As we count down to Opening Day we would like to highlight some of the players and coaches we will be cheering on during the 2013 season. Be sure to check out our 2013 Media Guide for more tidbits about our players and coaches.
- Is the first player to win a Cy Young Award twice in his first two full seasons in the Majors…
Just really hoping that Timmy can rebound from last year! I have faith that he can!!
This is a story based on the 2011 season of the San Francisco Giants. It takes a fantastically view of the Giants season using the idea of the Baseball Gods and spinning it out into a story. Why the 2011 Giants and not the 2012 Giants? That story is coming but this one has to be finished first: This is the introduction.
Recordia looked down upon the small crowded stadium in the human realm a smile growing across her face. Humiliation always tasted best when it was unexpected. The team in orange and black were primed for her liking. Once again to fall just short. It would be sweet.
“Wilson struck him out swinging! And for the first time in fifty-two years, the Giants are World Champions!”
“What!” Recordia, Goddess of baseballing fate cried, “That was not what I had decreed! Erbia get in here!!”
A small sprite floated into the room expectant dread trying hide among her features but failing miserably. She knew this was coming. She wanted to help Giant. She had felt sorry for him all these decades and thought it cruel in the ways her mistress tormented him for the way the human Bobby Thomson defied Fate fifty-nine years previous. She still shuddered when she thought of her Lady’s wrath at that moment. It had been frightening. That a mere human should change her plans to bring rings to Brooklyn. She had always felt the spirit world’s hand upon the Giants that year and she had been powerless to stop it, a fact she had never stopped resenting. She had wanted to seek vengeance upon the human, but Giant interceded. Throwing himself upon her mercy he begged her to spare the man. Recordia had withdrawn her ire upon the human only to re-gather her strength and spend it upon Giant himself.
“I shall allow your human to thrive. You then shall feel my wrath.” Erbia thought upon her mistress’ words those many years ago and shuddered. She had been as good as her word. Other than the inexplicable world championship in 1954 there had been nothing but heartbreak. Recordia teased Giant mercilessly. Letting his beloved team come so close only to snatch it away at the last second. 1962. 1971. 1989 where she outdid herself and a whole region of the human realm suffered because of Giant’s perceived impertinence. 2002 was her crowning glory. She let Giant believe that all had been forgiven and with four outs to go she cruelly ripped victory back with such ferocity that it destroyed a human pitcher’s career and he never threw another pitch for Giant’s beloved team or any other. She took great joy in letting the name “Scott Speizio” slip from her lips every so often just to see Giant twitch subconsciously. She would inwardly smile when the remembered pain played across his features.
“Erbia!” A hard voice interrupted the reverie. “Bring Giant to me at once!” Erbia eyed her Lady briefly then bobbed a small respectful nod edging her way out of the chamber.
Giant only ever wanted to see his team succeed. It was all any avatar wanted for his team. He had been so proud of Thomson and what the team had been able to achieve; even Recordia’s wrath had been made endurable by the memory of that homerun. Such joy had been unleashed; it was what an avatar lived on. Hope and despair were two sides of the same coin, a fate that all avatars accepted. It was a harsh life for some. Cub had known nothing but pain and disappointment for over 100 years ever since the day of human hubris in 1908 that had sealed Cub’s fate ever since. The other avatars didn’t talk about it much, even amongst themselves. To speak of such an event might invite such misery unto themselves and their team. Human greed and folly often cursed them to a life of wretchedness. Redsox was no stranger to this sad fact of their world. Even after the light of hope and joy dawned upon him in the years 2004 and 2007 as Recordia relented ever so briefly allowing the curse of the Bambino to be lifted, if 1918 or more recently 1986 was mentioned in his presence he would grow pale and twitch and more often than not bolt from the room. She had her favorites. She made no bones about it. Yankee was ever her favourite but even he felt her occasional wrath just to keep him and the other avatars in their place.
That Giant’s team should have just won the World Series against all odds would forever warm his heart. That he should have received help from the spirit realm when the Kinsler ball was blown back into play, that was all the proof necessary that the Spirit realm had heard and answered his pleas and supplications. He used the few powers he had to help his team fight against Fate and change what Recordia had already decreed. The spirit realm held dominion over them all, even Recordia though she was loath to admit to such subservience, it was just that the powers-that-be didn’t often influence the baseball realm as it had many other concerns that mattered more in the scheme of things. But on occasion a benevolent eye was cast upon the realm of baseball and Recordia was powerless to stop the intervention; another truth that was forever a thorn in her side.
He entered her throne room and saw her sitting in state looking down upon the human realm and there sitting in magnification was his beloved team jumping all over each other with a joyous abandon that warmed his heart. He saw Posey the catcher and Lincecum the pitcher hugging each other in child-like joy and the many others falling upon each other until tears clouded his vision. Enthralled by what he was seeing his heart filled with bliss. A bliss he had not felt in 56 years.
“So you can imagine my surprise as I looked in upon the game to enjoy yet another time in the long line of humiliation I had planned when this is what I beheld.”
Giant’s heart stilled as he realized where he was. The beautiful sight of his team celebrating had driven all else from his mind. The joy was short-lived as it was rich. With trepidation he dropped quickly into a kneeling bow of submission head held low, an open palm placed over his heart.
“My Lady, this is not what you had planned? I thought that within your benevolent heart you had decided to rescind the curse you had laid upon me and my team. Knowing always that you seek only happiness for those in your care; I wish to thank you for this unexpected bounty.” It was a risk, but perhaps through flattering her vanity, Giant could lessen the wrath that might fall upon his team for his transgression. He paused frozen in his posture of subservience waiting upon her capricious nature. It was his only chance. Utter silence greeted his ears and mere seconds seemed years as he awaited his fate. Joy frozen by fear of retribution. He felt her manicured fingernail under his chin as it was lifted towards her face. He looked into green eyes that grew from rage to calculating coldness to a warm happiness that quite took his breath away.
“Of course, Giant. It was what I had planned all along this year.” Recordia’s voice purred happily, “I do hope that that you will forgive my staged anger earlier. I wanted to keep what I had planned for you a surprise until the last possible moment. Come sit by my side as we watch the celebrations of a well-earned victory.”
Giant blinked as he stared into those eyes of seeming happiness and joy and slowly he began to realize that he might be spared her wrath. He began to think that she knew nothing of his machinations or that this was what Recordia had fated to be. He rose slowly from his kneeling subservience to sit upon the champions’ cushion at Recordia’s feet. A place he had been denied for over a half a century. Joy, now again unbounded, flowed through him like a speedy cordial blinding him to all other thought as he looked upon his team and its followers celebrating rapturously into the night. He looked up on occasion to view his mistress as she stroked his hair. She never looked more kind than she did on this night having given him what he had so desperately wanted for so many years. It was unfortunate when at the end of the night as they parted company that he missed the look of malevolence that crossed her fair features as he walked away.
As he walked on to his rooms he replayed again in his mind’s eye the many scenes of rampant abandon and he could not help but smile.
“Just wanted to offer you a hearty congratulations, my friend. It was a well-fought battle.” Giant broke his reverie to see Ranger standing there with his hand outstretched. He smiled and heartily shook the avatar’s hand. He had always liked Ranger and was just a bit saddened that such a worthy adversary had to be defeated to bring him the joy that he felt this night. “May next year bring you the same joy!”
Ranger smiled ruefully, “We shall see. That kid of yours in Game Four. Take care of him. Or we might just want to snap him up.”
Giant smiled and thought on Bumgarner. The minor fates had truly smiled when he had been taken into the Giants’ fold. “Thanks, I will.”
Ranger smiled and then added before walking on, “Stay away from Phillie for a while. He’s meaning you no good.”
“Thanks!” Giant mused on what Ranger had said. Phillie was a bit high strung but generally not dangerous. But he had been quiet of late. Giant wondered as he continued on to his rooms. Cub was waiting for him at the door with a slightly lost and wistful look on his face. “Congratulations, my friend. How does it feel?” a plaintive quality colored his voice.
“Better than I ever remembered it. The joy of it! It is unreal. My heart is so light. I feel as if –” Giant looked at his friend as he effused and was cut by the look of fresh pain and longing that was etched into his friend’s face. “I’m sorry. I’ll stop now. This can’t be easy for you.”
“No! Look, I’m glad that one of us is finally happy. It is what it is. I will wait. I have no choice. Recordia will do as she will and we cannot change that.”
