Travis Blackley to bring his A game for Brisbane Bandits
BRISBANE Bandits pitcher Travis Blackley knows all about fairytales that turn into Hollywood movie scripts.
Blackley has played 82 Major League games - 24 for the Oakland Athletics.
That is the team the hugely popular 2011 film Moneyball, starring Brad Pitt as the general manager of the A's, was based on.
The 33-year-old left-armer was the starting pitcher for the A's in the penultimate regular-season game against the Texas Rangers in 2012, helping secure a famous win after allowing just three hits and one run over six innings.
Fellow Australian and closer Grant Balfour earned the save in the 3-1 win, which put the Athletics equal first in the American League West, after they were 13 games behind a play-off spot earlier in the season.
"The next day we won the American League West title, and went on to the playoffs," Blackley told APN.
"It was awesome."
While the A's didn't win the World Series that year, the Bandits, perennial under-achievers in the ABL, hope this fairtyale has a happier conclusion.
The team - competing in the play-offs for the first time in the sixth season of the revamped competition - finished six games clear of Canberra (which lost its playoff series against Adelaide last weekend), at the top of the standings.
Brisbane CEO Mark Ready has assembled an all-star roster, headed by Blackley and Cincinnati Reds slugger Donald Lutz.
Then there is brilliant outfielder Justin Williams, a US import with 10 home runs this summer, who Bandits coach and former MLB All Star David Nilsson believes has some of the best natural talent and power he has seen.
Blackley, who played for the New Orleans Zephyrs in the Triple-As as part of the Miami Marlins organisation last year, has been superb over the four games he has pitched, after he was a surprise signing early last month.
He has an earned run average of just 1.50 over 18 innings.
Brisbane's American starter for game one against Adelaide at Holloway Field tomorrow night, Jason Jarvis, has also excelled with a 3.61 ERA and eight wins over 89.2 innings pitched.
Blackley will start in game two on Saturday, and if needed for game three, fellow American and lefty Rick Teasley has an impressive 3.01 ERA with seven wins over 77.2 innings pitched.
"The starting pitching rubs off on the hitters," Blackley said.
"They know if they're having a tough time, we're going to keep them in the game."
And perhaps just write that final chapter of the fairytale for the Bandits.