Bonds fouls out in key spot as pinch-hitter in Giants’ 3-1 loss to Nationals
His mere presence woke a sleepy crowd from its slumber as fans tried to will another record homer from Bonds that would give the Giants the lead. Jon Rauch failed to cooperate, retiring Bonds on a foul popup to third base and escaping the jam to help give the Washington Nationals a 3-1 victory Thursday.
“It was a pivotal point in the game,” Rauch said. “He comes up arguably right now as the best hitter in the game. I was trying to make quality pitches and make him beat me to the opposite field. Luckily he hit that ball up. Obviously I was a little pumped at that point. It was huge.”
Felipe Lopez hit a two-run homer in the fifth inning off Pat Misch (0-2) to give Washington the 3-1 lead and help the Nationals earn a split of the four-game series. Joel Hanrahan (2-0) allowed one run and seven hits in 5 1-3 innings for the win.
The biggest drama came in the eighth after Ray Durham and Pedro Feliz opened the inning with singles. Rauch struck out Rajai Davis before Bonds stepped into the box and pitching coach Randy St. Claire visited the mound.
“We sent Randy out to the mound and told him to make sure he hits it out opposite field,” manager Manny Acta said. “Don’t try to be macho. Don’t try to trick him inside. Make him hit it to left field and he did a good job.”
Bonds is now 0-for-5 with three walks as a pinch-hitter this season. He was held out of the lineup to get some rest after his record-setting performance earlier in the series. He broke Hank Aaron’s career record with his 756th home run Tuesday night and then extended it with another long ball Wednesday.
Rauch wasn’t going to give in to Bonds with second base open. He started him with a ball outside before getting Bonds on the next pitch.
“You have the opportunity to pitch around him if you want,” Rauch said. “I was trying to make quality pitches away from him. Obviously we saw what he can do on a ball in the past few days.”
Rauch got out of the inning by catching Pedro Feliz straying too far off first after faking a pickoff throw to third. Chad Cordero then pitched the ninth for his 25th save in 33 chances. After a two-out double by Omar Vizquel, Cordero retired Randy Winn on a grounder to end it.
After the game, the Giants traded pinch-hitter deluxe Mark Sweeney to the Los Angeles Dodgers for a player to be named in the first deal between the rivals in nearly 22 years. Sweeney said he was glad to go to a contender but would miss his friends in San Francisco.
“The sad part is all the relationships you have with teammates and clubhouse staff,” Sweeney said.
Without their slugger in the starting lineup, the Giants bunted in three of their first nine trips to the plate—bunt singles by Vizquel and Davis and a sacrifice by Misch. But they were unable to generate much offense against a pitcher making his third major league start and fell to 6-15 when Bonds does not start.
The bottom of the first was fitting of the last-place matchup. Four of the first five Giants batters reached safely against Hanrahan and there was also a throwing error by Lopez at shortstop. But San Francisco still couldn’t manage to score and even lost a player to injury in the inning.
Dave Roberts was thrown out at home trying to score on the back end of a double-steal attempt and bruised his right knee when he slid into catcher Jesus Flores’ shin guards. Feliz flied out with the bases loaded to end the threat.
The Giants scored the next inning when Davis bunted for a single, stole second and scored on Guillermo Rodriguez’s RBI single. Davis, acquired at the trade deadline from Pittsburgh, had a career-high three hits and two stolen bases starting in Bonds’ place in left field.
“It was a matter of time before I got an opportunity,” he said. “The Giants have given me that opportunity.”
The Nationals tied it in the fourth on Ronnie Belliard’s sacrifice fly.
Misch, who made his first major league start when Bonds tied Aaron’s record last Saturday in San Diego, allowed Lopez’s eighth home run, which gave the Nationals a 3-1 lead. Misch yielded three runs and eight hits in 5 1-3 innings.
“I felt pretty good,” he said. “My pitches got up a little bit. I’m just trying to do what I can out there. I was comfortable all day.”
Hanrahan doubled in the fifth and scored on Lopez’s homer, giving him a hit in each of his three major league starts. … Washington OF Robert Fick went 0-for-2 and is hitless in his last 20 at-bats. … This marked the 30th straight Giants game that was sold out at home or on the road, although many fans chose not to use their tickets. … Durham’s single in the eighth snapped an 0-for-21 drought.