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: Dan Uggla's two-homer game against the Nationals.
It's easy to dismiss the Miami entrant in the Senior Circuit. Some have even called for the franchise to meet a Pompeii-like fate. Yet these latter-day Diogenes' conveniently succumb to amnesia when the subject turns to the twin banners captured in the Big Series by the Spearfish. And while the gaseous trashman and angry art dealer in the corner office have taken it upon themselves to swing the demolition ball at championship rosters, attention must be paid to the fact that this current crop of caviar is playing winning hardball ahead of schedule. The Swinging Swimmers are back in form, and their gonfalon flies atop their divisional grouping for a good reason.
The Briny Ballers achieved their latest left-columner thanks to Dan "The Owl" Uggla. The Wise One's second of a brace of Long Socks capped a triptych of tallies in the eighth innings. This Swedish Surprise propelled Santiago's Sluggers to a Seventh Straight W, 5-4 over their Washington Generals (where's Red Klotz lately?), who have fallen a lucky seven times in the eight (count 'em) times they have played against Vice City in the campaign's opening weeks.
The Ugg-Boot was the first participant to tickle the dish, giving the tourists a short-lived lead against Capital protagonist Shawn "Maple Leaf" Hill. Dan went deep in the sixth innings to edge his nine closer to the leaders, also off the twirler from the North Counties. Then came the decisive rally.
Prior to that decisive moment, there was bi-partisan approval for the One-Hit Wonder, Aaron Boone. The Knuckle-Cracker socked one that actually left the green space in the second innings, not his first Deep Drama since the one that sent the 'Stripes to the Fall Classic many moons ago, but seemingly so (for you Chadwickians out there, he has hit 31 trippers since that fabled Fly). Bob's Boy surprised further in the following innings. A twin-tally blast off the ash of Ronnie "Proud Papa" Belliard was itself a stunner, and gave the Taxed-Without-Reps a 3-1 lead. "Shiner" Scott Olsen was seen muttering to himself in a Ruthian rage out on the anthill, and was clearly still upset when the Tidewater Terror, Ryan Zimmerman, scratched out a bat-handle blooper. One-Hit strolled to the dish, and put paid to his moniker by lashing a clothesline that Alfredo "Double-A" Amezaga couldn't corral with his cesta. By the time the pill was returned to the K-Zoo Krazy, Boone had legged out a rare triplet, and the Natty ones led 4-1. Lastings "High-Five" Milledge failed to extend the lead, rolling out to the coffin corner. It would prove a pricey failure by the budding Biggie Smalls.
Shiner Scott reduced the swelling after that tricky third, putting round ones on the big board for the following three innings. But he didn't get the V. That went to Logan "French Kiss" Kensing, who gave up a ducksnort, as is his wont, but held the punchless politicos without a tally in the seventh innings. That set the stage for the decisive chapter.
Luis Ayala was the unfortunate insurance hurler for the N's, and he walked under a ladder when Amezaga legged out a bounder that Wes "Daily Show" Helms couldn't turn into a putout. The May-retta Masterstroker, Jeremy Hermida, then sheepshanked the day's entertainment by jerking an all-too-candid Ayala offering into the starboard stands. For the hapless hurler, not as unfortunate a happenstance as his injury in the in the final furlong of the World Baseball Classic, but disheartening nonetheless.
Two outs later, the Owl licked the lollipop, and the Pelagics took the lead. The District Dandies had a couple of cracks at Sunshine State Pen Men, but neither Renyel "Lemon" Pinto nor Kevin "Mild-Mannered Reporter" Gregg allowed their drinks to be Mickeyed, and the brooming was confirmed when Jesus "Soft J, Easy to K" Flores tapped a bulge back to the astigmatic Gregg. A septenary sweeping. And it is no Deadly Sin to take Pride in the feat, Ye Fans of the Fishes.
Aside: The Reconstituted Rajah, Hanley Ramirez, had a rare library game, chipping a mere bingle in a quartet of plate showings. But Double-R took no small comfort earlier in the day by Hancocking an extension to his contract. The new Monty Hall will swell Hanley's pay envelope to $70 million over the next six years, up from a Skid Row salary below half a million. More to the point, it establishes this Valiant of VORP as the biggest fish in the school, the face on the side of the Marlins' dorsal fin. When a third trophy comes south to reside in the case on Dan Marino Boulevard, it will be Hanley carrying the team's colors over the hill.