The Middle America Team Defeats The HoustonsS

Slate's Robert Weintraub, like many of us, loves the old purple prose of early 1900s sportswriting, 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 Cardinals 4-3 victory over the Houston Astros.

Of all the Gateway City batsmen, Jared Michal Schumacher once was the unlikeliest to be sung about around the campfire. Yet it was "Skip" (formerly known as "I-55") whose ears are red from all the chatter about him from Appalachia to the Ozarks and all the way to the Great Divide. The Gaucho delivered the final sermon that allowed Middle America's Team to defeat the Houstons in the final innings of regular time. And it is the third time in this Cruelest Month that the spindly Skip has brought a V with a timely knock.

The safety off Wesley "Peter Principle" Wright was of the skip-away variety, and when Cesar "First Syllable" Izturis touched the bottom point of the diamond, the cheers resounded across the Western Frontier. Saint Louis had emerged with a 4-3 victory, and the Wasted Week of a full hand of losses was over. Welcome To Baseball Heaven, indeed.

As usual when the Milky Way Nine are in the opposing dressing room, the Beermen found themselves in a contentious contest. A purpose pitch from the Kosciusko K-Man, Roy Oswalt, nicked a single fiber of Jason LaRue's knits. Earlier, the Lone Star had dared to dislodge El Hombre from his preferred comfort zone bestride home plate. Together, that was more than enough to pepper The Boozy Barrister's eggs, and the Shady One ordered vengeance in the following frame. Adam "12 To 6" Wainwright uttered "from Hell's heart, I stab at Thee," and disdained his usual repertoire of local trains to hurl an express on the wrong side of the batsman, Brad "Fatboy Slim" Ausmus.

An enraged group of Texans, spurred on by the Combustible Coop, Cecil Cooper, charged out for battle, as did the Birds. Sadly, there would be no reincarnation of the Battle of Bannockburn. Blue restored order with nary a single knuck thrown, and the rosters returned, grumbling but unbruised, to their respective houses.

The fisticuffs served to inspire the Arch City Brawlers. Trailing by a single to Kyoto Kaz Matsui's surprise display of potency in the opening innings, the Crimson rallied for a trio in the third. A mighty blast from Hombre's ash seemed destined to disappear behind the planking, but it caromed off instead, good for two bags rather than four. Nevertheless, Skip and Hobbs Ankiel tallied easily. Then the new Habitant of the Hot Corner, the Tarzana Tarzan, Troy Glaus, brought in Amazing Albert with a sac fly. It's a wonder the hulking hacker could see well enough to connect with the pill, given the inflamed state of his conjunctiva. But the He-Man of Troy squinted through the pink to drive in his 15th tally of the young campaign.

In this deplorable era of specialty and short-timers earning nine innings green, the 100-point banner headline was not the winning safety or the angried up teams, but Iron Adam Wainwright. The Dab Hand of the Redbirds' rotation rode the train to its terminus, the first Compleat Contest hurled by a Card this season, and only the 18th in all of base ball. Seems like only yesterday when the Big Train or Happy Jack would take mortal offense at the idea of replacement.

Ole' "12 To 6" offered 127 pills to the mostly bedazzled men from Space City, who often trudged back to the dugout looking as though they'd taken one too many orbits around the marble. Only five times did ash meet horsehide solidly enough to allow for a hit—albeit a trio of those were Rainbow Drops—and Wainwright's spinners and mudballs left him fit enough to dance a few more Charlestons should the need have arisen. In the ultimate innings, the bionic moundsman got Hunter "Glass Door" Pence to wave at a yellow hammer with a pair of Spacemen aboard, setting the stage for the winning act.

Were it not for Lance "The Big Puma" Berkman, the Bloodbirds would have won without panting. Sir Lance-A-Lot crunched a pair of yakkers that didn't make it to quitting time, lacing a brace of Four-Ply Wallops to even matters; one in the fourth, another in the seventh. It was the 22nd time in his base balling career that this Killer B went yard on multiple trips in the same contest.