It was Giant’s turn to look subdued. He wanted to tell Cub want he had done, but after tonight he was not so sure that he had changed fate. Perhaps Recordia had finally relented and allowed him victory. After all it had happened to Redsox. And if that were the case then, maybe too, there would be hope for Cub as well. He truly did not know. But he could hope, if only for his friend’s sanity.
Recordia watched as Giant walked away. Coldly she contemplated her next move. She knew that Giant had once again tampered with Fate. After the spirit world’s unwelcome and unexpected intervention in Game Two she knew that Giant had felt a nascent hope and thus emboldened, he mustered up every ounce of his soul force to cloud her vision distracting and deceiving her into seeing what she wanted to see while allowing the games to continue without her direct influence. The fog within her mind only lifted as the game entered the final outs and she found that her powers had been drained and could do nothing. She had thought that she had beaten him down enough but apparently the Spirit realm had given him hope. She hated that. She thought spitefully of the realm that held careless dominion over her, but against that she was powerless. Her own realm was hers to play with; and play she would.
Her rage was barely controlled when she summoned Giant to her presence to account for his actions. She was going to allow him his joy and then immediately rip it from him. It would have been highly enjoyable and no more than he deserved for flaunting her decrees. But in listening to his attempts at vain flattery a much better idea formed in her mind. She would allow him to think it had been her design all along. The result would be two-fold. First if he was allowed to think that she had deemed this result then he would never know how much power hope held for him and all the avatars. This was something she could never allow the avatars to realise. She would lose her power over them if they realized that simple fact. Second, it would be highly entertaining not rip away the joyous feeling immediately but to wait until hope built up to the next season. She laughed softly.
Erbia heard her Lady laughing to herself and the sound chilled her to her bones. She had heard that sort of laugh before and it was never a good thing for anyone other than the Lady herself. She looked at Giant’s retreating steps bouncing light as a feather and again she had a feeling of foreboding. She quickly darted away before her lady spotted her. It was never a good thing to be in the Lady’s presence when her aura was so newly colored in this way.
Chapter six: The Road Forward Begins
Lincecum was on the mound and that meant that Era was in Giant’s enclave to watch the game with Giant. The memories of the game against the Marlins on the previous Wednesday and all that they had lost was still very much on the minds of the players, Giant could feel their sorrow and concern for their teammate. They were all professional baseball players, inured to the life of physical pain and exertion and the capricious nature of the sport they had given their lives to since they were very young. They all understood that injuries were part of the game that they loved and the lives that they had chosen and that it could all be taken away with an ill-timed slide or the next batted ball. As professional players they knew that one had to look forward, towards the next at bat, the next inning, the next game and that they had to carry on without those who had fallen to injury. It was the nature of the game. It helped to have a short memory, but sometimes it was a case of easier said than done. They would carry on, there was no other choice, but even this acceptance to did not lessen the impact of what had happened. Their talismanic catcher, their teammate and friend had been taken away and a little bit of life had left with him. Giant, as the collective soul of the team, felt this in his very core and he was at a loss. His players numb and his beloved fan base angry and despondent it was not a promising start to a road trip.
A small flare of hope blazed within Giant’s breast when he saw the lineup. Crawford, the young shortstop, was getting his first Major League start. The young man’s infectious delight started coloring Giant’s outlook ever so gently. The young player’s optimism was a salve to Giant’s wounded psyche. Soon Giant would see if the optimism was warranted. After an inauspicious three up, three down. Timmy took the mound. The perennial stopper for the Giants, he would try and halt the three game skid the Giants found themselves in. It would be somewhat unsettling not pitching to Buster behind the plate but it was not something that that was going to worry Timmy, Giant sensed. He then surveyed the rest of the field and his eyes stopped on Crawford. Giant caught a loud whoop of joy psychically escaping and floating off into the ether. He laughed out loud, the first laugh that he had had since Buster’s injury, it seemed. Crawford was trying so desperately hard to maintain a professional demeanor, but inside his essence was on fire, shouting for joy so clearly that Giant was surprised that the average person in the stands could not hear such a blissful noise.
The second pitch in naturally went to the rookie, Crawford took a few steps in gathered up the ball and sent it zipping safely into the first baseman’s mitt of Aubrey Huff. It was an easy play, any shortstop could have done it, but Giant sensed sure hands from the moment Crawford touched the ball and his heart healed a little more. The joyous flame that he felt within the young man temporarily flared with a small brilliant white spark that was starting ever so gently to permeate the gloom that had been dimming the spirit of the club since the twelfth inning two days before. In the second Giant felt that flame brighten a little more with another ball fielded by the rookie handled as if he had been playing ten years in the majors. The kid was something special. That glove he felt held future gold if everything fell right for him. Giant only prayed that it would. Right now his and his team’s relationship with Fate was on a rocky and tremor-ridden path. Only time would tell.
The game wore on. Tim did not have his best command. It might have been that he was not in sync with Eli, not at least in the same way he was with Buster. It seemed that Era might have been right . The pitchers had come to rely on Posey and his ability to handle the staff. Giant sensed an even harder road laid in front of the Giants talented staff. In any event Lincecum battled his way through. He gave up a two run homer to Rickie weeks in the third and another run in the fifth. On a comebacker to the mound Lincecum fired home and narrowly missed Nyjer Morgan. Emotions boiled over and two months of no offense and two fraught and uncertain days of dealing with Posey’s catastrophic season-ending injury saw Bruce Bochy arguing the call and being ejected from the game. Giant felt for his manager. Rightly or wrongly frustrations need to be aired. It did pay immediate dividends however. After being shutout the day before the Giants finally put across a run. Torres came across to score on a Freddie Sanchez single to left. It had taken them sixteen innings but they finally managed to score in the Post-Buster portion of the season. Giant hoped that it would not take as long to score the second run. It took one more inning. It started with the bright desperate flame that was Aubrey Huff, hitless in his last seven at bats and the only hit in the past week was the one that tied the game in the ninth that allowed the game on Wednesday night to extend until Buster got injured. Recordia was superb in her abilities to screw with a hitter’s mind. His only hit, which tied the game and sent the stadium into rapturous joy was the door through which Buster’s injury was made possible. Not that that was the reality of the situation. A run on either side of that ninth inning and the game is decided differently. No one bears sole responsibility for a loss, but that did not mean that Recordia would not try to spin it that way to pull Huff into a deeper slump. Aubrey was already primed for her taking because of the pressure that he put on himself. But each at bat was a new opportunity to start afresh. Giant felt that Huff approached this at bat with a slightly clearer mind and was able to work the count finally to his advantage. On a 2-1 count he lined it into right and for once it was not right at a fielder and it fell in for a double. Nate followed with a single to center, Huff stopping at third. At first Giant cursed the luck of where Schierholtz’ ball had fallen but Tejada then coaxed a walk and everything was forgotten as Giant saw the next batter step into the box. It was Brandon Crawford.
Brandon had gotten fairly good wood on the ball but had yet to hit safely in his first two major league at bats. Giant gazed into the young shortstop‘s heart. So young and full of promise, the San Franciscan avatar sensed that Crawford was an explosion just waiting to happen; not necessarily of power but of energy and joy. The mound discussion broke up and Shaun Marcum was ready to pitch. First pitch inside and Giant heard the crack of the bat. It soared and before the right fielder could even really react it was over the wall and into the Giants’ bullpen past the fence. The brilliant white flame flared into an explosion of bliss and the Giants dugout came alive. In one swing Crawford reminded them of joy that could still be theirs. Unexpected and unheralded, once again hope found its way back, in the form of a rookie shortstop. Giant watched the kid sail around first base watching the path of the ball and slap his hands together as it landed in the friendly territory of the Giants’ pen. Aubrey Huff bounded home from third, arm raised, pumping his fist in the air. Giant reflected that Huff had started this rally, could only pray that the troubled first basemen could keep this feeling of success with him all season long.
