With two home runs in his last game, Barry Bonds emphatically put an end to one of the worst slumps of his career while also moving within two homers of Hank Aaron’s all-time record.
Bonds continues his pursuit of the milestone in Milwaukee - where Aaron started and finished his career - when the San Francisco Giants (39-54) open a three-game series against the NL Central-leading Brewers (54-41) on Friday.
The San Francisco slugger returned to the starting lineup Thursday for the first time in four games after sitting to let his sore lower body recover, and hit home runs No. 752 and 753 in a 9-8 loss to the Chicago Cubs. It was Bonds’ second multi-homer game of the year, giving him 19 homers on the season.
“Right now, I just feel good. My body feels great. I feel rejuvenated a little bit,” said Bonds, who was mired in a season-worst 0-for-21 slump, two off his career high set during his rookie season of 1986.
Bonds, who turns 43 on Tuesday, needs three homers to break the record of 755 set by Aaron, who played 12 seasons with the Milwaukee Braves and two with the Brewers. Aaron hit the last home run of his career at Milwaukee’s County Stadium on July 20, 1976.
Milwaukee is also home of baseball commissioner Bud Selig, who hasn’t said whether he’ll be in attendance as Bonds attempts to pass Aaron.
“It doesn’t mean anything different than anywhere else,” Bonds said.
The Giants slugger also hit a two-run double Thursday and finished with six RBIs, his most since driving in six runs Sept. 22 at Milwaukee.
Bonds is batting .363 with 21 homers and 57 RBIs in 58 games against the Brewers. He has six home runs and is hitting .351 (20-for-57) in 18 games at Miller Park, but was 1-for-6 with a double when San Francisco was swept there June 18-20.
The Giants, losers of seven of eight, have dropped seven straight to the Brewers - all in Milwaukee.
Bonds has a homer against Friday’s starter Jeff Suppan (8-8, 4.90 ERA), but is 2-for-12 (.167) with a walk against him lifetime.
“We’re just going to play the game like we do any other one,” Milwaukee manager Ned Yost said. “We’re focused on winning games, not sitting back and watching the home run record.”
The Brewers defeated Arizona 10-1 on Thursday, winning for the fourth time in five games. They own a 3 1/2-game lead over the second-place Cubs.
Milwaukee has climbed to the top of the division with its strong play at Miller Park, where it’s won 13 of 16 and has the best home record in the league at 35-15.
Suppan has struggled lately but has still pitched effectively at Miller Park, going 5-2 with a 4.13 ERA in nine home starts this season.
Suppan gave up two runs and five hits in six innings of a 4-3 win over Colorado on Sunday, but did not factor in the decision. The right-hander had gone 3-6 with a 6.65 ERA in his previous 12 starts after opening the season 5-2 with a 2.63 ERA in his first seven starts.
“He’s back to where he was at the beginning of the year,” Yost said. “It’s good to see. It’s a good sign.”
This will be Suppan’s first start against the Giants as a member of the Brewers. He’s 3-4 with a 4.95 ERA in seven starts against them.
San Francisco will counter with Noah Lowry (9-7, 3.50), who looks to bounce back from his first loss in a month.
Lowry allowed five runs and a season-high 10 hits in a 5-3 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday, after posting a 1.47 ERA in winning his previous three starts. The defeat was his first since yielding five runs and nine hits in 5 2-3 innings of a 5-4 loss to Milwaukee on June 18.
The left-hander has had no luck in three career starts against the Brewers, all at Miller Park, going 0-2 with a 7.88 ERA - his highest against any NL opponent.