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Molina can't get away from home run's impact

St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina spent Friday trying to turn the page on the signature moment of his career. No chance.
Even though the World Series starts tonight in Comerica Park, a big focus when the Cardinals arrived for their workout was Molina, whose two-run homer in the top of the ninth inning Thursday beat the New York Mets in Game Seven of the NLCS.

Molina, a .216 hitter with just six home runs during the regular season, connected off New York reliever Aaron Heilman for just the fifth longball to decide the ultimate game of a playoff series.
"I'm getting the idea what a big deal it is," Molina said. "But I don't want to think about that right now. That's for another time. We have to turn our focus and start thinking about our pitchers and about the Tigers' pitchers."
Yadier, 24, is the youngest of the majors' three Molina brothers. Bengie (Toronto) and Jose Molina (Los Angeles Angels) shared the catching duties in Anaheim for the 2002 Series champions. Yadier was the backup to Mike Matheny when the Cardinals were swept by Boston two years ago.
"You never realize it or understand it as a player at the moment something happens that's that big," said St. Louis center fielder Jim Edmonds, himself forever ingrained in highlight film lore with a diving catch in Kansas City in 1997.
"It's the media that makes it as big as it is. It will be as big as everybody makes it. If people think it's just another home run, it will be just another home run. But I've got an idea it will get blown up like it should be and it will last as a memorable home run in postseason history.
"He deserves it," Edmonds added. "He's one of those guys who's gone out all year long and handled the pitching staff through the ups and downs. Being the catcher is the toughest place to stay healthy. I'm really happy it was him."

Molina said his cell phone was full with messages from family and friends almost immediately after the game. While naturally thrilled by his blast, Molina said he's happier about the fact he's going to play in the Series this time and not be a spectator like he was in '04.
"That was Mike Matheny's time and he was a veteran guy so I understood," Molina said. "There's some different guys here this time and I'm glad I can contribute. I know my job is to handle the pitchers, but we need all nine guys doing something every night.

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Detroit manager Jim Leyland said he's more at ease in a big-league dugout than he was last season watching his son's Little League team in his spare time from his role as a Cardinals scout.

"That made me more nervous than managing in the major leagues," Leyland said. "It's pretty hard to believe that a year ago I was throwing batting practice to a bunch of 13-year-olds on some type of field that's nothing like Comerica Park. But it's all part of life. It was a great experience. If I wasn't managing next week and had to go back to that, too, that would be fine."

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Fireballing Tigers reliever Joel Zumaya has more at his disposal than just a 102-mph fastball. His grandmother, Tammy Gomez, used to take him to San Diego Padres games as a child and has followed his career religiously since he became a pro.
"She knows everything," Zumaya said. "She knows not just what guys are hitting but what they're hitting against righties and lefties, too. She's like having your own notebook, your own scouting report. I need something, I can call her."
Zumaya was born Nov. 9, 1984 -- 21 days after the Tigers' Game Five clincher over San Diego gave them their last World Series championship.

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The media swarmed Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols, surrounding him at his locker in the deep back corner of the tight visiting clubhouse near the showers. Yelled one Cardinal from behind the wall, "Yo, Albert, put a tent over that circus." . . . This is the second straight all-Central division matchup after the two Centrals earned just three Series berths (Cleveland in 1995 and 1997, St. Louis in 2004) and no titles in the 10 years following realignment. . . . Tigers legends Al Kaline and Willie Horton will throw tonight's ceremonial first pitches. They are both special assistants to Detroit General Manager Dave Dombrowski.

e-mail: mharrington@buffnews.com

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