Slate's Robert Weintraub, like many of us, loves the old purple prose of early 1900s sportswriting, the Red Smiths, the Grantland Rices, the men who painted epic tales of warriors, grizzled combatants and lardywarks too manly to wear gloves. In an occasional series, Weintraub writes about the week's best baseball game in the style of the vaunted sportswriters of yesteryear. This week: The Braves' 3-1 win over Johan Santana and the Mets on Sunday.
The Bearded Icon was dented by an ailing wing, rusty from a lack of spring practice time, and Hamlet-esque over his desire to make an initial foray to the raised stage sixty and six from home plate in 2008. Tom "Benedict" Glavine stepped in, and agreed to swap dates on the bump, allowing Old Baldy to avoid prolonged exposure to the Rocky Mountain Chill. The catch? The hurling enemy on the Sabbath day — the man who inspired Bowie to pen "Changes," The Two-Seam Savior — Johan Santana, and his new employers from New York.
John Smoltz scoffs in the face of such dangers. "I'm a big-game pitcher," TBI intoned, and indeed, the hairy face of the franchise completed a Napoleonic Sweep of the hated Metropolitans, as the Atlantans won 3-1 in the House That Buffalo Burgers Built.
The initial innings augered Armageddon for Atlanta's Ace, when the argus eye of home plate adjudicator Gerry Davis granted a pair of 'Politans free passage via bases on balls. Smoltz glared at the blueshirt like he had just offered a coupon for the Hair Club For Men, then rendered Carlos "The Hammering Hippie" Delgado in bronze, earning a called third strike. From there, The Icon rolled over opposing batsmen like a Tiananmen Square tank, posting round digits on the scoreboard for five innings, enough to secure his first V of the new season. That dodgy deltoid flared up with enough knottiness to convince The Pudgy Pepperpot, skipper Bobby Cox, to end Smoltz's day somewhat shy of his usual timecard—as the hurler put it afterward, "I'm a seven inning pitcher"—but the quintet will surely do in the City Too Busy To Hate (Except For The Mets).
Mark "Luckiest Man" Kotsay eliminated the only other threat to emanate from the Queensmen's side of the pitch, making a fine haul of a liner off the bat of Ryan "Haman" Church in the fourth innings. The Hippie wandered a touch too far from sanctuary, and was doubled after a whipped transmission to first, scooped sensationally by Mark "Vanna" Teixeira for the dual slaying. Kotsay, no doubt inspired by his significantly better half, is already making Peach Staters have trouble recalling the previous gatekeeper in the middle of the outfield, Andruw "Velvet" Jones.
As Reverse Samson was mowing down the 'Tans, his fellow Warriors from the Red Hills were mostly flailing in futility at Cy Youngazo's offerings. Santana was magnifico for seven mighty innings, with a lone hiccup — a screamer off the ash of Yunel "Seaworthy" Escobar that brought Luckiest Man homeward. The new everyday shortstop in Georgia once again proved Craftier than Castro, and his double was the only scar on Santana's record. But on this day, it was enough to brand The Acquisition with a scarlet 'L'. Johan now looks forward to an outing in the doomed environs of Shea Stadium, a New York debut as eagerly anticipated as any Latino arrival in Fun City since Valentino strode passionately down Broadway.
Rubber Reinforcements wearing red enjoyed the sight of batsmen representing Western Long Island for the second straight game, after early season struggles with the Steel City sluggers. A quartet of Braves relievers scalped the Metropolitan millionaires' lineup until the ultimate innings, when Haman knocked in Golden Boy Wright for the visitors' lone tally.
Hotlanta concluder Rafael "El Hostile" Soriano was grateful for a pair of confirmations of the talents of Atlanta's first sacker. The frame before, Vanna sent a Long Sock over the right field wall, plating Lawrence Jones in front of him to boost the home lead to a sturdier three. In the ninth, with the Metros at last showing some pluck, Teixeira showed off the finery with the leather that has earned him multiple Gold Gloves—diving to deflect a shot off the bat of Brian Schneider, and tossing to The Angry Closer in time for the winning putout.
Atlanta once again says thank you to Teixas, and Salaams in Smoltz's direction.