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McOwen's streak ends at 45 games

Nuts' trio holds Mavs outfielder hitless in four plate appearances
July 11, 2009
After Modesto Nuts closer Craig Baker blew one final fastball past James McOwen, the High Desert Mavericks outfielder didn't stomp back to the dugout in disgust.

Sure, it was his last chance to extend his California League-record hitting streak to 46 games, but he didn't spike his helmet. And he didn't break down in tears.

McOwen turned toward the dugout and thought, "Wow, he really gassed me up right there." Then he took a minute to tell fellow outfielder Carlos Peguero to be ready for Baker's fastball because, while he felt disappointed, he knew he needed to do what he could to help his team win a game.

His advice did little to help Peguero, who lined out to center. Baker picked up his 22nd consecutive save and the Mavericks lost their fourth straight game, 2-0, on a night that featured few bright spots.

"I'm a little disappointed but not too bad," said McOwen, who had kept the streak alive in his final at-bat seven times before Friday's ninth-inning strikeout. "I'm pretty happy with the way the last month and a half has gone. There're no regrets and, hopefully, I'll start another one tomorrow."

McOwen fell one game short of tying Johnny Bates (1925) for the seventh-longest streak in Minor League history, going hitless for the first time since May 8 when he was 0-for-5 against Lake Elsinore. During the run, he batted .398 (72-for-181) with three homers and 34 RBIs.

Streaking in the Minors
The longest hitting streaks in Minor League history.
Team (League)
69Joe WilhoitWichita (WL)1919
61Joe DiMaggioSan Francisco (PCL)1933
55Roman MejiasWaco (BSL)1954
50Otto PahlmanDanville (III)1922
49Jack NessOakland (PCL)1915
49Harry ChozenMobile (SA)1945
46Johnny BatesNashville (SA)1925
45James McOwenHigh Desert (CAL)2009
43Brandon WatsonColumbus (IL)2007
43Eddie MarshallMilwaukee (AA)1935
43Howie BedellLouisville (AA)1961
43Orlando MorenoBig Spring (LHL)1947
42Jack LeliveltRochester (IL)1912
42Herbert ChapmanGadsden (SEL)1950
40Frosty KennedyPlainview (WT-NM)1953
Before the game, McOwen felt pretty good, despite being inundated with interviews and the pressure that has mounted with each passing day and every important hit. He didn't notice any changes to his mechanics during batting practice.

And it wasn't like he was the only High Desert player to struggle as Baker and two other Modesto pitchers held the Mavericks to five hits.

"I guess I didn't have the feel," McOwen said before taking a minute to sort his thoughts. "The cards didn't fall my way. I walked once and the last pitcher, I was just a little late on the fastball. I guess he's a pretty good closer, 22 saves. He's a good pitcher and he came right after me.

"He threw three right by me and one for a ball. He kind of gassed me up and ended it right there."

But what a few fastballs won't end is the newfound attention being paid to the prospect by the Mariners organization. Before the season, the 2007 sixth-round Draft pick wasn't even one of the top two or three prospects on the Mavericks' roster.

Now he has people asking him when he's being moved up to Double-A, a trip that would seem possible if it weren't for a glut of talented outfielders moving through Seattle's ranks.

"It's not something you set out to do," McOwen said of transforming into a top prospect. "You set out to help the team win, become a good player and get the respect of your teammates and coaches. Everything else is just a bonus. You can't look into whoever's watching too much. You've got to do your job.

"It's definitely a good feeling, knowing people appreciate what you did. You don't know how far it's going to take you, but it's nice to know you can have success and you can be a productive player for an extended time."

McOwen's night got off to a rough start when his bunt attempt in the top of the first went right back to the pitcher for a fielder's choice. When he stepped to the plate leading off the fourth, Nuts starter Connor Graham had retired seven straight batters, five on strikeouts. McOwen walked.

In the sixth, McOwen bounced into a double play, setting up another dramatic finish that never materialized.

When the streak started, McOwen would joke with teammates late in the game if he were still hitless. But after he set the California League record in his 36th game, each night seemed to be more important. He started to care a little more. He could sense the pressure building. Now that it's over, though, he doesn't feel a sense of relief. But he also doesn't carry any regrets.

He will just move on as best he can.

"You try to put it in the past," he said. "You've got to have a short memory in this game -- 0-for-3 doesn't mean you're an 0-for-3 player. You try to go out tomorrow and try to get two or three knocks again."

Mason Kelley is a contributor to