Monroe homers into record books

Detroit Tigers Craig Monroe hits a solo shot against St. Louis Cardinals starter Jeff Weaver in the first inning of Game 2 of the World Series on Sunday, Oct. 22, 2006 in Detroit. At left are St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, and homeplate umpire Alfonso Marquez. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)

AP

Detroit Tigers’ Craig Monroe hits a solo shot against St. Louis Cardinals starter Jeff Weaver in the first inning of Game 2 of the World Series on Sunday, Oct. 22, 2006 in Detroit. At left are St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, and homeplate umpire Alfonso Marquez. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)

By The Associated Press

DETROIT – Barry Bonds, Hank Greenberg and Craig Monroe.

Even though Monroe’s accomplishments put him in the same sentence with the sluggers, he doesn’t plan on spending a lot of time thinking about it.

Monroe hit his fifth homer of this postseason and connected for the second straight day, helping the Detroit Tigers beat the St. Louis Cardinals in a 3-1 victory Sunday night that evened the World Series at one game apiece.

He matched the franchise record for career homers in the postseason set by Hall of Famer Greenberg and became the first player since Bonds to hit home runs in his first two World Series games. Bonds did for San Francisco in 2002 against Anaheim.

“Yeah, that’s great,” Monroe said. “But I’m focused on one thing and that’s to help us win games.”

After an off day, Monroe will get another shot Tuesday night in Game 3 when the series shifts to St. Louis.

Greenberg hit his five postseason homers for the Tigers in 85 at-bats during the 1934 World Series – which they lost to St. Louis – and when they played for the title in 1935, 1940 and 1945.

Monroe matched the total in just 37 at-bats.

“Wow,” he said before stepping in front of a sea of reporters and cameras at the postgame news conference. “That’s something I’ll have to really reflect on down the road, not now, because I can’t even process that kind of stuff now.”

The free-swinging slugger, who struck out 126 times during the regular season, said he’s in a groove because of his improved mind-set.

“I know during the regular season, I maybe let some at-bats get away,” Monroe said. “But now I found a way to focus on every pitch.”

He did just that in the first inning, before his shot cleared the left-field fence. Monroe looked down, flipped his bat and got ready for another trot around the bases – a routine he’s getting down pat in his first postseason.

“Not being in this situation before, I’m shocked sometimes at myself,” he said. “I’m relaxed and having fun. That’s the big thing. I’m not getting caught up in all the things that are going on around me.”

Tigers manager Jim Leyland often has said that Monroe finally believed he was good this season after merely thinking he was good in the past.

That belief had to be cemented this month with a .324 batting average in the playoffs – perhaps making him Detroit’s most consistent hitter – with plenty of power.

“I’m focused on one thing and that’s trying to be a good player,” he said after hitting safely in his fifth straight playoff game.

Monroe hit two homers in the division series against the New York Yankees, tying a team record for home runs in a postseason series. He had another in the AL championship series against Oakland, and equaled his own mark with this two-homer series against St. Louis.

Like Anthony Reyes in Game 1, Jeff Weaver could not contain Monroe.

“I made one bad pitch to Monroe, a cutter down the middle that he didn’t miss,” Weaver said.

The solo homer in the first inning sailed 421 feet to left, a no-doubt shot that allowed Monroe to react – head down, bat flipped – as few can at spacious Comerica Park.

“To see him jump-start us like that obviously made me feel pretty good,” Leyland said.

It was another sweet moment for one of the members of the 2003 Tigers, who lost an AL-record 119 games. Monroe had a lot of them during the regular season, when he hit a career-high 28 homers and finished second in the AL with 14 homers in the seventh inning or later.

“The guy has been doing that all year long for us, coming up with big home runs,” Detroit designated hitter Sean Casey said. “So we’re not surprised by it.”