San Francisco slugger Barry Bonds turns 43 years old Tuesday. He’d love to celebrate by moving closer to - or making - history.
Bonds continues his quest to break Hank Aaron’s career home run record when the Giants continue their four-game series with the Atlanta Braves at AT&T Park.
Bonds has 753 homers, two shy of Aaron’s mark. He homered twice at Wrigley Field on Thursday in a 9-8 loss to the Chicago Cubs, but has not connected since and has hit just those two home runs in his last 12 games.
“Yeah, I do marvel at it,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said of Bonds’ accomplishments for his age. “Sometimes you forget he is going to hit 43 tomorrow because of the way he swings the bat.”
Monday’s game was the first on a seven-game homestand for San Francisco (41-56), which also plays three games against Florida this weekend. Bonds, adored at home but jeered on the road, started just three times on the Giants’ seven-game trip to Chicago and Milwaukee last week.
He went 1-for-3 with a walk and a single in Monday’s series opener, a 4-2 loss. His eighth-inning hit was his first since the second of his two homers Thursday.
The Giants, mired in last place in the NL West, fell for the ninth time in 12 games.
The Braves (53-47), meanwhile, won for just the third time in eight contests but moved within three games of the NL East-leading New York Mets, who were off Monday. Brian McCann hit a three-run double in the first inning and John Smoltz won his 10th game.
Atlanta manager Bobby Cox told his players in a pregame meeting not to get distracted by all of the hype surrounding Bonds.
“You’ve got to think of winning the ballgame,” Cox told the Braves’ official Web site. “You can’t think of giving up the home run to (Bonds) and that you don’t want that on your record and all that stuff. If he hits a home run, he hits a home run. That we win the ballgame is the most important thing.”
Bonds came into Monday’s game with eight career homers against Smoltz, and he also has very good numbers against Atlanta’s Tim Hudson (10-5, 3.24 ERA), Tuesday’s starter. Bonds is 9-for-19 (.474) with four homers and six walks against Hudson, and hit two homers off him the last time the two met Aug. 29 in Atlanta, although Hudson earned the 13-8 win.
Bonds also hit a pair of home runs against Hudson on June 3, 2000, while the right-hander pitched for Oakland. Hudson did not get a decision in that outing, but the A’s won 9-7.
“The game is going to dictate what kind of pitches he’s going to get to hit,” Hudson told the Braves’ official Web site before this series. “I’ve never shied away from him. I’ve never purposely pitched around him to walk him. I’ve always tried to get him out.”
Hudson is 4-0 with a 2.61 ERA over his last five starts, pitching seven innings in each of the victories. He allowed one run in seven innings of Thursday’s 10-1 win over St. Louis.
“I felt like I had life on everything,” he said. “I was locating everything pretty good. A big lead helps a lot.”
Hudson is 3-4 with a 4.25 ERA in nine starts against the Giants.
San Francisco will counter with Matt Morris (7-6, 4.08), who has not won since June 11 and is 0-3 with an 8.35 ERA in six starts since. He started Thursday and gave up eight runs - five earned - and 12 hits in 4 2-3 innings in the defeat to the Cubs.
“Obviously he’s our guy who’s going to produce,” Morris said of Bonds after the frustrating outing. “I don’t know what the goal here is anymore - to win games? He’s our biggest threat. Today he produced, and it still wasn’t good enough.
“I think it’s more about how we’re playing than what Barry’s got going on the side. That is something he’s been dealing with for a long time. We’re almost waiting to get it over with.”
Morris is 2-5 with a 3.47 ERA in 13 games - 10 starts - versus the Braves. He’s 2-0 with a 3.54 ERA in his last three starts against them.