Duo's Beat the Streak runs come to end
Contestants come up short in quest for $5.6 million grand prize
A first-inning bunt base hit by the Rockies' Carlos Gonzalez kicked off what could have been an evening of elation for two Beat the Streak contestants.
A pair of 0-fers from the Brewers' Ryan Braun and Jean Segura, however, ended the Streakers' remarkable BTS runs at 40 straight successful selections sans a "whiff."
What happened in between, in short, was evidence buttressing the old adage about baseball being a game of inches.
Jeremy Leonardo, who goes by the BTS handle jjleo2118, and a player known only as mwrenn11 -- entered Monday more than 70 percent of the way to the apex of the BTS mountain, wherein lies the game's $5.6 million grand prize.
In an effort to boost their streaks to 42 consecutive correct picks, both Leonardo and mwrenn11 utilized the BTS "Double Down" feature. In doing so, they each called on Gonzalez, as well as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers. Leonardo went with Braun, and mwrenn11 selected Segura.
The Double Down feature allows Streakers to select two players on the same day. If both batters record at least one hit, the Streaker's run advances by two games. But if either player goes hitless, the streak drops back to zero.
When Gonzalez laid down his infield-shift-defying bunt in the first frame of Colorado's game against the Reds, Leonardo and mwrenn11 were halfway to their evening objective.
"I thought CarGo was a no-brainer with his track record against [Cincinnati starting pitcher Bronson] Arroyo," Leonardo said late Monday night.
The statistics certainly support that claim, as Gonzalez entered the game with a .305 average on the year and a career mark of .500 (7-for-14) against Arroyo.
The savvy selection aside, both streaks are now over because Braun and Segura combined to go 0-for-8 in a contest that was completed with 25 hits, including three from pitchers.
Although Segura's four at-bats were rather nondescript, Braun came within inches of a base knock on two occasions. The former National League MVP's first plate appearance ended with the ball traveling about 100 feet to third base, but serious hustle down the first-base line left him half a step from an infield single of his own.
"I appreciate Braun's effort. He always hustles down the line, and with his speed can beat out a lot of infield hits," Leonardo said.
The pearl did not leave the diamond for Braun's final at-bat, either, but the resulting out was through no fault of his own. The slugger made solid contact and drove the offering up the middle, but left-hander Hideki Okajima got in the way. The ball ricocheted off Okajima's pitching forearm and to the first-base side of the diamond for the streak-stopping out. If the ball had traveled an inch or two in either direction away from the mound, Leonardo's run likely would have lived to see another day.
Braun also gave the baseball a ride during his second time up, flying out to A's center fielder Coco Crisp on the warning track. Had he connected a half-inch closer to the stick's sweet spot, the ball could have easily dropped into an outfield gap.
"I honestly have no regrets [about picking Braun], but it does kinda [disappoint me] that he hit [Okajima] on the line drive in his last at-bat," Leonardo said. "And the worst part is it bounced right to the first baseman."
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 their games. 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.
Leonardo, 24, is a teacher's assistant and high school baseball coach in Clovis, Calif. A BTS participant for the past several seasons, he is a "diehard San Francisco Giants fan" with a predilection for what some might consider a quirky practice.
"The only [BTS] strategy I have been using is going with my gut," Leonardo said before Monday's games began. "However, I am very superstitious and haven't shaved since my streak was at 16."
Leonardo seemed to be in good spirits when all was said and done, vowing to start again with a clean slate and a clear face.
"[The] first thing before I start another streak is I have to get rid of this beard," he said. "But I'm sure I'll have two guys lined up ready to go tomorrow. Good luck to all!"
Fans this year have been chasing the 57 mark in a more aggressive fashion than ever. You can, too -- for free, no less. And best of all, participating takes just seconds a day. Not a bad deal considering the millions of reasons to play.