PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Jimmy Rollins stretched his hitting streak to 37 games Monday with a double in the eighth inning of Philadelphia’s season opener against St. Louis.

Rollins ended the 2005 season with a 36-game hitting streak, the ninth-longest over one season in big league history, and the longest in the majors since 1987, when Paul Molitor hit safely in 39 consecutive games.

A three-time All-Star shortstop, Rollins is chasing Joe DiMaggio’s major league record 56-game hitting streak, though there is a twist.

DiMaggio accomplished his feat in the same season in 1941. The major league marks for longest hitting streak in one season and longest hitting streak spanning two seasons are separate records.

DiMaggio holds both with his 56-game streak in 1941, but there is a difference in the NL records: Pete Rose (1978) and Willie Keeler (1897) share the NL mark at 44 games. However, Keeler got a hit in his final game of 1896, so his run of 45 games overall is the first record Rollins is pursuing.

The old Phillies franchise record of 31 was set by Ed Delahanty in 1899.

Rollins extended his streak by lining a 3-0 pitch off Adam Wainwright down the right-field line. He got a standing ovation from those remaining among the sellout crowd of 44,614 at Citizens Bank Park, tipped his hat to crowd and made sure he got the ball for a keepsake.

The switch-hitting Rollins went 0-for-3 batting left-handed against reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Chris Carpenter, and hit a sacrifice fly against left-hander Randy Flores in the sixth.

Rollins’ first at-bat ended when Cardinals shortstop David Eckstein made an outstanding, sliding catch on a foul pop down the left-field line.

He hit a hard liner right at center fielder Jim Edmonds his next time up, and grounded out to first base in the fifth inning. Rollins’ hit another hard liner to Edmonds for his sacrifice fly.

Rollins hit .379 (61-for-161) during his season-ending streak, nearly helping Philadelphia make the playoffs. The Phillies finished one game behind NL wild-card winner Houston and two games behind NL East champion Atlanta.

Rollins’ last game without a hit was Aug. 22, when he went 0-for-4 against San Francisco. He began the streak with a ninth-inning double the following day against the Giants’ Brian Cooper.

Coincidentally, the Phillies decided during the offseason to introduce the starting lineups in reverse order before games. So, that saved Rollins, the leadoff hitter, for last. He, of course, received the loudest cheers.

AP-ES-04-03-06 1750EDT