A man hitting .224 sent a Carlos Zambrano pitch over the fence in left-center, and with that swing, his first of the festive night, the .224 hitter passed Rico Carty to annex the record for hitting in consecutive games by an Atlanta Brave.
It was another in a series of Bobby Cox testimonials at the ballyard — on this night his No. 6 was retired in a pregame ceremony — and Dan Uggla gave us no cause to linger in suspense. First at-bat, second pitch, ball over the wall, streak extended to 32 games. (That the pitcher was Chicago’s Zambrano only figured. Last year the not-so-big Z yielded Jason Heyward’s Opening Day homer.)
And here we pause to note with equal parts wonder and disbelief: The record-setting hit enabled Uggla to push his batting average to .226.
When Rico Carty hit in 31 straight in 1970, his batting average on the night his streak ended was .421.
There have been longer hitting streaks in the history of this sport, though not many. There has been none so improbable. Dan Uggla was hitting .173 on the Fourth of July. He hasn’t gone hitless since. All those outs he was making in April and May and June — and he made a lot of outs — have been turned into soaring homers and infield singles and everything in between.
He’s as hot as he was cold, and he spent more than half a season being Mr. Freeze. Now he’s the hottest male this side of Brad Pitt. It goes to show … well, something surely. But what?
It goes to show that baseball is a funny game, but we knew, or should have known, that much already. It also goes to show that Uggla, who looked lost for the longest time, had it within him to find himself with all of us watching and carping and wondering why he hadn’t been shipped to Gwinnett if not cut altogether.
Think there’s pressure on Danny Uggs to sustain this run? It’s nothing compared to the pressure of showing up in a new town with a $62 million contract and then turning into the All-American out. Nobody really expected a hitter of such portfolio to keep hitting less than his weight, but May became June and Uggla was hitting .178. Then June became July and he was still at .178. Could anyone do so little for so long and still keep the faith that tomorrow — some tomorrow someday — would be any better?
Dan Uggla did it. We may never know how. He may never know how. But he did it, and now he has hit in 32 consecutive games, which is something Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron and even Ted Williams never did. Uggla has gone from being Nick Esasky without the vertigo to inducing vertigo in everyone who has watched this transformation.
It would be nice to see Uggla keep this up a while longer. (He had two more hits Friday, including a second home run that soon led to Zambrano’s ejection.) Only 13 more games — “only” 13; easy for me to say — and Uggla will have the National League record, ahead of one Peter Edward Rose. Twenty-five more games and he’ll pass the sainted Joseph Paul DiMaggio, and should that happen Uggla might well have raised his average above .250. But even if it ends Saturday night, we’ll be able to say we were witnesses to one of the greatest about-faces sports has even known.
For three months Uggla couldn’t buy a hit. Now everyone in Atlanta wants to buy him a drink. Who’d-a thunk it? And to anyone who says, “Me, me!,” I say this:
You’re a liar.
By Mark Bradley