Giant looked into the dugout he could feel the gloom that had been pervasive dissipate instantly in the light of such unexpected bliss. The dugout had come alive. Freddie Sanchez and Pat Burrell were two of many pictures of rapturous delight. “And a rookie shall lead them.” The thought came unbidden into Giant’s mind and he felt cheered considerably. Even if it did not pan out along a similar storyline again, as he suspected it would not, lightning rarely, if ever, strikes in the same way twice. But it had struck, unexpected as it was, and brought his beloved team back to life. Although it would have to survive an immediate test as to its durability. In the eighth inning when the Giants were nursing their two run lead. Sergio Romo had come on for Lincecum. The first two outs were recorded in typical Romo fashion. Both struck out swinging but then Ryan Braun worked a walk and the percentages being played, Bochy brought in Javier Lopez to face the left handed slugger, Prince Fielder. Normally Lopez was a pitcher to break a lefthanded hitter’s heart, but in this particular instance it was not to be. Fielder walked and Braun moved to second. Tying run was on first base. After the exultation of the Crawford’s grand slam and all the life it brought to the dugout the victory was hanging by a thread. From a two out and nobody on situation to one batter later the base were loaded and the tying run was on second base. Jonathon Lucroy stepped up to plate and on a 1-1 pitch he singled to leftfielder Cody Ross. Braun scored and Prince Fielder was barreling around third zeroing in on another Giants’ catcher. Cody Ross sent a beautifully thrown bullet into the plate and Giant flashed back to a couple of years before when Prince Fielder level former Giants catcher ???? to score in the first inning of that game. The Giants catcher was never the same again. Giant watched as the play unfolded, horror starting to take root, but then his focus shifted to Eli Whiteside straddling the line. He looked ready to take on all comers, including the runaway locomotive that was Fielder. He stood braced and upright and took the first baseman’s hit full on. Fielder jarred him but Eli held his ground and the ball. The precious lead was preserved and more importantly after everything that had happened; Eli standing his ground sent another necessary shockwave throughout the Giants dugout. This one more gutteral and grounding than the exultant joy of Crawford’s grand slam that sent a fissure of life giving energy throughout. This was a shoring up of bedrock, they as a team may have been a bit battered and bruised but they would not be broken and they would stand firm. True happiness would return when Buster was healed and was back behind the plate prodding and protecting his pitchers but until then, the Giants could still play; still win, still continue to fight until that day. The road was probably not going to be easy and many frustrations were sure to surface but Giant now knew that this team would not give up the fight no matter what Recordia threw in their way.
Recordia was not in the viewing area the day after she had caused Posey’s injury. She told herself that it was because she was tired from the extra innings but in truth it was because of Giant. She did not want to see the San Franciscan avatar. If shame were something she could recognise then it might have been shame that kept her away but as it was a completely unfamiliar emotion it did not play a conscious role in her absence. She only knew a vague feeling of unease at the thought of seeing the San Franciscan avatar and as she liked to avoid discomfort of any kind, she stayed away. Also she had not liked the way the other avatars looked at her after the incident. It was almost as if they blamed her for her behaviour. Did they not realize that she had been brought to that point, that the young Giants catcher had to fall. She indignantly thought that the Giants team was supposed to crumble, supposed to fall at her wish and that she had to take matters into her own hands. She was after all the superior being in this, her realm of baseball. Sure even she had to admit the young catcher was a very likeable sort, for a human. Not full of hubris like so many others, but be that as it may, he was a casualty of war. A war that she reminded herself that Giant had started by all of his interference with her decrees, so really he was to blame for the injury. Why the other avatars did not see that, she did not know. Recordia resentfully thought, she was not to be blamed yet she knew that that was how the other avatars would see it. And if she brought too much attention to herself and her realm the Powers that be might start taking an interest in the happenings in her realm. Normally they did not pay attention, but one of their sprites had used their powers; there was more of an awareness of the happenings than there would be usually.
She would have to try to restrain herself because this for a while and not tamper with Giant’s team. Also this disturbing trend of the other avatars feeling sorry for Giant’s team. Not that she necessarily cared what the other avatars thought but she prided herself on her sense of self preservation and that sense was starting to tingle dangerously. She hated it when she had behave herself. It was no fun and as a goddess she should be able to as much fun as she wanted but, even for her, life did not work out exactly as she planned. She could not affect the players directly for a little while but she could get creative in her ability to make mischief and misfortune. She would just need to think about her next move.
It would take the better part of a week but she came up with a idea. A devious little plan that would not harm the players but could wreck havoc upon the game. She was pleased that since the injury the Giants had dropped four out six games and they were heading into St. Louis who were close to the top of the league in hitting. Maybe Giant’s beloved team was starting to play to the form she had decreed, but she was taking no chances and was still planning her mischief for the third game of the series. Mischief was in place and awaiting her instructions.
Giant thought about the past week. It had not been a easy week to say the least and his team was still reeling a bit from everything that happen. The game against the Brewers in which Brandon Crawford smashed a grand slam for his first major hit was a needed awakening for the club, but they had dropped three of four since. Coming into St. Louis with the Redbirds batting as well as they were was going to be a difficult set of games to navigate successfully if they were to return home with a victorious road trip. Giant thought that it had been good to get away from AT&T just after the injury, that they could focus on the games at hand without having to deal with the extraneous happenings of life when the team was at home. Also they had received a unexpected amount of goodwill from the two teams that they had visited.
Recordia’s appearances of late had been sparse with the viewing arena, Giant did not mind in the least and did not really spare a thought as to her absence. At that moment the less he saw of the Lady the better. He still didn’t trust his reaction to her presence and any more volatility on his part could only rebound badly on his beloved team. Granted an absent Recordia was also a dangerous Recordia, but at the moment he was having trouble caring what she thought or did. He did not for a moment think that she was having pangs of remorse concerning Posey’s injury. She was simply not capable of such emotions as shame or regret, Giant thought bitterly. But at least the injury, while serious and season-ending, could have been worse. An injury to the shoulder or knee would have caused more career-ending fears and a blow to the head could have seriously jeopardized the young catcher’s life or at least the quality of that life. All things considered it could have been worse, Giant continually reminded himself when he thought of what the young man was having to endure because Recordia’s ill-driven ire.
In the third game against the Cardinals Lincecum was on the mound and again Era was in Giant’s viewing enclave. She had been a bit worried about Timmy of late because he was not quite himself. She could not quite understand it and she could not always help. Her pearls could only be bestowed when there were two strikes on the hitter and of late Timmy had been behind in a lot of counts. Era fussed and fretted when she could do nothing to help one of her beloved pitchers. She was not used to being powerless and the nature of the game gave her far more freedom and success than her sister enjoyed. For Erbia and her hitters baseball was a question of how well does one handle failure. All hitters fail it is just a question of how much and how well the player handles the vagaries of the game. It was why Erbia was much more practical and pragmatic about the game and life itself. She and her hitters were used to the concept of failure.
Era however, was far more high strung and far less used to failure. As the Sprite of Pitching Success she enjoyed more freedom and far more success. So when failure reared up and affected one of her more talented pitchers and she could do very little to help them out of their difficulty she was unused to the feelings of helplessness and she fretted. In the game against the Cardinals there were very few times in which she could have bestowed her pearls. It was a frustrating game for her. But it was almost as frustrating a game for Erbia to watch. Even inured as she was to failure, the Giants’ particular brand of hitting ineptitude could bring tears of frustration to those crystal clear eyes, particularly in the early innings of the game when they left runners base in four out of the first five innings. To make matters worse Lincecum was not as sharp as he could have been and he had already had allowed a run in the bottom of the third. It looked to be another inept offensive performance and this time it would not to be saved by sterling pitching. Giant sigh as he watched the first innings of the game. He winced as Timmy endured seeing eye singles and a wild pitch which allowed the Cardinals to score their first three runs. The Giant managed to shake the cobwebs out of the offense for the sixth and took the lead, of all things, off a solo Home Run from Aubrey Huff. With the Giants scoring four runs, it would be a lock for Timmy to take it home to the ninth and let Wilson close it out for the win, Giant thought. It was the way of things. Tim did not let four runs go to waste. He got them so rarely. Giant was about leave the viewing enclave after the bottom of the seventh and turn in early with the game in hand. It had been a long week and he could really use the sleep. Era going to continue watching and maybe grab the odd opportunity to help Timmy if she could. She would tell him any essential details in the morning.
Just as he was getting up to leave, Daniel Descalso tripled to deep left. Giant paused, peering over the viewing railing. The batter was a pitch hitter for the pitcher and on the third pitch Allen Craig did something that nobody in 135 appearances had done against Lincecum. A pitch hit home run over the leftfield wall to take the lead away from Timmy and the Giants. Giant was stunned as he saw the Cardinal pinch hitter round the bases. It was such an odd occurrence and one for which he had no frame of reference. He looked quickly at Recordia but she seemed oblivious to what he suspected, not even meeting his eye. Which for her was a fairly good indication that she had had nothing to do with the temporal happening, she never missed a chance to gloat over a piece of her mischief. She had been strangely muted over the last few days. Giant did not know why, but he did not question it because his feelings toward the Lady were less than kind and still unsettled as to his reaction in the face of Recordia’s scathing remarks.
