Monday is Labor Day, summer's unofficial end in the minds of many.
On Labor Day, Major League Baseball's marathon schedule turned into its last lap, its September stretch-run sprint. Multiple teams are still tussling for an invite to the sport's October dance, and the next 28 days or so will see this season's World Series candidates rise above the title-contending wannabes.
Labor Day is also a national holiday for Americans such as Beat the Streak leader Clement Uduk, a 25-year-old Portland, Ore., resident who's made 44 straight successful selections sans a miss. He's 13 away from the game's $5.6 million grand prize, the biggest of its kind in fantasy-sports history.
Uduk's remarkable run was extended by one on Monday thanks to Giants backstop Buster Posey, who slapped a single in the fourth frame of San Francisco's game at Petco Park.
The catcher was a sound pick, for sure, as he opened the matinee with a .308 average. Posey's Giants were pitted against Padres right-hander Ian Kennedy, who had a 5.10 ERA entering play. A deeper dive into the stats further supports Uduk's decision, as the San Diego starter had allowed the reigning NL MVP to hit .370 in 27 career at-bats prior to first pitch.
"Posey was chosen today because of his lifetime average against Kennedy and the fact that Kennedy was roughed up in his last outing against [one of] his former [teams, the D-backs]," said Uduk, a student advocate at a high school. "Ian has pitched with as much of a thud the last two years as he was a stud back in 2011. And when Buster gets hot -- much like he did [Sunday] night -- not much you can do in the way of getting him out."
Uduk has been a juggernaut in his own right of late, but he's been equally as patient, making just 11 picks since his run sat at 33 on Aug. 1. Not feeling the BTS heat, the 25-year-old took a four-day hiatus just last week to embark on a trek down the Oregon trail.
Make no mistake: The recent break was not a first for Uduk, whose extreme prudence has yet to cause him harm. It's not entirely surprising, as one can't climb this far without some sort of strategy.
Uduk is a bicoastal baseball fan who cheers for both the Baltimore Orioles and the Giants. But BTS is all business, and Uduk has leaned heavily on two of the game's greats -- Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera -- during his remarkable run up the BTS ladder.
"Aside from those two specifically, I've been sticking to players that are on hitting streaks or that have solid splits against the starter they are facing," Uduk said. "Additionally, I've been focusing on the top third of the lineup on teams that put up healthy at-bats and move the line along."
With a permanent place in BTS lore coming closer by the day, Uduk has begun to dream of a world with a lot more money.
"The prize would definitely be used toward paying off student loans. That'd be first and foremost in my eyes," the University of Portland alumnus said.
"After that, it's up in the air: investment, travel, philanthropic endeavors ... and fueling my hunger for golfing -- cannot forget about that at all."
Even if Uduk were to fall short of his ultimate goal, he could still come away with the $10,000 consolation set aside for the Streaker who finishes 2013 atop the BTS standings. The top spot at this point belongs to William Bryan, a 30-year-old Atlanta resident who made 47 consecutive correct picks.
Closing in on Bryan is no small feat, as Uduk told MLB.com on Monday afternoon.
"[My BTS success] feels like a dream. … It definitely is not indescribable, yet to pin it to one feeling it is very tough to do," Uduk said.
"When Mr. Bryan made it to 47 behind the bats of his Braves during their lengthy win streak, all I said was, 'Go get it! Please be that guy that wins it.' To be the guy [closing in on the season leader] now is pretty cool."
To place Uduk's success into a greater historical perspective, the longest single-season hitting streaks in National League history were posted by the Reds' Pete Rose (1978) and the Orioles' Willie Keeler (1897), who each tallied a hit in 44 straight contests during their respective record-setting campaigns.
In Beat the Streak, participants try to establish a virtual "hitting streak" by picking one or two big leaguers per day, with their runs continuing as long as their selections collect at least one hit. In 13-plus seasons of BTS play, no one has matched Joe DiMaggio's magic number of 56, set in 1941. To win the $5.6 million prize, one must top Joe D.'s run by one.
To join the fun, visit mlb.com/bts or download Beat the Streak, presented by Dunkin' Donuts, from the Apple app store or through Google Play. Participation is free.
Zachary Finkelstein is a fantasy editor for MLB.com.