Giants 4, Padres 2

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP)—Barry Bonds wore a stylized brown football jersey made by a British sportswear company as he slipped out of the San Francisco Giants’ clubhouse Tuesday night.

His number? 73.

Bonds won’t get anywhere near the magical number of homers he hit two years ago, but his latest homer binge has dropped the Giants’ magic number to a pittance.

Bonds hit his 656th career homer as the Giants moved to the brink of the NL West title, beating the San Diego Padres 4-2 and reducing their magic number for clinching a postseason berth to two.

Bonds’ 43rd homer of the season—his third in four days—landed in the right-field stands in the fifth as the Giants won for the 12th time in 16 games to close in on a rare wire-to-wire division title.

Four innings earlier, Bonds had trouble seeing the ball when he grounded out with the bases loaded. After getting some eyedrops from trainer Stan Conte, Bonds could see clearly enough to power the Giants to another win.

“I’ve never had that feeling,” Bonds said.

While moving within four homers of Willie Mays for third place on baseball’s career list, Bonds also claimed the NL homers lead from St. Louis’ Albert Pujols, who has 42. Texas’ Alex Rodriguez leads the majors with 44.

Adam Eaton (8-11) survived through Bonds’ first two at-bats with a groundout and a walk, but a bad pitch turned him into the latest footnote to Bonds’ charge at history.

“I enjoy facing (Bonds),” Eaton said. “He’s the best left-handed hitter, with Todd Helton, in the game. He’s so quick, and he’s able to see and recognize pitches. His swing is so superior to everybody else’s, and he has the hand-eye coordination to back it up.”

San Francisco’s win and the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 3-2 loss to Arizona set up a possibly eventful Wednesday: With another loss by the Dodgers and a victory over the Padres, the NL champions would wrap up their third playoff berth in four seasons.

The Giants have led the division since opening day. Only eight clubs have ever won a division or pennant without spending a day out of first place—most recently the Seattle Mariners in 2001.

“We know it’s going to happen,” manager Felipe Alou said. “It’s just a matter of time. We’d like to get it done before we leave town. If we have to do it somewhere else, we’ll do it.”

Bonds also made a big play in the field. He sprinted across the pitchers’ mound in the Giants’ bullpen to catch Xavier Nady’s inning-ending foul ball in the fourth, stranding Mark Kotsay at third base after a triple.

Rookie Jerome Williams (7-4) pitched seven innings of four-hit ball in one of the finest starts in his rookie season.

Before the game, Alou said he would get a postseason start for the Giants. Williams had just one victory in his previous 10 starts, but he has been consistent and durable—a rarity in the Giants’ banged-up rotation.

He struck out five and retired 16 of 17 in the middle innings. Kotsay was the only runner to reach third base in the first seven innings.

“I don’t know what changed, because before the game, it was pretty bad,” Williams said. “But for seven innings, I was throwing pretty good. … I don’t think (the playoffs) will change me at all. I can’t let the emotion get to me in any start. I just block it out.”

Williams lost his shutout on Khalil Greene’s first major league homer on an 0-2 pitch leading off the eighth. Alou then removed him to a standing ovation, which Williams acknowledged with a sweep of his cap.

Alou used four relievers in the eighth inning. Tim Worrell allowed Kotsay’s leadoff homer in the ninth, but finished for his 35th save in 42 chances.

Ray Durham had an RBI triple and a double for the Giants, who jumped on Eaton in the early innings. Eaton allowed seven hits and five walks in six innings as San Diego lost its fifth straight midway through a 10-game trip.

“Eaton had a shaky first inning, but he did a good job getting out of it with one run,” San Diego manager Bruce Bochy said. “Two-out hits hurt him. He got better as he went on.”

Benito Santiago had a bases-loaded single in the first for San Francisco. Durham tripled home Jose Cruz Jr. in the fourth, and Marquis Grissom followedwith an RBI single.

Notes

Giants rookie RHP Jesse Foppert had elbow ligament replacement surgery on Tuesday. He will miss at least a year. … Greene, the Padres’ first-round draft pick last June, made his major league debut on Sept. 3. He was 5-for-30 in the big leagues before his homer. Durham left the game in the eighth inning with sore legs. Neifi Perez replaced him and made a fine defensive play in theninth.

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