On the field Giant was dismayed to find runners on first and second base and Lincecum being lifted in favour of Santiago Casillas who promptly walked the next batter. Giant thought he had hear a slight titter coming from the direction of the throne but it was gone in a second and he was no longer sure if he had heard it or if he had just imagined it. It was after all the sort of thing Recordia would do. Giant shook his head quickly as if to clear it. He really needed some sleep. Order was soon restored in the form a beautifully fielded 6-3 double play ball courtesy of the rookie Brandon Crawford.
The Giants were on the wrong side of the scoreboard and Giant was once again tormenting himself for his lack of forethought that had caused this offensive power outage as the Giants made two quick outs in the top of the ninth on the verge of handing Timmy his fifth loss against five wins. Aubrey Huff was at the plate and Giant was not brimming with confidence that the game was going to go beyond the struggling first baseman’s at bat. But then baseball can be an odd game based on very short term memory. Remembering the solo home run in his previous at bat, Huff was accorded the honor of a four ball walk. Giant looked over at Cardinal in his viewing enclave and there was a definite look of disbelief on the Redbird avatar’s face as to his manager’s decision to put on the tying run, even with two outs. Giant thought ruefully that their managers were going to drive the avatars to drink with their at times indecipherable managerial decisions. It seemed to be playing out to the Redbirds advantage with a quick 1-2 count on Nate Schierholtz, but Emmanuel Burriss running for the lead footed Huff, stole second base and suddenly the runner was in scoring position. Giant stood there gripping the viewing railing in the same position that a sneaked peek over in the Cardinal viewing enclave showed. Two avatars, breath held, locked in the same position hoping for the complete opposite in results. A single up the middle released them. One to joy; one to despair. The Giants had tied it up and Lincecum was headed for a no-decision, which was better than a loss.
Chapter five: The Twelfth
The top of the twelfth opened somewhat portentously. Guillermo Mota replaced Brian Wilson, who had gone his limit of two innings. After a full count battle he surrendered a single to left by the light hitting catcher, John Buck and Scott Cousins came into pinch hit for the pitcher. Giant relaxed a little as the bunt was hit a little too hard and Mota was able to get the lead runner at second base. Cousins took first on a fielder’s choice. The next hitter dispelled some of that relaxation however by singling to right. Runners on the corners with one out. After that glorious comeback the game was once again in jeopardy. Giant sighed anxiously, nothing ever came easy to his beloved team and tonight was clearly no exception. Giant waited anxiously through the next at bat willing a strikeout. He turned to Era to suggest that very thing when he heard the crack of the bat. He looked back just in time to see the ball flying into right field. Nate Schierholtz possibly had the best arm in the Giants outfield, so it seemed fortuitous that the ball should be his to throw. But as Nate caught the ball a feeling of malevolence flowed across the field. He quickly stole a glance at Recordia, knowing that she, and only she could be responsible for such an occurrence. She held his glance, anger and envy flowing freely through her eyes and straight into his soul, the exchange taking less than half a second. Giant at that moment knew real fear and in a flash he realized her vengeance was again seen far, far too late. He quickly looked back to the field and saw Cousins bearing down upon Buster Posey. The reserve outfielder dropped his shoulder and rammed into Posey in fair territory, blindsiding the young catcher as the ball skipped innocently past. Anger, indignation, disbelief warred within Giant’s soul. But it was all overwhelmed by the colliding of image and sensation. The image of the talented young catcher flung backward then sent sprawling face down, clawing the dirt with his hands was burned into his memory as a previously unimaginable amount of pain ripped through Giant’s body as he crumbled to the floor of the viewing enclave writhing in pain. He could faintly hear both Erbia and Era at his side screaming but he was too consumed by the image and the pain to pay attention to much else. After a time his mind began to clear and all he could feel was a crushing pall of concern and despair that was crippling his sensibilities. He was still on the floor but he could feel the small hands of the two sprites trying to revive him. He waved them off and tried to get to his feet. His left leg felt somewhat numb but was regaining feeling. He shook his head to clear it and knew what had happened and why. He shook off the insistent and increasingly frantic hands of the baseballing sprites and with despair and worry of all Giants fans aware of the game’s happenings coursing through him he made a beeline for the Goddess of Baseballing Fate who looked genuinely frightened for the first time that he could remember before he was stopped by an invisible wall surrounding her. He beat his fist angrily, yet impotently upon the wall of force repeatedly. After ceasing his useless expression of his rage and indignation he simply stared at the Goddess. His leg numb and his heart broken he simply looked at her as what had happened at her instigation washed over him. Recordia looked back at him, all indignant pride and wounded righteousness behind her wall of protection “What?” she demanded haughtily, “Do you have anything to say?” Giant simply stood there holding her eyes in a unblinking stare of pain, despair, injustice and ultimate resignation. “You win, Recordia.” the San Franciscan avatar responded quietly, “I apologise for any and all wins achieved against your will. I only ever wanted happiness and success for my team, it is all any of us have ever wanted, but apparently that is wrong. I’m sorry that my team had the temerity to win and thrive against your best efforts,”
“Well it clearly hasn’t been my best, but tonight was pretty good I thought–” The Goddess of Baseballing Fate fell silent in when Giant froze her with a look of such ferocity that she feared for her safety even behind the wall of protection.
Giant continued in a quiet, beaten monotone, worry, concern and a sense of injustice were coursing through him so strongly that it was all he could do to maintain a sense of decorum before he left the room, “Stop maiming my players simply because they have the audacity to hope against fate.” He paused, “And I will never tempt fate again.”
“And you will lift that spell of protection upon the pitchers,” Recordia pushed hopefully.
Giant looked at her as if he were seeing her for the first time, “You know as well as I do that once bestowed a lyric cannot be reversed.”
“Then I cannot promise that your players will remain uninjured,” Recordia replied peevishly. She knew the laws of their magic as well as Giant and that they were immutable but she was feeling stubborn and her actions were being cast as churlish and spiteful when placed against Giant’s stoicism. It was making her look bad and that made her angry. How dare Giant cede the field like this. Again he was showing her up and she hated him even more. Had he continued to yell and rant she could have played the imperial card and had him dragged away for disrespecting her, but no, he had to get all wounded and defeated. The other avatars were feeling sorry for him. She could see it their faces. Even Phillie would not hold her eye. This was intolerable. She peremptorily stated, “You may leave my presence now.”
Giant merely looked at her and left without a second glance. Recordia was not insensible to the slight of not bowing in front of the other avatars, but she knew that to push that point would have been unwise in the extreme.
Giant left and somehow made back to his suite of rooms. His leg still felt somewhat numb but that would pass. His heart was so heavy that he thought it would collapse from the weight of the cares and concerns, anger and frustrations and the just plain wrongness of what had just happened. He knew it was coming. He knew what Recordia’s capricious, rapacious anger was capable of. Knowing did not lessen the sting, if anything it was made worse, because despite the priceless joy of this month a small portion of him had been waiting for the shoe to drop. It just had. If there was one player who had come represent the hopes and dreams and the realizations of those dreams, it was Buster. Recordia could not have done more to rip the heart out of the Giants. He paused in that thought again ever thankful that he had sought out Potencia’s help. The pitchers remained protected, but then again what an arduous task they now had in front of them. They would be asked to hold a very tenuous line and continue to work their unique brand of magic, but now without a net. Giant was so grateful that his pitchers did not know that they would not be receiving much in the way of run support. And that they would have to be near perfect to get any kind of good result. Tim Lincecum always pitched that way anyway. If anyone was driven to try and create perfection with every pitch it was him. If any staff could weather the drought it was his resilient and stoical staff but sometimes it was better that humans did not know much of what transpired just beyond their senses. He had protected them only for them to endure a kind of pitching hell. It was going to be a long and frustrating season.
He just sat on his sofa and let wave after emotionally fraught wave flow over him. Posey’s leg was broken and his season was over, this he knew in his very core. He could only pray that it would only be one season. He heard a tap on his door. He sighed, it was probably Era or Erbia wanting to make sure he was alright. He honestly appreciated and valued their concern but he was not in the mood for any sort of company. He waited a few moments hoping that whoever it was would just go away, but his better nature told him to go and answer the door. Opening it he was shocked to see that it was neither of the two sprites but Marlin, looking concerned and sheepish. The Fish stumbled over his words at first but Giant could tell that he was sincerely trying to commiserate with the San Franciscan Avatar.
