The Giants (66-69) probably can’t afford to give Bonds much more rest with a month remaining to find a way into the playoffs, so he is expected back in the lineup Saturday in the middle game of a series with the lowly Chicago Cubs (55-79).
Bonds, batting .538 with three homers in his last nine games, didn’t play in a 6-2 loss to the Cubs on Friday.
Bonds was rested partly because the Giants played in Atlanta on Thursday night and didn’t get to their Chicago hotel until around 2:30 a.m. CDT, about 12 hours before the start of Friday’s game. His absence hurt a San Francisco team that is 2 1/2 games behind the San Diego Padres for the NL wild card, and 6 1/2 games behind the first-place Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West.
Bonds’ replacement in left field, Todd Linden, had a rough day, taking a called third strike with a runner at third and one out in the second, and misplaying Derrek Lee’s high fly ball in the bottom of the inning.
“As long as this (the postseason) is reachable, we’ll play the team that was put together to make it reachable,” said Giants manager Felipe Alou, who hasn’t rested Bonds in consecutive games since the star slugger was having knee problems in July.
Giants second baseman Ray Durham started despite leaving Thursday’s game in the seventh inning with a mild back strain. He was hitless in four at-bats.
Impressive rookie Matt Cain (10-9, 4.32 ERA) will try to help even the series for the Giants. He is 2-0 with a 0.46 ERA in his last three starts. The right-hander gave up four hits while striking out nine in seven innings to earn a win in an 8-0 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday.
“He’s getting better every outing,” Alou said. “Every time he throws a pitch he has some thought behind it, some strategy.”
Cain has struggled with his control this season but has walked only three in his last 14 innings. He has 144 strikeouts in 150 innings.
The 21-year-old Cain will be looking to avenge one of the worst starts of his brief career. He allowed a season-high eight runs and seven hits in 5 1-3 innings in an 8-1 loss to the Cubs on May 10.
Chicago will use the last month of the season to evaluate young pitchers like Sean Marshall (5-8, 4.98 ERA), who is scheduled to make his first start for the Cubs since straining his right oblique muscle on July 22. The 23-year-old left-hander gave up no earned runs and six hits over seven innings during his rehab start on Sunday at Triple-A Iowa, where he hasn’t allowed an earned run in 13 innings.
Marshall had his last start cut short because of the injury. The rookie gave up two runs and six hits in four innings in a 7-3 loss to the Washington Nationals. His worst start was in his first career appearance against the Giants on May 11, allowing nine runs and nine hits in 3 2-3 innings in a 9-3 loss.
“Hopefully, the young pitchers will help me sort out things better by the end of the month,” Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said. “Hopefully, guys who are having good years can finish up that way. You hope to win as many games as you can.”