OnBase: Serpents Defanged

One: Oktoberfest in September

“They ran out of beer,” says Julian, a political activist. “How can you run out of beer at an Oktoberfest?” Good point, Julian, but this isn’t the real Oktoberfest, it’s just another Giants corporate promotional, an ersatz Oktoberfest.

Most Giants’ fans do not seem in the mood for a protest. There’s a buzz in the air, and it’s not a beer buzz. It’s a playoff buzz; for some, the party has just begun.

Two: Beware of Negative Thoughts

Tim Lincecum’s first pitch is a fastball strike to Arizona Diamondback Stephen Drew, shaving the outside corner of home plate. A classic. His second pitch is also a classic — the answer to the question, “What happens if a curveball doesn’t curve?” Check it out.

“Watch out for negative thoughts, now,” says the television analyst in the press box. How can you see a thought, negative or positive? Maybe he means the six straight balls a flustered Lincecum throws — fastballs, sliders, changeups — searching for the strike zone, resulting in two straight walks and only one out. Or seeing my own negative thoughts, memories (same thing?) of Adam LaRoche, who’s now standing at the plate, batting against a similarly flustered Lincecum in August and . . . I don’t want to think about it.

LaRoche fouls off three straight fastballs, then swings a long, slow, foolish swing, completely missing Lincecum’s changeup. Miguel Montero grounds out to end the inning.

Three: The Play’s the Thing

Even though major league baseball has lost many essential characteristics of play (which, as Johan Huizinga points out in his book “Homo Ludens,” is absorbing but pointless, fun but unproductive), it still provides a play-ground, a space outside “the real world” where order and perfection replace the chaos and confusions of “real life.”

For example, there is no doubt that after three innings the Giants have gotten only one stinking hit off Ian Kennedy. Having little to cheer about, some, like the guys from Rohnert Park in gorilla masks and Giants jerseys, start up their own performance.

Others line up for another beer. They never run out inside the ballpark.

Four: A Dramatic Interlude

Former Giant ace Christy Matthewson once said there comes an inning on which every game turns.

In the second half of the fourth inning, Aubrey Huff leads off with a sharp single to center. Buster Posey draws a walk on four pitches, none of which are anywhere near the strike zone. Kennedy’s first pitch to Pat Burrell is a good one, an inside fastball for a strike. Maybe to get himself back in the groove, Kennedy tries a second pitch along the lines of the first.

Not a good idea. Pat Burrell connects with one of the loudest hits of the season, driving the ball into the fans already partying in the left-field bleachers.

Five: Men Working

Some people still have to work for a living. Tim Lincecum is not one of those people (having already made millions of dollars), but does anyway, and his work has visibly improved over the innings. The beauty of Stephen Drew wildly swinging for the third out in the top of the fourth, after his homer in the first, will take the breath away from any true baseball aficionado, even one in San Diego.

Play tends toward the beautiful. Tim Lincecum’s alter-ego, The Freak, was only in it for the fun. Money? Booze? Romance? Not fun, therefore not important to The Freak.

Earlier in the season, some believed Lincecum to be a crypto-hipster who preferred the pleasures of Dolores Park to the tedium of a baseball diamond. But the Lincecum on the mound tonight is neither Freak nor Hipster. He’s a worker — sorry, a young professional.

Six: Section 311

Israel and a bunch of guys in Section 311 are growing beards for the playoffs. Like the players, they won’t shave until the Giants lose. Or win.

Even though the game itself lacks tension, you can find the usual rumblings up in Section 311. “I can taste it,” says Israel, the section’s usher, talking about the playoffs, what else? “We’re so close!”

Seven: Linceum at Center Stage

Most ordinary young professionals don’t wear the same hat for their first two years on the job; Lincecum did, 91 games, the same hat. This year he had to change because the team got new hats. I can’t believe no one made the connection between the change in hat and his earlier pitching problems, even though speculation about why he was having trouble had become a widespread civic parlor game.

Despite his one mistake, Lincecum has had an excellent outing; not blowing hitters away, but fooling them, out-guessing them, throwing the ball where their bats can’t make clean contact. Now, with two out in the seventh inning (why is it always after two outs?), he walks Kelly Johnson on four straight balls. The first direct jolt of anxiety in more than two hours.

Pitching coach Dave Righetti calls a meeting on the mound, but it doesn’t last long. Even though reliever Javier Lopez is waiting in the wings, Lincecum wants to deliver his closing soliloquy. The crowd noise is deafening, and the cheers grow 10 times louder when Lincecum walks off the field to a standing ovation after striking out Chris Young.

Eight: Negative Thoughts, Part Two

The Giants’ closing pitcher Brian Wilson enters the game in the ninth inning. The first batter he faces, Augie Ojeda, hits a sharp line drive down the right field line for a double.

Here he goes again, says a guy standing near me on the promenade, referring to Brian Wilson’s obsession with cliffhanger closings. Before anyone has time to agree, the guy’s friend turns on him: “I don’t want to hear any negative thoughts.” When Ojeda gets to third and Mark Reynolds walks, suddenly nobody wants to hear any negative thoughts.

Nine: Dressing for the Playoffs

That’s enough fun for Wilson tonight. He strikes out Kelly Johnson and gets Chris Young on a ground ball to maintain the Giants’ two-game lead over San Diego, with four games left to play.

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