DENVER (AP)—Barry Bonds found his power and his long-lost sense of humor, too.
“I don’t get relief over that stuff,” Bonds insisted.
Bonds suggested he was just glad not to be trailing diminutive shortstop Omar Vizquel, who led off the game with his first homer of the season.
“It just felt good not to be behind Omar,” cracked Bonds. “I couldn’t be behind Omar.”
The slugger sliced a belt-high fastball from right-hander Aaron Cook 384 feet to left field, moving within five home runs of Babe Ruth for most by a left-handed hitter. It came in Bonds’ 31st at-bat and 14th game this year.
For San Francisco’s usually surly star, it was one of his longest droughts to start a season. In 1998, he didn’t homer until his 13th game and 55th at-bat, the longest season-opening drought of his career when healthy.
Bonds’ shot left him clearly in his best mood this season.
“I feel good that we won because we always have bad times here in Colorado,” Bonds said. “They always seem to come back and beat us. I’m just glad we won, that’s it.”
The Rockies nearly came back to win it in the ninth for the second straight night. Armando Benitez got the final three outs for his first save, preserving the win for Brad Hennessey (2-0), who allowed four runs and five hits in seven innings.
Benitez struck out Clint Barmes on a sharp sinker with runners at second and third to end it.
“I’m relieved,” Giants manager Felipe Alou said. “My heart is still pounding from this one. My heart can’t take too many more of these. Both Barry’s first home run and Armando’s first save brought me relief.”
Benitez started the year on the disabled list with a knee injury and was tagged for the game-winning hit Friday night when Colorado rallied from three down in the ninth.
Before the game, the Rockies placed slugger Todd Helton on the 15-day DL with a stomach ailment and scratched third baseman Garrett Atkins with a nasty virus that is making its way through the Rockies’ clubhouse.
Bonds got off to a slow start this season, hounded by steroid suspicions, a federal probe into his testimony in the BALCO steroid case and baseball’s investigation of performance-enhancing drugs. He’s also been plagued by sore knees, a swollen left elbow and few pitchers willing to challenge him—he walked 19 times before hitting his first home run.
Bonds brought a .200 batting average and just one RBI into Saturday night’s game.
Bonds came up with nobody on and two outs in the first and Cook (1-3) went right after him but left a fastball up and away and Bonds sent it into the left-field seats for a 2-0 lead.
“The pitch to Bonds wasn’t quite over the plate,” Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. “But with him if it’s up, he can get it. And he crushed it.”
After circling the bases gingerly on his sore knees, Bonds knocked fists with teammates Moises Alou and Pedro Feliz and his manager as he descended into the third-base dugout to jeers and a scattering of applause.
Then, his teammates gave him some space.
“They gave me the silent treatment,” Bonds said. “It took me back quite a few years. It was fun.”
To chants of “Steroids, Steroids” the rest of the night, Bonds grounded out, lined out, reached on an error and walked on a full count, which counts as an improvement for a man seeking some rhythm at the plate.
“It was good. I finally got to swing the bat a little bit more,” said Bonds, who swung at just two of 17 pitches he saw in the series opener.
Bonds’ biggest smile came when asked about taking Sunday off.
“Call it age, knee, everything, anything you want to call it,” Bonds said.
The 41-year-old slugger said he decided he was going to have to make a major adjustment in his approach and be more aggressive in his first at-bat because of his age and pitchers’ philosophies to work around him the later the game goes.
“I’ve never been a first at-bat type of person. I’ve been a late-inning type of person,” he said. “I just kind of die out the later part of the game. The pain in the knee gets overwhelming as the innings go on and go on.”
Ray Durham also hit his first homer of the season, making it 3-0 in the third. The Giants scored two unearned runs in the fifth to make it 5-1.
The Rockies cut it to 5-4 in the bottom half on Matt Holliday’s three-run homer off Hennessey, who allowed Brad Hawpe’s fifth homer in the fourth. Jason Ellison, pinch-running for Bonds, scored on Feliz’s double-play grounder in the ninth.
Bonds was so soothed finally contributing a big hit in a win that he declared afterward, “I’m always in a good mood—as long as this goes quick.”
He then patiently took questions for seven minutes, smiling all the while.
Bonds has now homered off 417 pitchers, with Mark McGwire second at 362. … Four times Bonds has gone more at-bats before hitting his first homer: in 1987, ’90, ’91 and ’98.