After an incredible run into BTS lore -- 45 straight successful picks -- Sterling Heights, Mich., resident Aaron Brown saw his streak end after one of his hometown team's sluggers recorded an 0-fer on Friday night against the Twins.
The 30-year-old Tigers fan utilized the "Double Down" feature, calling on Detroit first baseman Prince Fielder as well as Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano. Although Cano collected an infield hit in the eighth inning of the Yanks' win over the Rays, Fielder walked twice and ended his evening -- and Brown's pursuit of the $5.6 million BTS grand prize -- with no hits in two at-bats and two walks.
"I couldn't decide between Cano or Fielder," Brown said. "I was going back and forth the whole day and finally decided I was confident in both players to get a hit. … I just felt confident in both matchups and figured why not?"
Despite their lack of contact, Cano and Fielder combined to reach base six times Friday. In addition to the first baseman's free passes and the second baseman's single, Cano walked twice -- once intentionally with first and second occupied -- and was hit by a pitch.
"I was watching both games at the same time thanks to MLB.TV -- and it was horrible," Brown said. "... The worst part was watching Cano get his infield single, while realizing that Prince would not get another at-bat for the night. I just wish [Anibal] Sanchez would have gotten the no-hitter. His performance tonight [in which he had a no-hitter for 8 1/3 innings vs. Minnesota] was amazing. It's great to see the Tigers doing so well."
The end of Brown's streak -- the longest of the 2013 season to date -- warrants accolades for being an all-time great. In the 13-plus years of BTS play, only four Streakers have lasted longer than Brown. The all-time leader, Mike Karatzia, made 49 consecutive correct picks in 2007.
To put Brown's accomplishment into a deeper perspective, never in the history of the National League -- founded in 1876 -- has a player posted a hit in 45 consecutive contests during a single season. The Reds' Pete Rose (1978) and the old Orioles' Willie Keeler (1897) both came within one game of doing so, with Keeler hitting safely in 45 straight from 1896 -- the season finale -- to 1897, the first 44 contests.
Through Beat the Streak, participants try to establish a virtual "hitting streak" by picking one or two big leaguers per day, with their run continuing as long as their selections collect at least one hit in that game. In 13-plus seasons of BTS play, no one has matched Joe DiMaggio's magic number of 56, set in 1941. To win the grand prize, one must top Joe D.'s run by one.
Brown leaned heavily on Fielder -- and the first baseman's teammates -- during his streak. Of his 45 correct picks, Brown called on third baseman Miguel Cabrera a whopping 20 times. Fielder, for his part, kept Brown alive on six occasions before finally falling short. Torii Hunter also chipped in, coming through during his one and only opportunity to assist.
Cabrera -- who won an AL Triple Crown and MVP in 2012 -- finished Friday with one hit in four at-bats and a big league-best .388 average.
"Miguel is on a hot streak, and I should have went with him the past two days," Brown said. "[But] besides [Rays manager] Joe Maddon from Tampa, I feel like [Twins skipper] Ron Gardenhire would be the next closest manager to walking Miguel."
"I still think [Cabrera and Fielder are] the best 3-4 hitters in the league, and I wouldn't change my pick. Prince doesn't get enough credit for his accomplishments in this league. He was batting .353 his previous five games, so why not go with him? He just had some tough at-bats that didn't work for him."
So far this season, only two contestants -- Brown and Michael Ray of Brenham, Texas -- have reached the 40-pick plateau. Ray made 43 straight correct picks before his streak was cut short. Several Streakers, however, have a chance to join the exclusive club in the coming days.
Brown hopes to work his way back into the BTS picture, and he is ready to get right back on the proverbial horse.
"I do expect to start my new streak tomorrow -- and knowing my competitive edge, I'll probably lean more on [Double Down] picks as opposed to single picks just to try and get back to where I left off," Brown said. "Overall, I feel pretty good in having the highest streak for the season. But I do realize how close the guys behind me are for the lead. … I just hope to be coming back in a few months to have a similar situation, but with me reaching 57."
Fans interested in joining the fun can do so free of charge, and participating takes only seconds a day. Not a bad deal considering the millions of reasons to play.