Not much has slowed down the surging Chicago Cubs over the past three weeks. Meanwhile, little has gone right for the aching and slumping Barry Bonds recently in his pursuit of baseball’s all-time home run record.
The Cubs look to win their fourth straight contest when they open a four-game series Monday against the San Francisco Giants, who won’t have Bonds in the starting lineup.
Bonds was originally listed in the cleanup spot and left field for Monday’s game at Wrigley Field, but was later scratched, giving him a day to rest his legs.
Bonds is hitless in a season-worst 20 consecutive at-bats after an 0-for-5 showing in Sunday’s 5-3 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers. San Francisco (38-51) has lost four straight games and 17 of 21.
Bonds’ last homer - the 751st of his career and his 17th this season - came on July 3. He’s just 1-for-24 since.
“It’s an embarrassment for me to be wearing this (expletive deleted) uniform ‘cause of the way I’m playing. There, that’s it. Now go away,” said Bonds, who remains four homers shy of Hank Aaron’s record.
The slugger had a hitless stretch of 21 at-bats from April 5-12, 2001 - the year he broke the single-season home run record with 73 - and had a career-worst 0-for-23 drought from July 6-20, 1986, during his rookie year.
Chicago (47-43) defeated Houston 7-6 on Sunday to complete a three-game sweep in its first series after the All-Star break. The Cubs have won 15 of 19 overall, and are 3 1/2 games behind NL Central-leading Milwaukee after trailing by 8 1/2 games on June 23.
The Cubs’ play at Wrigley has triggered their turnaround. They started the year just 10-17 at home, but have won four straight and 13 of 17 there.
Chicago rallied from a five-run deficit in Sunday’s win. All-Star first baseman Derrek Lee sparked the comeback with a three-run homer - his first since June 3 - in the second inning.
“We knew we had a good team, but now we have that confidence to go along with it,” Lee said. “There was a time where we got down like that we might not of been sure that we could come back.”
The Cubs now hope Rich Hill (5-6, 3.81 ERA) can return from the All-Star break rejuvenated.
Hill opened the season 4-1 with a 1.73 ERA in his first six starts, but is just 1-5 with a 5.20 ERA in his last 11 outings. The left-hander has not won since June 7, and has given up at least five runs in three of his last four starts.
In his final appearance before the break, Hill was tagged for six runs and a season-high 10 hits in six innings of a 6-0 loss to Washington on July 4.
He is 1-1 with a 3.79 ERA in three career games against the Giants.
San Francisco counters with rookie Tim Lincecum (4-2, 4.63), who looks to win his third straight start.
Lincecum has yielded just three runs in 20 innings in his last three starts after allowing 22 runs in 18 2-3 innings in his previous four.
On July 7, the 23-year-old right-hander gave up three runs and six hits in six innings of a 7-6 victory over St. Louis.
This will be his first start against the Cubs.