Tying Hank Aaron’s all-time home run record was the hard part according to Barry Bonds. Despite returning home on the cusp of one of the most revered records in professional sports, he seems to think the pressure’s off.
The seven-time NL MVP will make his first attempt to hit his 756th home run when the Giants (47-62) begin a four-game series against the Washington Nationals on Monday night in a matchup of last-place teams.
“There’s no pressure on me to do this right away. If I keep my mechanics right, you guys won’t be around long,” the all-time single-season home run leader said Sunday. “I’d love to do a lot of things, but a lot of good fortunes have to come with that, too. I’m going to do my best.”
Bonds didn’t play Sunday in the Giants’ 5-4 loss to the Padres, one day after hitting his 755th homer off Clay Hensley in an extra-inning loss. Now, Bonds will try to break the record in the city where he’s starred for the last 15 years.
Bonds has hit 296 homers in San Francisco, with 156 coming at AT&T Park since it opened in 2000. Against the Nationals’ franchise, Bonds has gone deep 63 times and has only hit more against the Los Angeles Dodgers and Philadelphia (64) and San Diego (87).
“I like the challenge in front of me,” said Bonds, who’s also dodged steroid allegations for years.
If he fails to homer in this series, Bonds could set the record this weekend versus Pittsburgh. He hit 176 homers with the Pirates from 1986-92.
Bonds’ record-tying homer off Hensley was the record 445th pitcher he’s taken deep. Nationals rookie John Lannan (1-0, 5.40 ERA) will make just his third career start and first against the Giants, but the left-hander didn’t seem worried about possibly giving up the record-breaking shot.
“Right now, I’m just focusing on facing San Francisco and how their order lines up and how I’m facing each batter. He hit it last night, right, 755?” Lannan said Sunday. “I’m really not focusing that much on it. When I do have to face him, if the situation arises and I have to pitch around him, I will. If I have the opportunity to pitch against him, I will have a game plan. I will make smart pitches and just pitch my game.”
Lannan earned his first decision on Wednesday, allowing two runs and five hits in 5 2-3 innings as Washington defeated Cincinnati 7-2.
The surging Nationals (51-60) completed a 6-0 homestand Sunday with a 6-3 victory over St. Louis. Ryan Zimmerman’s RBI single started a three-run eighth and snapped a 3-3 tie.
“With Zimmerman up, you have all the confidence in the world. He’s so doggone good, it’s ridiculous,” said Dmitri Young, who followed with a two-run double to cap the scoring.
Zimmerman batted .519 (14-for-27) with two homers and 11 RBIs during the homestand. He’s hit safely in five straight against the Giants, going 8-for-20 with a homer and eight RBIs.
Zimmerman and the Nationals look to extend their streaks against rookie Tim Lincecum (6-2, 3.75), who will try to win his fifth straight decision. The right-hander is 4-0 with a 1.36 ERA in seven starts since losing at Milwaukee on June 19, and he’s limited opponents to one earned run or none in five of those outings.
While he’s allowed just 27 hits in 46 1-3 innings during his unbeaten stretch, Lincecum also has issued 20 walks. He gave up five over six innings Wednesday, but didn’t get a decision in a 6-4 loss to the rival Dodgers.
“I don’t go in there thinking I have to hump up against these guys because it’s a rivalry game,” Lincecum said.
The Nationals took five of six from the Giants last season.