“G-Giant…I’m truly s-s-sorry for what happened tonight, I don’t what got into to Cousins, I mean he is a hard-nosed player I have always sensed that but nothing quite like that has ever occurred.”
Giant smiled ruefully. Marlin was a young avatar and had not weathered much of Recordia’s capricious wrath first hand. He did not know the depths of her maliciousness as did many of the older avatars, although it is true that none escaped her wrath for very long. The young avatar looked earnest and anxious in his concern, “Fish, I don’t blame you or even Cousins. It was Recordia; she is to blame here. She planted the seed and he was following what that command lead him to.”
Marlin looked a bit stunned, “I knew that she was temperamental, but I never suspected she would go to these lengths.”
Again Giant smiled ruefully, “Yeah well…Don’t ever cross her and you or your players will never have feel her wrath…I have apparently learned that the hard way.” Giant looked at Marlin who still seemed unwilling to leave, “Look I’m feeling kinda tired and it has been a very long night. So…”
Marlin at first still looked a bit clueless, but then dawning comprehension settled behind the young ocean blue eyes. “Oh yeah, right, sorry I’ll be off then…”
Giant stopped him briefly, “Fish…” Marlin looked at him, “Thanks…it is appreciated.”
The young avatar smiled uncomfortably, nodded then made his way back to his rooms. Giant watched him go and thought how fresh and unsullied his memories were. He was envious. As he closed the door all the emotions of the fans and anxieties of the players engulfed him anew and it was all he could do to make it his bed before he collapsed under the onslaught and into insensibility.
He awoke late the next morning, feeling groggy and a bit confused as to why his leg was feeling somewhat numb. The night’s happenings then hit him again full force. He knew the power of Recordia’s wrath could be potent but to his mind she had reached new depths last night. He recalled the brief moment when he held her eyes just after Huff had singled to tie the game at six. It apparently had not been a trick of the light and he had seen sorrow and envy in those normally cold green depths. Somehow she had felt driven to that extreme by the Giants’ unwillingness to die. He could not help that. A player’s hope was beyond his control and beyond Recordia’s reach. He, as an avatar was created by hopes and dreams, he could encourage and protect kernels of hope and foster dreams but he could not create them. Recordia could dash hopes as she displayed so devastatingly the night before, but she could not stop them from beginning. Only a player could do that to himself. Their realm had immutable laws and while Recordia had more reign to do as she pleased, certainly more so than the avatars, the human heart and spirit were not within her province. She could control actions on the playing field but not the human reactions to her machinations. Over the past two months it angered her that the Giants were not rolling over and submitting on her command, so in her mind her actions of the night before were entirely warranted. And it struck Giant straight through the heart. His beloved team’s season lay in tatters. He was not quite sure where they went from here. There was four months left in the season, over two-thirds of the games left to play. He could feel anger, resignation, injustice still raging throughout the fan base and a numb stillness hanging over the players. They were all in shock. He heard a little tap at the door and wondered briefly if Marlin had come back to make more of a stumbling apology, which was of course completely unnecessary–from him. Another apology would never come and Giant would have to accept that, galling though it was.
He opened the door and found Era at his threshold looking at him with red-rimmed eyes as if she had been crying all night. Ever the soft-hearted one Era wore her heart on her sleeve. Giant eyed her and then said, “Era…Have you been crying?”
The Sprite of Pitching Success looked up at him, “No…” she lied.
Giant looked hard at her, “Era…”
“Well it was wrong what happened last night!!! It was mean and wrong! Why did my lady have to do it! Now what are my pitchers going to do! They relied on Buster; they leaned on him. Now what are they going to do!”
Giant smiled ruefully at the dear, if slightly unbalanced, little sprite. He kneeled down to look at her at eye level, “I guess that they will just have to make due,” He slipped a stray iridescent strand of hair behind her slightly pointed ear. “We cannot change what has happened. It seems that the Lady will have her way, no matter what we say or do. I‘m tired of fighting it. It has brought too much misery.”
The pitching sprite looked at him, “It is just not fair!” she muttered near mutinously. “Surely there must be something we can do!”
Giant sighed, “We’ve done enough, perhaps too much. Perhaps if we had not sought Potencia’s lyric, maybe the Lady’s wrath had not been so great…” he ended his voice despondent, void of hope.
Era looked at him, shock upon her face, “Giant, you don’t mean that…What we did was good and you know it. Ryan may never have had this last chance had we not done anything. And that would be tragic.” She stated emphatically, her red-rimmed eyes glowing with memory.
Giant turned sad eyes upon the little sprite, “All true, but I’m honestly not sure of anything anymore.” He paused thoughtfully, “I’m just tired of my players being injured through the Lady’s capricious wrath. I just want it to stop.”
Era had never seen Giant so down before. It was as if all the fight had been taken out of him. She hated her Lady at that moment for that. “Let’s go and watch the game and see what happens. Ryan’s pitching…”
Giant sighed again and looked inside himself and saw felt that determined light that was the Giants’ 34-year-old phenom. His fire was muted somewhat but still burning; still determined to give everything that he was in the effort to win. Giant, despite himself, felt drawn toward that fire and the game even through he did not hold out much hope for its result. He did not want to see Recordia. He did not know what he would if he did see her in the viewing enclaves. In the end it was fortunate that Recordia had conjured that wall of protection because there was no telling what he would have done to her had he had the chance. Recordia’s self preservation instincts had saved him as well.
In the end he did not have to face her that day. She was curiously absent from the viewing enclaves that afternoon. No explanation was given and none was asked for. That she was absent was salve enough to Giant’s sore temper.
When he arrived at his viewing enclave he sensed a general feeling of commiseration from the other avatars. Ranger and Cub and even Brave came up to him to express fellow feeling and good wishes for the Giants’ young catcher. Marlin smiled sheepishly and even Phillie did not appear as cool to him as he had in preceding months. Apparently Posey was well-liked even by other teams’ fans. It was not something that Giant had previously suspected but it did warm his battered and beaten heart and healed it somewhat.
He just wished that he could say the same for his beloved team. Ryan did indeed pitch a gem. Arguably his best outing of the season. He painted the corners of the strike zone, pitched to locations both in and out. He was under pressure in all but two innings of an eight-inning performance and worked his way through it all with only one run to cross the plate in the sixth after giving up a single to Logan Morrison on a 0-2 count. It was a determined and valiant effort. And one that the Giants offense could not answer and the Giants fell to the Marlins by the scoreline of 1-0. Giant cast his mind into the home dugout and looked into the heart of each player. A shock and a numbness hung in each players’ heart. He touched Eli Whiteside‘s essence, he was now the Giants number one catcher. He felt a sadness but also a very strong determination to do well, to be the best player he could be. He could not be Buster but he could be himself and that was going to have to be enough. Giant admired the fire and resilience that he felt within the gray-haired catcher from Mississippi. Within each player he felt a desire to step up and be counted. A desperate flame flared especially brightly and Giant looked within to see who belonged to such a desperate and fervently burning heart flame. It was Aubrey Huff. Giant could feel how desperately Huff wanted success. How desperately he wanted to be that person who lead the Giants offense out of the doldrums. It was palpable. So was the immense pressure that he was placing upon himself. Giant sighed, Recordia could do much harm and wreck much havoc with such desire and fervent hope. It was like the flame that brought the moth. Only it was reversed; the moth extinguished the flame. Those of desperate hope were easily lead by Recordia’s false siren song. She toyed with their minds and shattered their discipline as hitters because they wanted so much to be the hero, to deliver the clutch hit that would put their team ahead. This desperate desire was Recordia’s favourite playground. Each slow roller to second, each ground ball double play that ended an inning caused her immense delight. Each scorched ball into a surprised fielder’s glove made her laugh anew at the dashed hopes and frustrated anger of the hapless hitter. It was going to be a long season indeed for Huff, Giant thought sadly, berating himself once again for what he had failed to do for one full half of his beloved team. Recordia had her full measure of entertainment that day as he hit into a double play, struck out twice swinging and grounded out to second base. It had not been a good game and Ryan’s gem, in what Giant feared would become all too often an occurrence, was wasted. The Giants were leaving what had over the last three days become the cruel confines of AT&T Park and were headed east for a six-game swing of the Central Division. Three games against the team with the best home record in the Majors and the next team that had been crushing the ball with alarming regularity. The Brewers and the Cardinals were waiting. It could only get worse Giant thought despondently.
