Giants 4, Nationals 3
WASHINGTON (AP)—Barry Bonds saw the paper asterisks fans waved at him. He heard the boos and insults.
And when Bonds rounded the bases after hitting an upper-deck homer in his 2005 road debut, he stepped on home plate, pointed to the sky with two fingers as he always does, then put a finger over his lips as if to say, “Shhhhhh!”
On a night filled with subplots and drama befitting a September game between clubs clinging to faint playoff hopes, Bonds hit his 706th homer, then drew a walk before Moises Alou’s go-ahead, three-run shot in the ninth inning of the San Francisco Giants’ 4-3 comeback victory over the Washington Nationals.
Bonds’ homer was his third in 18 at-bats since returning to the Giants last week after missing most of the season recovering from three knee operations— and being the subject of constant speculation about steroid use.
He directed his post-homer gesture at a particular fan he said was giving him a hard time all game.
“He was just heckling. I just told him to sit down and enjoy it,” Bonds said.
He was the center of attention from batting practice on, including when Nationals manager Frank Robinson went to the mound to talk to Livan Hernandez (15-8) in the ninth inning with a runner on and two outs and Bonds at the plate.
Washington led 2-1, and Robinson told Hernandez not to pitch Bonds inside. Hernandez walked the slugger on four outside pitches, then watched Alou hit a first-pitch slider over the wall in left for his 18th homer.
“He hit it good,” Hernandez said.
Bonds was booed when his name was announced during pregame introductions, booed each time he stepped into the on-deck circle, and booed when he went out to play left field.
Still, when he sent a 1-2 pitch from Hernandez into the seventh row of section 468 for one of the longest shots this season at RFK Stadium—which is averaging the fewest homers in the majors—most of the crowd of 32,403 rose to watch the flight. There was a lot of applause and throaty yells of approval, plus plenty of flashbulbs popping.
“It’s amazing to see,” said Jack Taschner (2-0), who pitched a scoreless eighth for the win. “Barry comes up, they boo, then Barry hits a home run and they all start cheering. It’s amazing. It obviously doesn’t affect him very much.”
Bonds has homered in three straight games. He is third on the career list behind Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714).
“Hopefully, I can just hang onto it as long as I can until the end of the season,” he said.
In a great closing twist, the player who replaced Bonds in left for the bottom of the ninth, Todd Linden, made a diving catch of Brad Wilkerson’s slicing drive just in front of the warning track to preserve the win with two runners on. Linden went one way, then spun around before laying out to make the grab.
“When he started getting turned around, I thought, ‘Wow!’ We might win this game,” Wilkerson said. “It took the wind out of me a little bit.”
The rest of the Nationals, too, probably. It was Washington’s third consecutive loss, and the go-ahead run in each came in the opponent’s final at-bat.
“We’re losing ballgames on one swing of the bat,” Robinson said.
Bonds was the first player to greet Alou when he arrived at the dugout, but Washington nearly made the celebration moot against Armando Benitez, scoring one run in the bottom of the ninth and threatening to add more before Linden’s catch.
Asked what would have happened if he had still been in left field at the end of the game, Bonds didn’t hesitate.
“We would have lost,” he said.
Bonds popped up to shallow center in his first at-bat and grounded out to shortstop Cristian Guzman—shifted to the first-base side of second base— in his third at-bat. … Asked how Bonds has looked to him since joining the club last week, Giants manager Felipe Alou said: “To me, my personal estimates: 80 percent when it comes to baseball, running and throwing, outfield. Now hitting? 100 percent.”