After a slow start, the Washington Nationals have overtaken the New York Mets in the NL East and you might be excused if you’d thought the key to their ascent was the ridiculous offensive production of OF Bryce Harper. Actually, as the Washington Post’s James Wagner (sort of) explains, the crucial component in Washington’s rise has been IF Dan Uggla (above), he of the Mendoza Line batting average and zeal for touching & caressing his teammates :

“He’s just a big bicep teddy bear,” reliever Aaron Barrett said. After a grin and laugh, Barrett continued: “The hugs are fantastic. I love it. It’s very comforting.”

If you look closely in or near the dugout, there’s a common routine that unfolds after a Nationals home run: Uggla finds the player and gives a big hug. After Danny Espinosa smashed his sixth home run of the season Wednesday in Chicago, Uggla — the man whom Espinosa replaced in the eighth inning — gave Espinosa a big embrace in the cramped Wrigley Field dugout.

“Some guys grew up huggers; some grew up with handshakes,” Uggla said recently. “We hugged in my family. That’s who I am. It’s always funny to me when I hug someone, and I can tell right away that they didn’t grow up hugging in their family. Nothing wrong with it. It’s not an awkward hug. I get on them about it, too. Nothing weird going on. Just hugging another grown man.”