Braves 4, Giants 2
SAN FRANCISCO (AP)—Barry Bonds’ home fans might have to wait a while to celebrate history.
Bonds returned from a seven-game trip two homers shy of tying Hank Aaron’s record of 755, but was 1-for-3 with a single and a walk. His eighth-inning single up the middle off Rafael Soriano was his first hit since connecting for two homers Thursday against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.
“It’s a tremendous challenge and I like to go after him,” Smoltz said. “There’s an aura now that is pretty high. It’s weird to think about a lineup and you know he’s one of the best, but now he’s chasing something that everybody’s going to ask you questions all year about. …
“It’s the longest I ever slept the night before a game. These are some pretty good fans and I didn’t want them following me back to the hotel if I walked him three times.”
Commissioner Bud Selig was a no-show for Bonds’ welcome home party on a picture-perfect summer night in the Bay Area, where Bonds faced another one of the Hammer’s former teams in the opener of a four-game series. The Giants took two of three in a weekend series at Milwaukee, where Aaron started and finished his career.
Brian McCann hit a three-run double in the first to stake Smoltz (10-5) to a quick lead. Smoltz has surrendered eight home runs to Bonds, but none since giving up two on Aug. 9, 1998.
On this night, pinch-hitter Mark Sweeney received a curtain call—not Bonds, who reportedly failed an amphetamines test in 2006 and attributed it to something he took from Sweeney’s locker. Bonds issued a public apology that Sweeney became involved.
Sweeney’s pinch-hit double leading off the seventh tied Bonds with Manny Mota for second place with 150 pinch hits, trailing only Lenny Harris (212).
Nikolai Bonds, the slugger’s 17-year-old son, congratulated Sweeney with a handshake in the clubhouse afterward.
For Sweeney, getting the hit off Smoltz meant a lot. So did the tribute and curtain call.
“It’s amazing. You don’t think of that as a player,” he said. “It’s very humbling.”
Fans jumped to their feet and cheered when Bonds strolled to the batter’s box in the first, then again each time he came to the plate.
The slugger walked on full count, and Smoltz got earfuls of boos from every corner of the Giants’ waterfront ballpark. Boats were out in force beyond the right-field arcade in McCovey Cove, fans hopeful of leaving with a Bonds home run ball.
“He swung the bat well tonight,” said Giants manager Bruce Bochy, who planned to play No. 25 again Tuesday. “Smoltz is one of the best pitchers in the game. He was being careful, you could tell. He was throwing everything at him. He wasn’t giving him a lot of pitches to hit.”
Bonds grounded out to second leading off the fourth after fouling off the first two pitches he saw, then grounded out to second again starting the sixth. Earlier in that at-bat, Smoltz threw an inside pitch that nearly clipped Bonds’ knees and had him jumping out of the way. Bonds briefly stared at the mound but after his out they exchanged words and smiled.
“I can’t divulge what he was saying, but we have a lot of respect for each other,” Smoltz said. “We’ve battled for so long. I can’t think of pitchers other than (Greg) Maddux and (Tom) Glavine … we’ve all stayed in the National League, been there 20 years and so has he, so the history speaks for itself.”
Smoltz, making his second start since coming off the disabled list because of an inflamed right shoulder, helped his own cause with a squeeze bunt up the first-base line in the fourth to make it 4-1.
He got something to show for his efforts this time after a no-decision July 18 against Cincinnati in which he pitched seven scoreless innings. Smoltz allowed two runs—one earned—and seven hits in seven innings.
Soriano pitched the eighth, and Bob Wickman finished for his 17th save in 21 chances and first since July 5.
Bonds, set to celebrate his 43rd birthday in front of his home fans Tuesday night, started only three games during the team’s recent seven-game road trip.
A new “Road to History” logo was added on the left-field wall behind Bonds’ defensive spot. It replaced another called “Giant Among Legends” featuring Bonds, godfather Willie Mays, Aaron and Babe Ruth.
With the team back in town, San Francisco showed a video tribute to Bonds on the main scoreboard recapping his two-homer game at Wrigley Field on Thursday that got him within two of tying Aaron.
Then, Bonds got a surprise video greeting from Hall of Fame 49ers quarterback Joe Montana.
“Hey Barry, Joe Montana here. Congratulations on a great career and good luck on the road to history, and remember don’t just break that record, give ‘em a number that no one will reach.”
Bonds watched with his hands on his hips, then clapped into his glove with a slight grin.
“Yeah, I do marvel at it,” Bochy said of Bonds’ accomplishments for his age. “Sometimes you forget he is going to hit 43 tomorrow because of the way he swings the bat.”
Matt Cain (3-12) lost his third straight start and ninth decision out of his last 10. He needed 18 1/2 minutes and 43 pitches to get out of the first.
San Francisco’s Pedro Feliz had his career high-tying 10-game hitting streak stopped. … Julio Franco, who’ll be 49 next month, was in the starting lineup for the fourth time in five games since Atlanta signed him last week. He doubled high off the wall in right in the fourth. … Smoltz has his most career losses (15) against San Francisco. … The Giants drew 42,679 fans for their 22nd sellout.