After spending the last week on the road in hostile environments, Barry Bonds has a chance to make history back home in San Francisco.
Bonds hopes to become baseball’s new home run king in front of the home fans when the Giants open a seven-game homestand Monday with a four-game series against the Atlanta Braves.
Bonds, who turns 43 Tuesday, started just three of seven games during San Francisco’s latest trip, and was held out of Sunday’s 7-5 loss at Milwaukee. He hit home runs No. 752 and 753 amid the boos at Wrigley Field on Thursday, but was 0-for-6 with three walks and two strikeouts at Miller Park.
All-time home run leader Hank Aaron started and finished his 23-year career in Milwaukee, and played 21 seasons with the Braves.
The Giants slugger is two homers shy of tying Aaron’s storied record of 755, and will likely play five or six games during the next week at AT&T Park, where he is beloved in spite of the steroids suspicions that surround him.
“Hopefully, he’ll hit it in front of the fans who have been loyal to him,” center fielder Dave Roberts told the team’s official Web site. “It won’t be as appreciated if it’s done on the road. If there’s one boo, it’s underappreciated. It’s something the people in San Francisco deserve. They’ve been waiting for years for it to happen.”
Bonds has 155 career home runs at AT&T Park, including some of his biggest. He hit homers No. 500, 600, 661 to surpass Willie Mays into third place on the all-time list, and 715 to move past Babe Ruth into second place. This season, 11 of his 19 homers have come in San Francisco.
“I’ve been through this before,” Bonds said. “It’s not like I haven’t hit milestones before. Everyone who goes through it, you can go back in history, it kind of takes awhile, it kind of takes some time. This one might even take until next year. Who knows what I’m going to do?”
Bonds has 39 home runs lifetime against the Braves (52-47), including the first of his career on June 4, 1986. In six games against Atlanta last season, he was 6-for-14 (.429) with two homers.
Bonds is 19-for-64 (.297) with eight home runs and four doubles in his career against Monday’s starter John Smoltz (9-5, 2.88 ERA), who is tied with four other pitches for serving up the most homers to the seven-time NL MVP. However, Bonds hasn’t hit a homer off of Smoltz since Aug. 9, 1998.
Smoltz was sharp in his last start, allowing five hits and striking out a season-high 11 in seven scoreless innings of a 5-4, 14-inning loss to Cincinnati on Wednesday. It was Smoltz’s first start since July 2, as he spent some time on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation.
“I was mentally as good as I’ve ever been,” Smoltz said. “The physical part will kick back in when I get in the five-day routine.”
The 40-year-old right-hander is 11-15 with a 4.19 ERA in 45 games - 36 starts - against the Giants, his most losses against any opponent. In his last start against them, he was tagged for seven runs and six hits in five innings of an 8-6 loss last Aug. 31.
The Braves fell to St. Louis 7-2 in 10 innings on Sunday night, and have lost five of their last seven games.
Chipper Jones is batting .444 (12-for-27) with a homer and eight RBIs in his last seven games, but is just 6-for-40 (.150) in his last 12 contests against the Giants dating to 2004.
San Francisco (41-55) opposes Smoltz with Matt Cain (3-11, 3.87), who is just 1-8 with a 4.39 ERA in his last 11 starts.
He gave up six runs, four hits and five walks in four innings of a 12-1 loss to the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday.
Although he struggled his last time out, the 22-year-old right-hander has not received much help from his offense. San Francisco, which is just 3-16 in Cain’s starts this season, has scored a total of 10 runs in his 11 losses.
In his only career start against the Braves, Cain allowed four runs and seven hits in six innings but didn’t receive a decision in the Giants’ 14-6 victory on April 7 of last season.