The only bright spark of the day was sensing the new players who had been called up to replace the players who had been placed on the disabled list. There were three. Brandon Belt who had been sent down to Triple A upon Cody Ross’ return from injury, Chris Stewart, a journeyman catcher who was brought in from Richmond and a young shortstop brought up the 101 from San Jose in the California League. It was a short distance in miles, but a huge distance in experience. Brandon Crawford was only 24 and the Giants pressed him into service with the big club after Mike Fontenot was felled by a leg injury the same game that saw Posey mauled by Recordia. Jumping from High Class A ball to the Majors was quite a leap for any one. Giant was curious about them all. He felt excitement from Brandon Belt. He was happy to be back even though the timing was not ideal. Chris Stewart was new to the team and to Giant. The San Franciscan Avatar looked into the catcher’s heart and he liked what he saw. Stewart was a stalwart competitor who would give his all in every at bat, every ball that he caught. He sensed a divided heart. On one half he was sensible to the tragedy that led to his call-up and to the pall that it had cast upon the team, but nonetheless he was happy to be given another chance to bask again in the glow of Major League lights. It was a chance that he meant to make the most of. Brandon Crawford held the most intrigue. Giant closed his eyes and reached out to touch his essence. There was a buoyancy of spirit in the young player. Giant smiled when he thought of everything that lay in front of the rookie. There were sure to be bumps in the kid’s path but the possibilities were also there. And after the day’s exertions and the disappointing outcome, it was that that drew Giant to the next game in Milwaukee.
Chapter four: Buster
He never saw it coming. Significant moments often arrive quietly. Only after in hindsight does the loud klaxon of warning sound off so plainly that one wonders how they could have ever missed it. Giant noticed that Recordia had been abnormally quiet in the week leading up to the series with the Marlins. A quiet Recordia was a dangerous Recordia. The Giants were playing so well, given all that had befallen them mostly at Recordia’s instigation. Giant, giddy though he was, still waited with a small fearful portion of his soul for the other shoe to drop. The Goddess of Baseballing Fate did not take the flaunting of her plans and desires lightly and the more she was ignored the more dangerous and desperate she became. Giant looked over his players. The pitchers were safe from her machinations, but he again mused ruefully that the position players were not. Of the position players it was not hard to figure who would be her next target. Rookie of the Year, given credit far and wide for being the catalyst behind the Giants surge that took them all the way to the Championship. First rookie in a generation to bat clean up for a World Series Championship team and expert handler of one of the prime pitching staffs in the Majors. Buster Posey was going to be her next victim. Giant just did not how or when or what the severity of any planned “accident” might be. Recordia was never one to let on how she was going to torment any one of the avatars’ players. Usually one did not even know the identity of the player until it was too late and the damage was already done. But in this case it was a little too obvious and Recordia was a little too tired of his beloved team not laying down and dying upon her order to be subtle. The Giants through their very resistance to succumb, as they thought, to an unnamed and incorporeal Fate were angering the Goddess further with each improbable win. Giant looked down at the young and talismanic catcher. He was just starting to catch fire he thought sadly and there was nothing he could do to protect him. If only he had thought to protect the hitters as well. Giant berated himself for his lack of foresight and once again failing his players by not predicting the lengths to which Recordia would go. He knew her devious mind and yet he still failed to predict every treacherous avenue she could travel. He felt sick with dread.
The Giants lost the opener against the Marlins with an uncharacteristically rough outing for Matt Cain. Granted “rough” is a relative term, Giant mused. Matt had only allowed four runs, but with the anemic attack being what it was, four was made to look like an offensive onslaught. Giant looked for the team to rebound in the next game. Madison Bumgarner was on the mound in the first appearance after his momentous win against the Dodgers. It would be interesting to see how he handled himself on the mound. He had had such a good May having collected his first win of the season and was sporting a 1.64 ERA for the month. Young and talented Giant knew that he would, eventually this season, be the exceptional pitcher that they saw in Game 4 of the World Series. Darren Ford had also sustained an injury but that was, Giant thought, along the generally run of injuries that happened in a season and not necessarily of Recordia’s instigation. Giant knew in his heart, how ever much he wanted to be wrong, that Buster Posey was to be her next target. But he just did not know when. The game started like any other game. Madison was not as sharp as he could have been and a few seeing eyes singles and a ball just off the glove of Tejada produced a brace of runs in the first. It was not an auspicious beginning, but not an unusual one.
Odd happenings were frequent in this game. Balls died on the infield grass or on the fair side of the chalk line just shy of the third base bag going for infield hits. Batters were losing grip on their bats. Giant sensed Recordia’s interest in the game was a little more piqued than usual, but he hoped rather than thought that to be only coincidental. Still he knew it was best that he be on his guard. The offense sputtered, but then again there was nothing new or unusual about that. It had been happening all season and still somehow the Giants had been winning. They had garnered a 14-9 record in May through fantastic pitching and timely hitting, in roughly the same amount as the year before. They tied it in the 3rd with a timely hit and a fortuitous passed ball by the Marlins catcher, John Buck, only to see the Marlins take the lead again the next inning. Both Era and Erbia were watching the game with him that evening, They had both started this a couple weeks ago, Giant did not mind their company they were pleasant sprites, both of them, but he sensed that they were self-appointed guardians to the San Franciscan Avatar. It was as if they wanted to protect him from whatever might take place. He was touched by their concern, but it also made him slightly nervous that they both thought they needed to be on hand come what may. In the seventh he was, however, glad of their spritely presence. On a play that ended the inning a Marlins player was gunned down at the plate, Posey positioned to make the sweeping tag from in front of the plate. Inning over. Words from behind Giant’s back seared him; leaving his calm in tattered shreds.
“That was close, you know a catcher could get really hurt like that!” Recordia’s sweet concerned voice sounded out, seeking an audience of one. Giant spun around challenging the Lady with a look that held daggers, even as the sprites held him back from charging the goddess.
“That’s right, My San Franciscan Avatar! Keep your temper or at least let them keep it for you. I’ve only just begun. But just remember…you began this.” Recordia walked away, anger colouring the quickness of her steps. Giant let out a small controlled breath that he did not realise that he had been keeping. Safe now, but there was no telling what Recordia had planned. Giant watched the rest of the game in the viewing alcove that was reserved for him, fearing what would come next.
Giant had hoped that the Giants anemic offense could somehow muster up one run in the bottom of the eighth and erase the one-run lead that the Marlins held. Bumgarner had not pitched badly in his first outing since his lone victory against the Dodgers and it would have been nice to relieve him of his seventh loss against that one win. Giant watched as Aubrey Huff stepped into the batter’s box as the first batter in the bottom of the eighth. He hoped, but two pitches later a fly ball drifted into centerfield and the first out of the inning was registered. Next was Buster who took the count to 2-2 and made solid contact only to have his potential double down the line snagged by the third baseman. Giant looked at the young catcher sprinting up the first baseline and willed him to push harder and farther for what he wanted. It was all he could do. Two outs. Cody Ross followed Buster and battled but was unable to get the ball out of the infield. Three outs. Giant sighed, it was not to be, at least not this inning. He looked at Erbia next to him, “Do you have any explanation as to the Giants amazing inability to hit.”
The Sprite of Hitting Success looked at him with pitiful, shadowed eyes. “We all know the explanation,” at this she cast her eyes down and said in a small voice, “I can do nothing to help them. I have tried but…nothing. They have been shielded from my ministrations such as they are by…” She did not finish her sentence but the three of them knew to whom the hitting sprite was referring. She was not as powerful as her sister, the nature the game made this so. They balanced each other but it was always to be an uneven relationship balanced by the metaphysical laws that governed the game. Erbia’s abilities were far more limited than her sister’s. She could sharpen a batter’s eyes and grant him more patience at the plate. She could bestow upon a batted ball the ability to evade a fielder’s glove by mere fractions, but that had to be done quickly and only had a success rate of half after it was bestowed. And she could not counteract any spell that her sister had bestowed upon a pitcher to achieve success. These were the immutable laws that were written into the fabric of the game. Recordia could affect a player’s fate, and there was precious little either of the Sprites could do to reverse her decrees and the Avatars were next to powerless. That power lay solely with the players themselves. Avatars could nudge them into the direction that might change their fate but other than brokering with the Spirit realm in those very rare instances could they directly affect their beloved teams. They were the embodiment of hopes and dreams and as such could not change anything directly. It would be like a person’s dreams changing them physically. They can inspire the person to do something but they cannot physically take form and enact the change themselves, which is why the Avatars could not leave their realm. If they did they would merely evaporate into thin air and the dreams and hopes of a team and its fans would vanish into nothingness. Recordia clearly cursed the Giant hitters much in the same way Giant had protected the pitchers. If they were to do anything they were going to have to fight fate to do it and they would do it alone.
