OnBase: Brave Hearts

One: A Baseball Pet’s Lament

I get home from work just as the game’s starting. The dog gets up on the couch and looks like he’s paying attention to the starting lineups. First chance he gets, though, it’s back to his old “baseball pet” complaint. You know — ignored, forgotten, late meals, a cornucopia of crimes, and for what? A game with no dogs! That’s crazy.

He’ll fall asleep soon. Guaranteed. Then I’ll go to The Phoenix.

Two: A Recurring Nightmare

The main reason he’ll fall asleep, other than being a dog, is because Derek Lowe is pitching for the Braves. Again? Oh, so you remember Derek Lowe from Game One, Tim Lincecum’s unfortunate foil? Right. A questionable call at second led to a questionable run — that was all Lowe yielded. He’s a nightmare for good hitters; make that a double for the Giants.

The Sinker

Lowe throws sinker balls, just like Tim Hudson did yesterday. The sinker is a fastball that has a late downward motion, down and away, that completely fools the Giants. They think it’s coming right at them, then it dips under their bats. And when he doesn’t throw sinkers, Lowe throws a nasty slider, one that can go inside, outside or both.

The dog hates watching the Giants ground out weakly to shortstop. So do I.

Three: The Future Is Now

Giants rookie Madison Bumgarner will start his first playoff game at age 21; he’s gotten a haircut for the occasion. Like Buster Posey, Bumgarner has uncommon poise and self-possession for someone so young. I can’t imagine he’s able to keep his emotions under control in a game like this, but he hides them well. He’s also got Posey to keep him focused on the next pitch.

During the season, Bumgarner has been effective, though not always efficient. More of a power pitcher than the other Giant starters, he relies on his fastball, while maintaining a good curve and slider. But he needs time to settle in.

The Braves jump on him right away; they hit the ball well but they get no hits.

Four: Family

I am not sleeping, says the dog, just resting my eyes. He perks up when he hears me getting ready to leave.

I’d like a polish sausage with sauerkraut, a side of garlic fries, and one of those margaritas in the sick orange plastic containers, please. I give him the usual dog food and water.

I’m about to turn off the television when I see someone who looks like my cousin. He has the misfortune to live in Atlanta, and he’s got both the money and the mentality to wave a red styrofoam tomahawk in front of a national television audience. I think I’ll send him a trash text.

Five: Braves try war path

I change my mind. Trouble has found Bumgarner, as I was afraid it might; he escaped bases loaded in the second, but a couple of singles and a couple of fly balls to right field produce a run in the third. It’s only one, but the way Lowe is pitching, that may be enough

And it doesn’t seem likely that the kid will be able to hold the Braves back for long; they’re hungry for barbecued Bumgarner.

Meanwhile, Derek Lowe is pitching like a man possessed, sprinting hrough five innings, fifteen Giants up, fifteen Giants down. I’ve never seen a man pitch so fast. Does he have a hot date? Diarrhea? He’s working like a dog, says the dog.

Six: When Sliders Don’t Slide

Lowe’s face takes on a deep reddish hue. Am I the only one in the country thinking this guy is going to have a heart attack if he keeps this up? Stop bitching, says the dog — the more tired he gets, the more likely he’s going to make a mistake.

What kind of mistake? Like throwing a slider that doesn’t slide, that stays over the fat part of the plate, allowing Cody Ross to meet the ball with the fat of the bat, the sweet spot. No grounder this time; the ball takes off, reaching the bleachers and tying the game.

Catcher Brian McCann comes right back with a homer to right off Bumgarner’s first pitch. It was a good curve ball, a better hit. Bumgarner leaves the next inning, having given up, incredibly, only two runs. He’s given his team a chance to win.

Seven: Cody Who?

The dog and I walk over to The Phoenix. Overflow, standing-room only outside for fans, smokers and dog lovers. People want to talk about the dog more than baseball, although some, like Sharon, combine the two. “I’m going to get a dog and name him Buster Posey.”

Better than Rookie of the Year! The human Buster is so happy he hits an infield single in the seventh inning. Not really a hit, more like a miss that turned into a hit as it brushed by Posey’s bat. Big deal, you say — it’s only the second hit off Lowe and it’s not real. True, though Aubrey Huff drew a walk before Posey’s dribbler and Pat Burrell draws one after, loading the bases.

Adios, Derek. Time to expose Atlanta’s crippled infield: a run scores when Alex Gonzalez muffs Juan Uribe’s grounder; and then another when Cody Ross hits a single and the Giants take the lead, 3-2.

Eight: Blood Pressure

Game over? You wish. In the bottom of the ninth, with a one-run lead, Brian Wilson, the Giants’ closer, can’t get the ball near the strike zone. Braves’ hitters know it and are content to walk. SF General’s emergency room has been put on alert.

After he strikes out Omar Infante, Wilson bends over, like his back has seized up or he’s looking for a lucky charm he just lost. A gasp shoots through The Phoenix. Relax. Just another Wilson routine, like the walks. He’s just messing with us, isn’t he? He’s not going to blow another save, is he?

Nope.

Nine: Win a Trip to Philadelphia

The Giants hug each other when not throwing beer in one another’s face. At The Phoenix, we would rather drink the beer.

Just what have the Giants won? asks the dog on the way home. An exciting seven-game series with the powerful Philadelphia Phillies to decide who will represent the National League in the World Series. That’s crazy, sniffs the “baseball pet.”

Game One is Saturday in Philly. Mission Loc@l will provide a guide on Friday.

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