SEATTLE (AP)—Barry Bonds stepped to the plate in the ninth inning of a one-run game, homer No. 718 of the seven-time MVP’s career still fresh in the minds of everybody in attendance.
And J.J. Putz went right after him.
“It was the most exciting at bat I’ve ever had, in my life, hands down. I could barely breathe afterward,” the 29-year-old Seattle closer said, his eyes still wide.
“Yeah, it was OK,” Bonds said, seated with his arms crossed on his chest like a Genie and smiling.
Putz used a 98 mph fastball to set up Bonds and struck him out on a full-count with a split-fingered pitch to end the Mariners’ 5-4 win over the San Francisco Giants on Friday night at roaring Safeco Field.
“Man, that closer,” said Bonds, who hit his 10th homer of the season in the second inning. “He threw me a great splitter. He throws 98 miles per hour, then he drops that split on you?
“See you later,” Bonds said, pantomiming a salute.
Putz got his 11th save in 12 chances by getting the final four outs. The last one came after he shook off catcher Kenji Johjima three times. Putz wanted to throw a full-count fastball. Johjima won the debate and got a split unusually high in the strike zone.
“‘Joh’ came out to tell me if I walked him, it was no big deal,” Putz said. “Why would you want to pitch around one of the greatest hitters of all time when you have the chance to face him?”
Putz has taken the closer job this season for the first time in his career, replacing Eddie Guardado.
“Obviously, Barry Bonds is very special,” Seattle manager Mike Hargrove said. “That was a big a test as J.J.’s had to close.”
It wasn’t the only time the Mariners challenged Bonds in his first Seattle visit since 2001.
In the second inning, Bonds fouled off a 95 mph fastball from 20-year-old starter Felix Hernandez to even the count at 1-1. He quickly turned on the next pitch, another fastball that Hernandez tried to get on the inside corner, and lined it like a laser about a dozen rows into the packed right-field bleachers. The drive was estimated at 462 feet, the longest at Safeco Field this season.
Hernandez called it the most majestic home run he has ever allowed.
For Bonds, who started in left field instead of his usual DH in an AL park, it was his second consecutive plate appearance with a home run. He went deep in the ninth inning Wednesday at Arizona and is now 37 behind Hank Aaron’s major league record
Hernandez walked Bonds on four pitches in the third inning, prompting many in the crowd of 41,333—the largest at Safeco Field since opening day—to boo. Hernandez struck him out in the fifth on a 2-2 curveball, to the screaming delight of many.
“I wasn’t intimidated. If I was intimidated, I couldn’t have thrown strikes,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez (7-6) won his fourth straight start despite allowing three home runs—all in the Giants first 10 hitters. He allowed six hits and four runs in six innings, with three walks and five strikeouts.
Giants starter Noah Lowry (2-5) allowed eight hits and tied his season high in runs allowed in his three innings. He walked two.
“His command was awful,” manager Felipe Alou said.
Lowry agreed, saying, “This was the roughest one I’ve had all year. But it’s a long year.”
The Mariners grabbed a 5-3 lead in the bottom of third on RBI doubles by Morse and Johjima and a run-scoring single by Willie Bloomquist.
The boos about Bonds returned when Guardado intentionally walked him with Winn at second base and two outs in the seventh.
Rafael Soriano relieved and retired Alou on one pitch, a flyout to left field.
Soriano got into two-on, out-one trouble in the eighth. But he struck out Todd Greene. Then Putz blew a 97 mph fastball past Winn for an inning-ending strikeout and preview of his thrilling ninth.
Hernandez, who walked three and struck out five, has allowed 14 home runs in 84 1-3 innings this season. In his phenomenal 2005 debut, he allowed five home runs in 84 1-3 innings. … Twelve of the 14 home runs RHP Hernandez has allowed have been by left-handed hitters. … Bonds’ only home run at Safeco Field before Friday was on July 12, 2001, off Paul Abbott. … Morse is 26-for-55 (.473) in his career during interleague play. … Seattle signed fifth-overall draft choice Brandon Morrow, a RHP from the University of California. … The Giants signed Kent State IF Emmanuel Burriss, their sandwich pick at the end of the first round, and 17 other draftees.