MILWAUKEE, AUG. 25 -- On a tense, winterlike evening, Paul Molitor led off the sixth inning with a single to right field to extend the fifth-longest hitting streak in modern baseball history to 39 games.

Stopped in his first three plate appearances -- he had one walk -- he fought off a first-pitch inside fastball from Don Gordon by slicing it into right field in a game eventually won by the Brewers, 10-9.

He had flied out deep to right field, walked and grounded out in his first three plate appearances, and he has been so proficient in this incredible streak that this was only the seventh time he has needed four plate appearances to keep it going. He flied out in his final at-bat, in the seventh, to end the night one for three.

"I really can't say I was worried," he said. "I felt I had three quality at-bats. The first time up, I thought the ball had a chance to get out, but I just got under it a little. I wasn't worried, but it looked like one of those nights when you might hit the ball hard and not get a hit."

This is the second time he has extended the streak against Gordon, the former Toronto Blue Jay who allowed him a three-run homer in the 34th game of the streak last week in Cleveland. His overall stats versus Gordon: three for five, one home run, three RBI.

So it goes. A month ago, the Brewers expected a crowd of about 10,000 for tonight's game, probably less considering the weather (occasional rain and 60 degrees).

But crowds lined up outside County Stadium more than two hours before game time, and the Brewers announced the attendance as 15,580.

They came to witness a bit of baseball history and, when Molitor gave it to them, they saluted him with a 90-second standing ovation. He responded with a tip of his cap as the Indians tossed the ball into the Milwaukee dugout.

That ball is another in a line of souvenirs for Molitor, and he goes for another against Cleveland's John Farrell on Wednesday. Just two weeks ago, Farrell was pitching for Buffalo of the Class AAA American Association. He is 2-0 since being called up, winning once in relief and beating the Tigers on a six-hitter.

Molitor needs a hit to tie Ty Cobb for sixth place on the all-time list and for fourth place on the modern list.

Cobb hit in 40 consecutive games in 1911. Molitor is also only five away from Pete Rose's 44-game streak, the second-longest of all-time.

"For a long time, 44 seemed like a very far away number," Molitor said. "As each day goes by, it seems a little more realistic. Tomorrow is No. 40, and I'll just try to keep the momentum going. You can't plan too far ahead. To just be in that company {Cobb and Rose}, you have to be appreciative of what has happened to this point. Someday when I look back at this, I'd say I have to be pleased."

He is hitting .415 during the streak and has raised his batting average from .323 to .370. Wade Boggs of the Boston Red Sox leads the American League with a .364 batting average, but, if Molitor averages 3.6 plate appearances per game for the remainder of the season, he'll qualify for the batting championship.

He had worked the counts to 2-0, 3-2 and 3-0 on his first three at-bats, but in the sixth, jumped on Gordon's first pitch.

"I was looking for a slider, which is what he'd thrown me last week," Molitor said. "When you're looking for a slider, you tend to lean over the plate and try to hit it to the opposite field. The fastball fooled me and ran in on my hands. It was a line-drive, jam-shot to get it out of the infield. He's very aggressive, keeps it right in the strike zone."

In order, the longest streaks of all-time are Joe DiMaggio (56 in 1941), Pete Rose (44 in 1978), Willie Keeler (44 in 1897), Bill Dahlen (42 in 1894), George Sisler (41 in 1922) and Cobb.

Keeler and Dahlen had their streaks last century, so they aren't considered part of the modern records.

Molitor's is the longest in the American League since DiMaggio's 56-game streak, and the fourth-longest in league history. There was no American League last century.

Meanwhile, Cleveland's Brett Butler hit a three-run homer in the ninth inning to extend baseball's second-longest active streak to 19 games.

"I thought it was over for me when I flied out in the eighth," Butler said. "That shows you how fragile something like this really is."

Gordon didn't stay around to meet with reporters, but Manager Doc Edwards of the Indians bristled at suggestions that Molitor might be unstoppable.

"He didn't walk on water to get here," Edwards said. "He puts his uniform on like the rest of them. We're going to keep going after him. He's a good hitter on a good streak, but he's not immortal."

Molitor began the game by facing starter Ken Schrom in each of the first two innings. In the first, Schrom threw a change-up outside and a fastball inside before putting a fastball on the outside corner of the plate. Molitor lined it to the opposite field, and right fielder Cory Snyder had to go to the warning track to catch it.

Schrom fed him mostly inside fastballs in the second inning. The first two were for balls. Molitor then fouled off a fastball and a curveball before taking a low change-up and an inside fastball to draw a walk.

Then in the fourth, Cleveland reliever Jamie Easterly missed with three straight fastballs before getting Molitor to hit a hard grounder to second baseman Tommy Hinzo.

The at-bats and another post-game press conference ended another long day for Molitor, who arrived at the stadium early for an interview with ABC, then went through another 30-minute session with reporters from everywhere from San Diego to Racine. He handled all of them with grace and class, just as he has handled almost everything else during the streak.

"As each day goes by, {the pressure is} becoming more of a factor," he said. "But you have to realize it comes with a streak like this, and, if you fight it, it can interfere with your job on the field. You just deal with it, then go on and prepare to play."

He said he had watched how Rose handled his 44-game streak in '78, how George Brett handled a flirtation with hitting .400 in 1980 and how Reggie Jackson dealt with the attention of hitting three homers in the World Series.

"I also saw Robin Yount get inundated with interview requests that last month in 1982 {when Yount won the MVP Award}," Molitor said. "That has helped."

He was asked again and again if he'll be relieved when the streak finally ends.

"It'll be a two-sided coin," he said. "I don't want it to end, but part of it ending will be a feeling of relief. I realize this is a rare opportunity, and I don't want it to end."