NEW YORK -- If there was any lingering doubt that Andre Ethier's almost-record-setting hitting streak was legitimately big-time, that it wasn't just a Los Angeles story but a national one, that it wasn't just a media-driven thing but something that really, truly meant something to baseball fans across America, that doubt wasn't there anymore after Saturday night.
Of course, neither was the hitting streak, but that was almost beside the point.
The Los Angeles Dodgers' right fielder went hitless in four at-bats plus a walk in a 4-2 loss to the New York Mets. And in a town where support for the visiting team doesn't come easily, it wasn't lost on Ethier that many in the crowd of 31,464 at Citi Field seemed more disappointed than even he was that the streak ended at 30 games, one short of the Dodgers' franchise record set by Willie Davis in 1969.
"I loved it," said Ethier, who struck out in his final at-bat in the eighth, then saw any shot at another chance pretty much vanish as the Mets scored two in the bottom half to break a 2-2 tie. "I was sitting there that last inning looking around the stands. I think a lot of people were more concerned or had more views about the streak than I did. It was fun. A lot of people were into it. I got support from the people back home, for sure, but there were definitely people here in the stadium, too."
Two of them were Scott and Cathy Frieder, who live across the Hudson River in Colonia, N.J. They own the condominium I used to rent every year down in Vero Beach, Fla., when the Dodgers still held spring training there, and we remain good friends. The Frieders are Mets fans to the end, attending several games a year, and they were here Saturday.
The first Ethier-related text message I got from Cathy came during my cab ride in from JFK on Thursday night, asking how the numbers lined up and if there was a chance they would see him tie or set the record. The next one came in the seventh inning, between Ethier's fourth and fifth plate appearances, expressing concern that the streak was in jeopardy.
The last one came as they were driving home.
"I feel bad for Ethier," it read. "See you tomorrow."
The Frieders weren't alone. All night, the Mets faithful were on their feet whenever Ethier stood in, although it had to be awkward for them given that all but one of Ethier's plate appearances came with at least one runner on base and all five came in key situations. In the end, though, that was the part that galled Ethier far more than the end of his streak, the fact he wasn't able to come through in any of those at-bats on an evening in which the Dodgers (15-19), who fell a season-worst four games below .500, basically didn't bother to get off the couch whenever opportunity came knocking.
They wound up stranding 14 baserunners for the game, eight of them in scoring position. They left the bases loaded three times. They went a maddening 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position, the lone hit a one-out single by Aaron Miles in the sixth that brought Jamey Carroll home from second with the tying run.
In the end, though, all that offensive ineptitude added up to a two-run defeat for the Dodgers, who now have lost six of their last eight games.
"Right now, I'm more disappointed with what we're going through," Ethier said. "I had a couple of opportunities to go up there and drive in a run, and I didn't do it. That is frustrating. I guess the good part is that maybe I can go up there now and start focusing on driving the ball a little more. That is something we definitely need, some thump in our lineup. Maybe with the streak ending, this little thing will end, too. This loss definitely made it a little tougher pill to swallow.
"I was hoping to go out on a high note and have a win to show for it. Two negatives do not make a positive in this situation."
Including Ethier, the last four major league players who have put together 30-game hitting streaks have seen it end right there, Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley still the last player to push one further than that when he hit in 35 in a row in 2006. Davis, who died a little more than a year ago at 69, will keep his place in the Dodgers' record book a while longer. And Ethier, well, he will get back to business. After all, it was a quick turnaround before Sunday's afternoon game, the first game of the rest of the Dodgers' season.
"He has been swinging the bat good," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "Hopefully, he can start another 30-game streak tomorrow."
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.