Giants 5, Padres 4, 11 innings

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP)—Barry Bonds’ latest surge might wind up being his ticket to another season in San Francisco. He is certainly making a case for the Giants to keep him around in 2007.

Bonds hit his 731st career home run, Mark Sweeney drove in Ray Durham with a fielder’s choice in the 11th inning and the Giants gained another game on San Diego in the NL wild-card race with a 5-4 victory over the Padres on Saturday.

Bonds pulled within 24 of tying home run king Hank Aaron’s record 755 with a two-run shot over the wall in right-center off San Diego’s David Wells with two outs in the first inning. Bonds’ 23rd homer this season and sixth in nine games traveled an estimated 430 feet, giving the Giants a 2-0 lead.

“I’m swinging the bat good,” Bonds said. “I’m doing better. My leg’s doing better. Things are getting better.”

Jason Schmidt struck out 10 and Moises Alou and Todd Greene each hit RBI singles in the fourth for the Giants, who trail the Padres by 1 1/2 games for the wild card. San Francisco won for the sixth time in seven games, getting two innings from winner Mike Stanton (6-6).

With Philadelphia’s loss to Florida, the Giants moved into a tie for second place with the Phillies in the wild card chase.

Rudy Seanez (1-1) retired Bonds on a flyout leading off the 11th before Durham tripled. Alou and Pedro Feliz were both intentionally walked to load the bases for Sweeney, who hit a grounder into the hole. Second baseman Josh Barfield collected the ball and threw home, but wasn’t in time to get a sliding Durham.

“I hit it just soft enough to let him get in,” Sweeney said. “We starve for those situations. It was pretty special to me to contribute.”

Brian Giles tied the game with a solo homer leading off the eighth. The Padres failed to gain a game on the first-place Dodgers in the NL West after Los Angeles lost 3-2 to the Mets in New York.

Giants manager Felipe Alou could sense his team believed it would win, even after Giles’ 13th homer.

“That’s the last thing you want to lose is hope,” said shortstop Omar Vizquel, who made a fabulous backhanded stop on a hard liner by Terrmel Sledge in the top of the 11th to start a double play.

Sledge hit a two-run homer in the seventh and Todd Walker hit a sixth-inning RBI single for San Diego, which had its five-game winning streak snapped in Friday night’s 4-0 loss and is 0-2 so far on its 10-game road trip.

Bonds hit his third career homer off Wells, and the Padres have allowed 85 of Bonds’ homers—his most against any team. He also singled in the fourth and finished 2-for-5.

The main center-field scoreboard flashed “731” and Bonds received a warm ovation while rounding the bases. He tipped his hat toward the fans in the left-field seats when he came out for defense in the top of the second.

“We make it exciting, that’s for sure,” Bonds said. “We’re a team of excitement at the end.”

The 42-year-old Bonds, in the final season of a five-year, $90 million contract with the Giants, hit his first homer in San Francisco’s waterfront ballpark since Aug. 21 against Arizona. He made a nice running catch on Dave Roberts’ liner in the third and nearly threw out Barfield at second on the play.

The Giants’ top brass had a good view of it all, too: Owner Peter Magowan and executive vice president Larry Baer sat side by side in their front-row seats near their club’s dugout.

The Giants and Bonds appeared prepared to part ways—with the club’s star slugger perhaps leaving for the American League to be a designated hitter— after the 2006 season, though that now seems less likely considering Bonds’ recent tear. The seven-time NL MVP has repeatedly said he would prefer to retire as a Giant, his team for the last 14 of his 21 major league seasons.

Bonds wouldn’t say when he last had a stretch this strong. He missed all but 14 games last season following three operations on his right knee.

“I don’t go back in time,” Bonds said.

Schmidt, expected to pitch elsewhere next year, allowed a leadoff single to Josh Bard in the second before striking out the side. The All-Star right-hander, who matched a franchise record with 16 Ks against Florida on June 6, allowed four runs and eight hits with one walk in seven-plus innings.

Wells is winless in two starts with San Diego since being acquired from the Boston Red Sox on Aug. 31. He allowed seven hits and four runs in five innings, struck out two and didn’t walk a batter.

“The pitch to Bonds was right down the middle,” Wells said. “It was a belt-high fastball, the type of pitch everyone would hit.”

Notes

Heading into the teams’ final meeting of the year Sunday, the Padres have lost six straight and 11 of 12 to the Giants and trail the season series 12-6 after winning five of the first six meetings. … Former 49ers running back Roger Craig also had a front-row seat for Bonds’ latest clout. He greeted Bonds at the left fielder’s locker afterward.

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