Giants 4, Marlins 3
Hopping off the mound, pumping his fist and throwing fastball after fastball, Willis kept history on hold Saturday night.
Bonds went hitless a night after connecting for his 754th home run, leaving the San Francisco star one shy of tying Hank Aaron’s record in the Giants’ 4-3 win over the Florida Marlins.
With his mom in the stands, Willis overmatched the slugger he admired growing up in the Bay Area. In the end, Bonds could only stand at home plate— right in the way of the catcher, actually—and watch a popup on his final swing.
“Willis didn’t mess around,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “He cranked it up when Barry was up there.”
Bonds was 0-for-3 with a walk. He popped out twice and struck out against Willis, who has lost seven straight decisions for the longest skid of his big league career. Willis grew up just across San Francisco Bay in Alameda and often watched Bonds at Candlestick Park as a kid.
“Everybody else had enough excitement,” Willis said. “I had to stay poised and go out there and try to execute, and I was able to do that today. Hats off to him. I wish him all the best. Hopefully he does it after we leave. He’s a great individual.”
Bonds said he enjoyed celebrating Durham’s hit, dancing with teammates at second base.
“It’s about the team,” the slugger said, making his way out of the clubhouse.
After a day off Monday, Bonds’ pursuit moves on to Los Angeles—where he will play in front of hostile fans at Dodger Stadium.
They were anything but nasty at AT&T Park.
Fans jumped to their feet each time Bonds made his way to the batter’s box, then began their routine chants of “Barry! Barry!” Bonds connected for his 754th homer in the first inning a night earlier, then drew four walks the rest of the game.
Bob DuPuy, MLB’s president and chief operating officer, took in Saturday’s contest in place of Bud Selig while the commissioner was in Cooperstown, N.Y., for Sunday’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
Bonds’ teammates hung over the dugout rail in anticipation, lining up in one of the best possible places to see another milestone shot. The Marlins did it, too.
Bochy said before the game that his players are excited for Bonds.
“You can see it. You can feel it down here in the dugout—excitement, electricity,” Bochy said. “You look up and all the focus is on Barry’s at-bat. No question all the guys down here feel it. It’s history.”
Willis didn’t back down all night.
Bonds struck out in the first, popped to second in the third, walked in the sixth and then popped out to the catcher in the seventh.
Willis is 0-7 in 11 starts since beating the Cubs on May 29 at Wrigley Field. He kept up his success against left-handed sluggers—he hasn’t allowed a homer to a lefty since Ryan Howard connected on July 29 last year.
With Florida ahead 3-2 in the seventh, Bonds came up with two on and two outs, and a chance to put San Francisco ahead.
After a visit from pitching coach Rick Kranitz, Willis calmly wiped his brow, spit and stepped onto the rubber. With runners on first and second, Bonds popped up the first pitch and nearly interfered with catcher Matt Treanor making the play.
Willis, standing within feet of Bonds and approaching the plate, emphatically pumped his fist. He high-fived teammates on the way back to the dugout.
In 11 plate appearances against Willis, Bonds has singled once, struck out twice and walked five times. The first-inning strikeout of Bonds was No. 700 of Willis’ career.
“It doesn’t mean as much as 700 home runs,” Willis said. “Maybe he’ll sign my ball.”
When Bonds homered on Friday, he heard a taped greeting from Michael Jordan. On Saturday, it was hockey night in San Francisco. Bonds turned and watched from left field just before first pitch as the video board played another celebrity greeting.
“Hey Barry, Wayne Gretzky here. On behalf of my wife and kids we want to congratulate you on a job well done, but remember don’t stop there and we’ll be rooting for you as you chase down history.”
Pinch-hitter Mark Sweeney lined a tying RBI double in the ninth off Kevin Gregg (0-4) ahead of Durham’s hit., which sent the Marlins to their sixth straight loss. “You know they’re not going to let him beat you,” Durham said of Bonds. “It was up to me.” … Jack Taschner (2-0) was the winner. … Willis has allowed no homers and 11 hits in 86 at-bats against lefties this season. He has allowed six homers in 580 career at-bats against left-handers. … The game drew 43,001, the Giants’ 27th home sellout. … Former Giants closer Armando Benitez was greeted with loud boos when he replaced Willis in the eighth—his first appearance in San Francisco since being traded to the Marlins on May 31. Benitez, called the “whipping boy” for the Giants’ struggles by GM Brian Sabean at the time of the trade, pitched a hitless inning. … Miguel Cabrera hit a two-run homer and Jeremy Hermida added an RBI single for Florida