Reds 7, Giants 3
CINCINNATI (AP)—In the same city where Hank Aaron completed his quest, Barry Bonds came out hammering.
Swinging at the first three pitches he saw, Bonds connected on his third try for homer No. 751 on Tuesday night. He’s now four shy of Aaron’s record following the San Francisco Giants’ 7-3 loss to the Cincinnati Reds.
“He’s a guy that people were saying: ‘Is Father Time catching up with him?”’ manager Bruce Bochy said.
Instead, Bonds got closer to catching Aaron in the city where Hammerin’ Hank hit No. 714, tying Babe Ruth’s previous mark. That record-book homer on opening day 1974 landed at Riverfront Stadium, which has since been demolished.
Aaron’s record soon will be, too.
“I’m playing pretty good for an old guy,” the 42-year-old Bonds said. “I just wish we were playing better as a team.”
So do the Reds, who have the major leagues’ worst record and its newest manager.
Brandon Phillips’ grand slam gave Pete Mackanin a victory in his debut as Cincinnati’s interim manager. Mackanin was promoted from advance scout after Jerry Narron was fired on Sunday night.
“It doesn’t matter who the manager is,” Phillps said. “It just feels good to get a win.”
The fans came to experience something more significant.
Bonds’ homer on his third swing of the game drew loud and prolonged boos from the crowd of 37,299, a reminder that fans outside of San Francisco view his record chase through the prism of baseball’s steroid scandal.
Like it or not, he’s closing in.
“Yeah, it’s a little closer,” Bonds said. “Can I feel it? No. I can feel 751 right now. I can’t feel 755. I can feel 751—feels good.”
Bonds’ second career homer off Aaron Harang (9-2) was the master stroke in a sloppy game between last-place teams in the NL’s West and Central divisions. They combined for 14 walks, two hit batters and a wild pitch.
Giants left-hander Barry Zito didn’t give up a hit until the fifth inning— and didn’t throw many strikes, either. He walked five batters in a 44-pitch fourth inning, including Edwin Encarnacion and Alex Gonzalez with the bases loaded.
Phillips put the Reds ahead to stay with his second career grand slam in the sixth off Kevin Correia (1-4).
The game had a couple of intriguing subplots: A rare matchup of famed home run hitters in Bonds and Ken Griffey Jr., and a near-novice manager dabbling in one of baseball’s great dramas.
Bonds and the 37-year-old Griffey have been friends for most of their careers, sons of famous fathers who showed them how to play the game. They catch up online about once a month and feel even closer than their home run totals.
Griffey flied out and walked three times on Tuesday, leaving him with 585 career homers.
“1-0, me against Junior,” Bonds teased.
It was the first time since Aug. 1, 1976 that two players with so many homers played in the same game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Cleveland’s Frank Robinson (586) and Milwaukee’s Aaron (755) played in that one.
The question in this one was whether Mackanin would let Bonds get anything to hit.
Bonds slept on it, taking a nap in a clubhouse chair. Then, he woke up and warmed up with a batting-practice drive off an advertising board in center, drawing aahs from the crowd and hinting that something memorable was in the making.
Fans booed Bonds loudly when he went to the plate in the first inning and came out swinging. He fouled off Harang’s first pitch, a sinking, 92 mph fastball, and swung through the next one.
“You can’t be scared to go after guys like that, especially when there’s nobody on or it’s early in the game,” Harang said. “That’s what I tried to do with the third one, and he was right on it.”
Harang tried to throw another one by Bonds, who sent a drive deep into the seats in right-center field near the advertising panel he plunked during batting practice.
Boos filled Great American Ball Park while an unaffected Bonds jogged the bases with head down. When he went back to left field, he raised his left hand to acknowledge a dozen Giants fans who gave him a standing ovation.
Harang and Mackanin made sure he wouldn’t get another chance.
In Bonds’ next at-bat, Harang threw four wayward pitches for a walk, showing he’d learned his lesson. Bonds got an intentional walk the next time up, then flied out and ended the game by fouling out.
The top combined-homer game came on July 17, 1973, when Willie Mays— Bonds’ godfather—played against Aaron, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. They had a combined 1,356 homers at the time. … The Giants activated INF Rich Aurilia off the DL, placed RHP Vinnie Chulk on the bereavement list and called up LHP Pat Misch from Triple-A Fresno. … Omar Vizquel played in his 2,500th game at shortstop. Only two others have played that many in the majors: Luis Aparicio (2,583) and Ozzie Smith (2,511). … Zito gave up two hits, three runs and six walks in five innings, throwing 113 pitches. He hasn’t won since June 4. … Cincinnati’s Adam Dunn reached the 100-strikeout mark.