Andre Ethier keeps streak on the level

LOS ANGELES -- It feels as if there should be more drama. Hitting streaks, at least when they reach a certain length, are supposed to be dramatic. And Andre Ethier historically has been something of a dramatic guy anyway, the Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder having always played the game on a wave of emotion.

But in this case and with this hitting streak -- which, in the fourth inning of the Dodgers' 5-2 loss to the San Diego Padres before 34,453 on Saturday night at Dodger Stadium, reached 26 games and became the second-longest by a Dodgers player since the team moved to town from Brooklyn in 1958 -- the usual drama has been largely watered down.

For one thing, Ethier isn't quite as emotional as he has been in the past. There are occasional, visible signs of frustration, but the flying helmets and the vicious assaults on the bat rack appear to have been relegated to the past.

For another thing, Ethier just hasn't allowed the drama to build.

The last time Ethier didn't have at least one hit by the end of the sixth inning was on April 18 against the Atlanta Braves. That night, he came up in the seventh against Jairo Asencio at a point when the streak stood at a comparatively pedestrian 15 games. Ethier subsequently singled off Asencio to run the streak to 16.

Since then, and as national media attention on the streak has gradually increased, Ethier has ended the suspense early. Every single night. No time for the storyline to build or the characters to develop. No need for a thrilling climax. Just get the hit early, get it out of the way and concentrate on the ballgame.

To that end, a case can be made that this is one of the more boring hitting streaks in recent memory. Ethier finished April with outstanding offensive numbers, including a .380 average, a .446 on-base percentage and 10 doubles. But he probably isn't going to come close to earning National League player of the month honors, an award that figures to be a toss-up between Lance Berkman of the St. Louis Cardinals and Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers.

Moreover, while Ethier's April has been sizzling, he has hit only half as many homers (three) as he hit last April, when he batted .329 with a .407 OBP.

Ethier playfully said after the game he thinks about the streak only when reporters ask him about it, but there is no doubt he is fully aware of it.

"It's nothing I'm going to lose sleep over at night," he said.

All that could be about to change, though, especially if the streak continues.

"At this point, it has gotten to the point where you're paying attention to it," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said.

Ethier is getting into rare territory now. The last streak by any major leaguer longer than Ethier's was in 2009, when Ichiro Suzuki of the Seattle Mariners hit safely in 27 in a row. That alone drives home the point that streaks of this length are extremely rare. That plus the fact Ethier is so close now to Willie Davis' all-time franchise record of 31 brings a certain amount of pressure in itself, because the likelihood is that if Ethier fails to break that mark now, he will never get this close again.

"I just want to get a hit every at-bat," Ethier said, still trying to downplay the significance of the streak. "It doesn't matter if I'm on a streak, I'm going to try to figure out a way to do that. If I don't get one my first two or three at-bats, I'm still going to try to get a hit not necessarily for the streak but to help the team.

"It's still a long season, and we have other stuff we're trying to accomplish."

That might sound like a player trying to be outwardly modest and say all the right things even as he chases history with one of the game's most historic franchises. But it also speaks to Ethier's approach. He is a routine-oriented guy, and that routine isn't likely to be any different on the day after the streak ends from what it will have been every day of that streak, however long it ultimately lasts.

"He is just kind of day-in, day-out," said Mattingly, the Dodgers hitting coach for the previous 2½ seasons. "I had him last year on the hitting side. He just puts his time in every day and gets himself ready to play."

And that is the streak Ethier is really focused on prolonging.

Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.