hitting team.
With each game that goes by, you can see the confidence building in the pitching staffs of both teams. Success builds on itself and is contagious. Unless one experiences it, it's hard to describe. Now promise not to laugh, but the Fan knows a little about this subject.
Once upon a time, some twenty years ago, the Fan was one of the top bowlers in the state of New Hampshire. Now, come on! Stop laughing. Bowling is a real sport that takes skill and accuracy. The Fan bowled since he was a kid and fond memories of Saturday morning kid's leagues still linger. Of course, the head of those kid's leagues was one Mrs. Finn who was one hot mom. She had platinum hair and mini-skirts and low cut blouses and she was the bomb! She helped the Fan fall in love with bowling.
The Fan was always pretty good, in the 170 to 175 average range. Accuracy was the game and not pure talent. The Fan made all his spares and that helped overcome the lack of real strike power. After growing up and moving to New England, the Fan had married a woman from New Hampshire and she was a real fitness buff. She ran half marathons and came in third in the Miss New Hampshire Bodybuilding competition. She taught aerobics classes.
The Fan wasn't as much into it as she was, but working 70 hours a week in a hot, sweaty tannery put the Fan in great shape and he started joining his wife in some of those activities. So in the mid-1980s, the Fan was in the best shape of his life and for three years, was one of the top bowlers in the state. One year in particular stands out. The Fan averaged 196 and won the singles and doubles tournaments for the region and the doubles tournament in the state as well as several team events. The trophies are in a box some where.
That year was simply a year when the physical shape meshed with the knowledge of decades of participating and everything just came together. Each week built on the next and the Fan just knew what to do, where to throw it, where to stand and a killer instinct kicked in and there was no way anyone else was going to win. Heck, the Fan paid for a washer and dryer with bowling winnings and so was the Fan's very first computer, a 10MB model from some catalog outfit in California called DAK or something. So, if you all are sick of the Fan's writing, bowling is the reason this all came to be.
That winning zone can't be fully predicted by projections and statistical analysis. Some times, despite anything that has happened before, it all just comes together and some kind of mindset seeps in that makes anything possible. To tie all this back into where we started, the Pirates and the Royals are in that zone right now. The pitchers on both teams, particularly the starters, just believe they are going to be successful and they are feeding off each other and success is happening regularly.
Take Brian Bannister. Two years ago, he was a very successful starter for the Royals. Not overpowering, he was canny and pitched to a 12-9 record on a very bad team and had an ERA in the mid-threes. Then last year, the wheels fell off and as good as he was the year before, he was that bad last year. He gave up 265 base runners in just over 182 innings of work. His ERA ballooned to 5.76 and he lost 16 games.
He was demoted at the end of Spring Training because the Royals front five have been pitching really well. But he was brought up and pitches a gem, going six innings without giving up a run. Fortunately, manager, Trey Hillman, apparently has learned his lesson and Farnsworth wasn't anywhere to be seen and the Royals relievers finished up the shutout.
Maholm was featured in the FanDome yesterday so there is no need to go over that again. The point is that these pitching staffs are having a lot of fun and a lot of success and for two blue-coller, small market teams, you can't help but root that the success continues. Keep throwing those strikes, Boys. The Fan knows what it is like to get on a roll and it sure is a lot of fun.