Recordia walked to her throne. She was angry, but she was working hard at maintaining that cool exterior that everyone had come to expect from her. It was indeed difficult as Giant’s team was defying her by winning. She was a reasonable Goddess of Baseballing Fate. As long as a team bowed to her every decree, after all she was superior to them in all things, then she could be benevolent and bestow rewards to those happy few who found favour with her. She liked being benevolent, it looked good on her. But Giant’s team refused to “play ball” so to speak. She could not have them defy her. It denied her the chance to be all benevolent and the bulging vein she felt throbbing in her forehead when she was thwarted looked very unattractive, further angering her. They were impudent and deserved punishment. It would continue that night against the Marlins. She had been toying with the game because she had been bored and it always gave her momentary pleasure to torment Giant’s team almost as much as Cub’s team. She looked at the game below playing itself out in the human realm and she nearly laughed out loud. Mired in the depth of a depression she had not paid to the field of play. Giant’s precious protected pitchers were turning a one-run lead into a four-run lead. Recordia smiled a truly vicious smile as Javier Lopez, one the Giants reliable and usually unhittable pitchers, gave up a bases-clearing double. The Marlins’ lead was at that point 6-2. She felt greatly cheered and thought maybe she did not have to extract any punishment upon his team that night. Perhaps it could wait for another day as she was feeling tired and a little out of sorts, a team’s sense of hope and possibility always exhausted her somewhat and Giant’s team had been truly tiring through the entire month of May. Maybe she could re-gather some strength and attack them from a position of strength in June. The Giants were always good for a swoon in June, she thought happily. The bottom of ninth, however, complete changed her mind.
It started innocently enough, Schierholtz on a two strike count singled to right, but Burris promptly flied out to right. Recordia watched safe in the knowledge that Erbia could do nothing to help the hapless Giants hitters. But something changed, the next batter was Miguel Tejada, equally mired in the same strange hitting slump as the rest of the team but somehow on a 1-1 count he sent the ball into right field. Recordia looked up from her nails at the crack of the bat and saw the ball landing for a double sending Schierholtz to third. Recordia cursed herself for not paying enough attention to matters on the field, but she told herself that there was still no real damage that had been done and after all this was the same anemic offense that was propping up the league in scoring she remembered soothingly. Pat Burrell stepped in, Recordia relaxed she had many plans for him this year and he was already starting to be affected by them. That lasted exactly one passed ball later and Nate Schierholtz had scored from third with Tejada moving up to third. It was starting to get out of hand. The Marlins were not helping in her plans to humiliate the Giants, Recordia noted in her mind. That she would deal with later when she could focus more carefully upon it. That momentary lapse of thought however cost as Pat Burrell sent a little looping single into centerfield scoring Tejada. Recordia sat up fuming and those around sensed that she was on a slow burn. She gathered herself enough though for the next batter, Andres Torres, who suddenly felt somewhat uneasy at the plate. It was a mark of how uncontrolled and heavy handed Recordia was feeling. Normally humans didn’t feel her intervention into their realm but Andres was certainly feeling a decided unease and it was enough of a distraction to cause the swinging strikeout that resulted. Two outs Recordia visibly relaxed but she decided that she needed to keep a firm hand on this game before further damage was done. She focused upon the next hitter, Freddie Sanchez, preparing to wreck a little havoc when she heard it. “Fred-die, Fred-die, Fred-die.” Again impotent fury built within her. Hopes and dreams of an entire crowd trying to will into existence that which ran counter to her desires. It was the one thing that she could not affect directly during the playing of the games. She only held province within the field of play, beyond that she could not reach. She focused on the batter’s box, upon the Giants second baseman, trying to distract him from the hope, expectation and love that were reigning down upon him from the stands sharpening his focus and strengthening his concentration to do what it was that he did so well. Contact was made and the ball flew bolstered by the hopes and dreams of the crowd, kicking up chalk and remaining fair. Recordia closed her eyes as the cheers of the crowd fell upon her disbelieving ears. This could not be happening. She reached out and felt no other power at work other than that those she already knew. The protection bestowed upon the pitchers and her curse laid upon the hitters. Erbia was effectively blocked from whatever help and protection she could muster and no other forces were at work. She looked down upon the field of play. She could feel that Aubrey Huff, slumping even worse than many of the other players having gone 0-4 with three strikeouts in this game was being bolstered by the crowd and at this point with so much fervent and active emotion pouring in from the stand, she was powerless to hinder proceedings, so strong were their hopes and dreams. She could only watch and wait. She saw as Huff worked the count to his advantage on a 2-2 count. She closed her eyes at the crack of the bat and the roar of the crowd told her everything she needed to know. The game was tied and the Giants offense to which she had done much to render impotent, had scored four runs on six hits. She glanced over at the viewing enclave belonging to Giant and saw rampant joy at the achievement. She looked upon what she herself had never felt and never could feel. She knew no touch of team loyalty, only the avatars had that, made up as they were of hopes and dreams of fervent fandom. She felt a smug satisfaction when she decreed came to pass, but she could never share the joy of an avatar when his team won it all. She watched Giant hug both Erbia and Era and felt a momentary pang of what she would never know, almost wishing that she could. Giant caught her eye and she froze, despising herself for that momentary weakness and even further despising Giant for the fact that he of all avatars saw her weak moment. She looked away imperiously as something inside her shuttered dangerously. She may never have felt what they felt but, she thought narrowly, she could take it from them. She looked down at the next batter and her thoughts blackened. Before her was Buster Posey. A thought grew and she smiled. And in her mind she could hear the rapturous crowd grow silent. She looked at Giant, oblivious in his delight and she almost felt sorry for him. Almost.
Giant was delirious with joy. His Giants had once again come from behind in the bottom of the ninth, blocked from all help they created their own magic. They were amazing. He accidentally caught the eye of Recordia and it might have been a trick of the light but he thought that he saw sorrow and envy glint in green eyes before she looked away haughtily. He was too happy to give it much thought and his happiness increased even more when Buster continued the inning by getting a solid single, extending his hitting streak to thirteen games before Cody Ross flew out to left field to end the inning.
Brian pitched a flawless tenth and a not so flawless eleventh without allowing any runs. It did not even bother Giant that his team squandered a scoring opportunity in the bottom of the tenth and went down in order in the eleventh. They had been magical this evening and as the hour grew later he just knew that something big was going to happen. He could not have been prouder of his team than he had been this month. They knew nothing of the machinations at work to see that they failed. They merely were surviving and even thriving through active adversity. They had had a magical May and at this moment were in first place. Giant grinned giddily at all they had brought about through their own devices.
Chapter three: Magical May
That win placed them one and a half games up in first place. Much to Recordia’s delight they dropped the next two without her having to lift a finger. Perhaps, she thought gleefully, they were on the brink of crashing back to earth. The middle of the week saw them arrive at Dodger Stadium again for a rare two game series. The bottom of the eighth inning might seem to have confirmed Recordia’s fervent hopes. Brian Wilson inexplicably blew a three-run lead allowing the Dodgers to tie. But her hopes were dashed in the ninth when Cody Ross sent the ball flying down the line over the leftfield wall. On the strength of that victory they vaulted themselves back into first place. Giant watched her storm out the view area after the game and while he took in the joy of the victory, the slow burn that was Recordia’s temper had just been turned up a notch. Anybody with any sense needed to take notice. Granted, Erbia would say that on most days that would leave Giant out, as he had been acting lately as if he had taken leave of his senses, thought Giant with some amusement Still it was cause for concern. The Giants were not falling apart upon the Lady’s orders. They had lost one pitcher at Recordia’s instigation and they found another who was on fire. Recordia injured their best hitter; the only one who had not fallen prey to anemic bat syndrome which was infecting the rest of the team. Even though they are not hitting they were still finding ways to win, much to Recordia‘s annoyance.. The pitching was starting to take shape even though there was the odd hiccup every now and then. Giant knew that Recordia did not take to her own failures well and the fact that not only were the Giants not propping up the National League West, they were in fact leading it and improving all the time was most definitely a failure her eyes.
