One: Grab Your Buds
This morning’s headline in the local papers announces Proposition 19, to tax and regulate the sale of marijuana, has lost ground in a close race. Tell that to Giants’ fans streaming into Mission Creek ballpark today for Game Five of the NLCS, the ones wearing the “Let Timmy Smoke **%$ Yeah” T-shirts, or the ones like Fran and Domingo, sharing a bud behind China Basin Building.
They have trouble with the lighter because the day has turned weird. Cold and windy I expect, but where did this rain come from? Fran curses the rain. They both know about Prop. 19 and plan to vote against, no, for it, even though Domingo’s not sure he’s registered.
Prop 19 wins or loses depending on turnout. What would Timmy say? I ask him.
Two: Gifts from the Gods
“Timmy” is Tim Lincecum, only two-time Cy Young Award winner to be busted for possession of pot, and starting pitcher tonight for “your” San Francisco Giants. A win over Philadelphia means a trip to the World Series.
At first I think the rain is a bad omen, then I remember Lincecum is from Seattle; he loves this kind of weather. Look at him as he takes the mound: cool, focused and flexibly unflappable.
He’s got the weather he likes and the Giants surprise him with a run in the first inning: a “manufactured” run, created out of a walk, a single and a base hit that should have been ruled an error that should have been a double play. But it wasn’t. 1-0, Giants.
Three: The Ugly Philadelphian
On a night filled with dreams, memories, legends and ghosts, GiantsInc. rolls out its big sentimental guns, members of the first San Francisco team to go the World Series:
Felipe Alou, Jim Davenport, Orlando Cepeda and Willie Mays.
In Section 320, a guy wearing a Phillies jersey stands up and ostentatiously flips off Willie Mays. Flip off Willie Mays? Tonight in San Francisco? Someone should check to see if he’s recently taken out a life insurance policy.
Four: Mission Control, We’ve Got a Problem
For the life of me, I can’t understand why in the top of the third, Lincecum gives up a lead-off single to Raul Ibanez, whose batting average is smaller than he is. Control problems? You might think so after Lincecum hits Carlos Ruiz.
Roy Halladay, the pitcher, tries to bunt, but the ball rolls off his bat, drops to the plate and rolls into foul territory, which the umpire calls fair! What?! Are you…? Buster Posey immediately picks up the ball and fires it to third base to cut off the lead runner. The ball gets into Pablo Sandoval’s glove on time, but the Panda doesn’t have his foot on the bag!
The next batter, Shane Victorino, hits a hard ground ball right at Aubrey Huff. I don’t remember seeing Huff make an error this year. Until now. He literally boots the ball into center field, scoring two runs (you should get the RBIs, Aubrey). Lincecum can’t complain. He gives up one more single, one more run (the winning run). The Phillies now lead 3-1.
Five: The Real Magic is Outside
Last night, when the Phillies broke out and took the lead, the Giants could not wait to respond. Tonight, they can.
In the top of the fourth, the dying rays of the sun break through the clouds, casting a rich gold light over the Bay. Combined with the stadium lights, the scene at the ballpark looks like it’s from a Renaissance painting. A rainbow appears over the Bay. Lincecum regains his footing and keeps his cleats on the Phillies’ necks until he leaves after seven.
Meanwhile, in the bottom of the fourth, the golden light now fading, Pat Burrell doubles to left. And to a serenade from 44,000 chanting his name, Cody Ross doubles to right, scoring Burrell. Philadelphia’s lead has been cut to one.
Six: Autumn of Love
If you listen to Giants fans, you would think Lincecum must have smoked a joint between the third and fourth innings.
“The problem he had in August,” Kenny tells me with absolute conviction, “was [Giants management] made him stop. Now he’s smoking again and he’s back to his old self.” Giants fans aren’t stoned, but they’re totally positive. Don’t try to raise any doubts or questions. Not here. Not now.
It’s starting to rain. Harder now than before.
Seven: Your Table is Ready
You may have noticed that this version of “your” San Francisco Giants seldom scores more than two or three runs two nights in a row.
Andres Torres is back in the lineup. He and Freddy Sanchez, the one and two hitters in the batting order, work together like they did four months ago. In baseball talk, they “set the table” in the fifth inning. But no one shows up to eat.
It’s obvious that Roy Halladay is tired. The Giants worked him over but couldn’t score. He leaves after six. Now the Giants can get their hands on the bullpen.
Eight: Huff the Angry Giant
Or not. With one out in the seventh, Torres singles to center off Jose Contreras. Earlier this inning, Huff turned an unassisted double play to hold the Phillie lead to one. But he still has not redeemed his error in the third.
Now he has a chance, maybe his last one tonight. Torres on first, two outs. Redemption and Everlasting Glory beckon. Just one swing.
Huff connects, lashing a line drive to right center field — snagged by a diving Chase Utley.
Nine: Ostensible Obscenity
The only excitement left is watching the Giant bullpen escape from the jams they create for themselves. When Cody Ross strikes out in the eighth, it’s like 40,000 people have gone mute.
Yesterday in the bottom of the ninth, you could feel the electricity. Not today. In Section 311, one word: grim. Yes, people cheer and wave pompoms, but it’s sodden ritual, a prelude to absolute silence when the final curtain descends: 4-2.
The first obscenity ricochets down the ramps. In a flash, a flood of obscenities follows, sweeping the crowd out of the park, onto Willie Mays Plaza, cursing their fate, the rain, and of course the Phillies.
Game Six from Philadelphia at 5 p.m. on Saturday.
Come on. You didn’t really think the Giants were going to let us off that easy, did you?