Branson peered in at his catcher from atop the mound. Fans were screaming, but he tuned that out as he had so many times before and focused on the task at hand, which was getting the batter out and winning the game.
Problem is, that batter was Brock Sanders, who owned Branson. Both men knew it, but neither believed that the past guarantees the future. All we have are probabilities, and Branson wanted to ensure the maximum chance of success, which is why he shook off his catcher when he flashed two fingers.
“Not the curveball,” muttered Branson, kicking the dirt. “He's looking for that shit.”
The count was 1-and-2. There was a man on second and two out, Branson's team led, 6-5. A single tied the game, a homer won it. Sanders was more than capable of delivering either of those.
The strapping right-handed batter took two practice swings and glared back at Branson. Both men had prepared all game, all season, all their lives for this moment. Now it was at hand.
Branson peered in at his catcher again. Two fingers again. “Fuck that!” he screamed into his glove.
Sanders held up his hand to call time. Branson's catcher, a journeyman named Caldwell, trotted out to the mound and slapped his right hand onto Branson's left shoulder.
“Listen,” he said, “this guy hammers your fastball. We gotta go with the deuce here. You can get him with that.”
Branson stared at the ground, then at Caldwell. “No, he'll be expecting it. Number one all the way.”
“You believe in the pitch?”
“I do, I really do.”
“Okay, we'll go upstairs. Bring it inside, jam him.”
Branson nodded. Caldwell trotted back behind the plate. Branson looked in, came set, and fired.