WASHINGTON (AP) -A 43-game hitting streak in the minor leagues doesn't warrant a place in Cooperstown or a multimillion dollar contract extension. It did, however, help get Brandon Watson another shot at the big leagues.
Watson set the International League record on Sunday when he singled off J.D. Durbin in the sixth inning of the Columbus Clippers' 9-8 loss to the Ottawa Lynx. Four days later, he was starting in center field for the Washington Nationals.
``He's earned this promotion based on that streak alone, even though it was Triple-A pitching,'' general manager Jim Bowden said.
Had Watson managed a similar streak in the majors, he would have been the nightly subject of breathless anticipation among fans nationwide. Will he get a hit tonight? Can he keep it up?
The same kind of pressure was there on a smaller scale in Columbus, especially after he surpassed the team record of 24 set by Brian Raabe in 1999. Television cameras would show up to get footage of Watson's latest hit, and he became a favorite for radio interviews as the number got higher.
``After the 20th, it was all bonus for me because I never had a hitting streak in the 20s,'' Watson said. ``And then it was, like, 30. I would tell myself, 'If it doesn't happen today, you can't hang your head because you've got a long hitting streak.' It was a little tough the last couple of games.''
That's because the last two games tied and broke the 95-year-old IL record, set by Jack Lelivelt of the Rochester Hustlers in 1912.
As with most hitting streaks, Watson's could have easily been much shorter - or longer. On April 30, the day before the streak began, Watson reached first on a throwing error. Had it been scored a hit, his streak would have been 51 - fourth-longest in minor league history. The all-time minors record is 69, set by Joe Wilhoit of Wichita of the Western League in 1919.
Then there were the games when Watson was 0-for-whatever with one last chance at the plate.
``I had a couple of games where I had to grind it out in my last at-bat,'' he said. ``But I had nothing to lose - I was already in the 20s, late 20s.''
The streak ended with an 0-for-5 game against Rochester on Monday, but by then the feat was too much for the big club to ignore.
The 25-year-old Watson made his major league debut in 2005, hitting only .175 in 40 at-bats.
He was essentially been rejected by the Nationals last year - he lasted less than two weeks after being picked as the opening day center fielder and was later claimed on waivers by Cincinnati. This was an opportune time to make some noise because Washington's recent center field platoon of Ryan Langerhans and Nook Logan wasn't producing much.
``We need to find out about him, and this is a small window of opportunity,'' Bowden said. ``It's unique circumstances that gives him a cup of coffee - or a double Starbucks vanilla latte, whatever you want to call it.''
Watson arrived Wednesday and showed off his new wide-open, odd-looking stance, in which he crouches low in the left-handed batters' box and seems to be in a hurry to leave. He batted eighth and went 0-for-3, hitting the ball well but producing two flyouts and a sharp grounder to third.
``He put good wood on the ball,'' manager Manny Acta said. ``But it's just one game, not enough to evaluate.''
Back in Columbus, the Clippers are considering how best to commemorate Watson's achievement. But even if there is something like a Brandon Watson Streak Day, Watson feels he's already got the reward he wanted.
``I'm just happy,'' he said, ``to be here in the major leagues.''

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