Pitching was the hallmark of the team in the Championship year and Giant had taken great risks to ensure that it remained the hallmark in the 2011 team. It was curious then that Madison Bumgarner had started the season off so strangely. A win in Game Four of the World Series would be the highlight of many a seasoned veteran’s career. The fact that Madison not only won Game Four but that he dominated the American League’s best hitting team in doing so was incredible enough, but even more amazing was it was only his fifteenth major league start. At 21 years of age, he held the American League MVP, Josh Hamilton, hitless and threw eight scoreless innings. Which was why it was all the more astonishing that he had begun 2011 with an 0-6 record. He had had a few big scoring innings and he had a few growing pains as any young pitcher would, but one of the biggest problems was that the Giants offense had developed the near complete inability to score when he pitched.
Giant felt for the young talented southpaw as he took the mound against the dreaded Dodgers. Madison bore the mark of the spirit but little good had it done him yet. The San Franciscan avatar knew there was nothing more he could do for him. It would have to come from within Madison himself. He saw the young pitcher go down on a knee near the mound in thought or possibly in quiet supplication. All pitchers needed to learn how to deal with adversity on their own. MadBum, as his teammates called him, was getting an accelerated course on how to do exactly that. He reflected on the sobriquet the young lefty had been given. If ever there was a nickname more incongruous he had not heard it. Madison was one of the calmest pitchers he had ever witnessed in a Giants uniform. So calm and composed for one so young. It would be interesting to see how the young man held up under the strain. He could not have been more pleased with the answer. Giant watched him spin a gem out on the mound that night in May. For eight innings he had not allowed a run, scattered a mere six hits and he had blissfully been gifted with a modicum of run support, some of which he had had to supply himself.
As the bottom of the ninth opened Giant closed his eyes and touched Madison’s essence. He felt the pool of calm that was always reflected in the green eyes of the young man when he stared over his glove to look into his battery mate, Buster Posey giving the signs for the pitch, but also a glimmer of tenacity and expectation and the barest trances of youthful worry, so unlike the pitcher himself, but after an 0-6 start even the strongest might have some doubt. There was also an amazing intensity and determination to see this game through to the end. The first two outs were recorded easily enough, but the last out proved elusive and after a run had scored to break up the shut-out he was lifted in favour of Brian Wilson. Giant felt the various emotions rampaging through the young lefty as he waited for his manager to take him out. As he walked off the mound his self-control was betrayed only by the eyes of a young pitcher who for once looked his age. A few moments later Giant looked into the dugout to see how Bumgarner was weathering the wait. He stood stoically at the railing, arms hanging out onto the field of play, and flanked by a cadre of starting pitchers, Matt Cain on one side and Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito, with hoodies up, on the other side, almost as if they were standing vigil with him, willing the proper result to occur. There was none of the usual chatter that is pervasive in all baseball dugouts across the country, from Little League on up to the Majors. Baseball is a game of waiting and talking. Of telling stories and passing the time. At that moment it was a game of waiting…and hoping. His teammates were marking the time with him. Only one had the keeping of Madison’s hopes at his command, Brian Wilson, and his command of the baseball seemed to be deserting him at that very moment. Giant sat watching and willing Wilson to succeed and give Madison his first win of the season. He lost the first batter, Jay Gibbons to a five pitch walk and the second, James Lone, to an almost identical pitch count. Giant felt Madison’s restlessness at the railing, his teammates shuffling their feet in an attempt to pass the time and tension away through movement. Jamie Carroll, the next batter, very rarely struck out and although Era’s pearls could give Wilson and Bumgarner the strikeout so desperately needed, she had used her allotment of pearl for that day. Wilson was on his own. Giant quickly threw out a prayer to the spirit realm knowing that they very likely could do nothing beyond what he had already asked but fervent dreams and wishes very rarely keep company with the rational and the reasonable. If that were the case then he would likely not exist, as he and all baseball avatars were the direct embodiment of the baseballing hopes and dreams, passions and fantasies of fans and players alike. Without them he would be literally nothing.
He looked across at the viewing enclave for Dodger, curiously still watching the game with Erbia at his side. He looked as hopeful and as fearful as Giant felt; the different side of the same coin. With the energy and emotions of the fans coursing through him unabated he looked again down onto the playing field, Era holding tightly to his hand and awaiting the outcome of the next pitch, unable to do anything other than watch. It was a 2-2 count on Carroll, known for being a good two strike hitter, as he stepped back into the batter’s box. Brian threw and contact was made sending the ball into shallow right field. Nate, playing in due to the situation, sprinted and made a desperate dive and then so many emotions collided at once. Surprise, relief and unbridled joy all commingled. Nate slid sprawling desperate to catch the ball and preserve the win for Madison. He looked up from his slide and to his joy the ball sat nestled in his glove. Game over. Win secured. As Era shrieked with joy Giant looked at Madison, he felt an explosion of pent up emotion as the young pitcher pounded the railing in exultation and leapt over same, the youth in him unbound for a moment before being stowed away and with a small look skyward in relief, the boy inside the man was joyous and happy, the man struggling to maintain some decorum in the wake of bliss, a small smile escaping.
Giant spared a thought for Dodger amid his happiness. The avatar was despondent and being comforted by Erbia. Such was the life of an avatar. It could be incredibly cruel. And for Recordia, he did not even want to contemplate her thoughts, for the recesses of that mind often too dark and dangerous to navigate. Suffice to say she was not amused. But he put aside those thoughts and placated himself with the notion that he would be vigilant and look for signs of what she planned to do next to his team. It was a lie he told himself at night to help him sleep. His beloved team was in first and improving all the time. Buster Posey’s bat was coming alive and that could only be a good thing.
Masterful pitching performances were what Era lived on. As the Sprite of Pitching Success, she could be no other way. But two nights later she received a rare treat. Tim Lincecum was on the mound against the Oakland A’s and Era there was in Giant’s viewing enclave to watch the game. She rarely missed a game that Timmy, as she called him, pitched. Even before Potencia’s lyric had been bestowed, Era always said that Lincecum had a special aura about him. It was one of realized hope and defiance of expectation. Timmy was unique in body and spirit. There was joy in his motion if such a thing were possible. The improbability of his mesmeric motion was a thing of beauty in Era’s eyes. Tim shone with an aura that only Era could see and in this game it shimmered more beautifully than it had since Game one of the NLDS in which he struck out 14 Atlanta Braves. Era clapped her hands delightedly and she made sure that she was well supplied in pitching pearls should the need arise. Not, that she suspected, that Timmy would have any great need of her skills but she wanted to be ready none-the-less.
Watching him pitch one could sense that this is what he was born to do even though he had not been gifted with a body that would have suggested such a calling. Giant closed his eyes and was drawn to the competitive fire that belied that easy going manner that resided within the slight right handed pitcher. He touched upon the need for a challenge that was at the core of Lincecum’s own unique light within. Calm and centered Giant felt that he would do well against the A’s, a team that he had had a tendency to dominate in past outings.
It was as Giant had expected. Lincecum dominated the A’s, retiring the last 21 of 22 batters and facing only three past the minimum of 27. He walked none and was ahead of almost every hitter. There was a quiet confident joy to his work that day so much so that Era was caught up in the tapestry that Timmy was weaving around the A’s batters and she forgot to bestow any of her pearls, so caught up in the quiescent joy that was Timmy’s outing. It was a complete game shut out, the fifth of his career. Giant noted as Lincecum was walking off the field that he tossed the ball with which he recorded the 27th out into the stands. Giant mused upon that. So many pitchers after tossing such a gem would want to keep the ball, not so on that day. It was as if the challenge of coming back so dominantly after his shakiest outing of the season was important, the mere fact of the ball after his commanding performance was complete was inconsequential. There would be others.
Giant delighted in the fine play of his beloved side. He reflected upon the month they had had. They were 14-6 and ended the weekend by sweeping the A’s at AT&T Park to place them three and a half games up in first place with another walk-off in the 11th inning on the Sunday. He was amazed at how well his team was holding up after the injuries and the on-going anemic offensive output. Posey was on an eleven-game hitting streak hitting well with it. He was so proud.