From the start, Andre Ethier of the Dodgers was rather matter-of-fact about his hitting streak, a little light-hearted at the thought that he was chasing one of baseball's most cherished records.
As he approached the halfway point in Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak, Ethier considered the imposing mountain he was climbing. "It's one of those impossible records," he said. "One of those records you'll never see broken."
Maybe some day it will be, just not now, and not by Ethier.
DiMaggio's 56-game streak remains the barometer for batters after Ethier stumbled over the 30-game speed bump, a barrier that has derailed Major League Baseball's last three long hitting streaks -- Willy Tavarez in 2006, Moises Alou in 2007 and Ryan Zimmerman in 2009. The 30-game streak left Ethier one game short of the Dodgers' club record set by Willie Davis in 1969.
A hitting streak can become a grind. The daily demands increase with each game. On the day Ethier's streak reached 30 games, he reflected on what he had accomplished.
"To say I've done it for a month now is tough," he said. "I couldn't imagine two months."
And then, just like that, it ended with an 0-for-4 against the Mets. "It was like a bad breakup," Ethier said. "I don't think it's going to define my season or this Dodgers season."
Ethier batted .397 (46-for-116) during the streak and hit his 100th career home run in the middle of it.
The streak started innocently enough on April 2, the third game of the season, with three hits in a 10-0 loss to San Francisco. It was one of five three-hit games and 10 multi-hit games during the streak and touched off the longest April hitting streak in Major League history -- 26 straight games, breaking the mark of 22 set by former Dodgers manager Joe Torre in 1971.
Ethier carried the streak into the first week in May, with a day off because of an elbow inflammation. That set off some baseball purists who were quick to point out that DiMaggio played every inning, every day including seven doubleheaders during his 56-game streak in 1941. But baseball's rulebook is clear on the matter, saying that when a player takes a day off, it does not end a batting streak.
Jimmy Rollins of the Phillies faced similar questions when he finished the 2005 season by hitting in 36 straight games, rested over the winter and then got hits in the first two games of 2006. Baseball views that as a 38-game streak.
Ethier knows all about that kind of issue. He finished his career at Arizona State with a 23-game hitting streak. "Maybe you should look up my first couple of Minor League games," he said. "Maybe there was a continuation."
Hitting streaks are tricky. Ethier's remained intact due to an official scorer crediting a hit instead of an error on an infield grounder in game No. 27. Davis' streak reached 31 games when he delivered a walk-off double in the bottom of the ninth inning in a game against the Mets after going 0-for-4 before that.
Ethier insisted the 30-game streak did not change his approach to the game. There were no superstitions to keep it going, no loss of sleep after a game. "I enjoy it," he said. "I enjoy being a part of it. I'm not going to sit here and let it eat me up."
Some of his Dodgers teammates were in awe of how Ethier went about his business every day during the streak.
"What he's doing is amazing," veteran catcher Rod Barajas said. "I've never seen anything like it."
On the day after the hitting streak ended, Ethier recovered nicely with a pair of hits, including a two-run home run. Start counting again.
Hal Bock is a freelance writer based in New York.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.