Maddux has faced Bonds more than any other hitter in his storied career and always knew what his strategy would be against the slugger with the game on the line.
Maddux managed just fine after a shaky first inning, retiring 19 of his final 20 batters to earn his 348th win and spoil the Giants’ home opener by leading the San Diego Padres to an 8-4 victory Monday.
“It is different,” Maddux said. “He’s probably the best player I’ve ever had a chance to face. I know when you used to go over the Giants lineup, you worried about eight guys because you know you’re going to walk Barry if it matters. I actually had to worry about one more guy. It took a little bit longer.”
The Giants celebrated the 50th anniversary of their move from New York without the player responsible for the bulk of the team’s highlights the past 15 seasons. The team decided not to bring back Bonds after he broke Hank Aaron’s career home run record last season, and the slugger remains unsigned.
So far, the post-Bonds era has provided few highlights for the Giants. While the fans were still getting settled following a pregame ceremony that honored Willie Mays, Orlando Cepeda, Felipe Alou and other members of the 1958 team that was the first in San Francisco, the Padres jumped out to an early lead against Matt Cain (0-1).
Tadahito Iguchi doubled with one out in the first and Gonzalez followed with his second homer of the season, an opposite-field shot to left-center.
Edmonds added his first RBI single in a three-run third that gave the Padres a 5-1 lead, and that figured to be more than enough support for Maddux (1-0) against a team that has only 16 runs and one win through the first seven games of the post-Bonds era.
“It’s disappointing. We wanted to give the fans something to cheer,” said Bengie Molina, who drove in three of San Francisco’s four runs. “We haven’t been playing the best ball and we have to pick it up. Bottom line is we have to score runs.”
Maddux gave up one run and three hits in seven innings, and has won six straight decisions against San Francisco since 2003. He walked two and allowed an RBI single to Molina in the first—the only run the Giants have scored before the fifth inning this season—before finding his groove.
“He was just a little bit off but three hits and one run through seven innings, come on,” manager Bud Black said. “Mentally he doesn’t cave in if he doesn’t feel good or is a little bit off. Some guys don’t fight through that but he does. Every pitch he tries to get it together. He found it in the middle of the game and toward the end and ended up doing very well.”
There was a different feel at the ballpark as the banners honoring record home run No. 756 and the Bonds home run counter were gone. In their place was a plaque honoring Bonds’ record-setting homer and a tribute to the four Giants in the 500-homer club: Bonds, Mays, Willie McCovey and Mel Ott.
The absence of Bonds must have been especially welcome for the Padres, who allowed 87 of the slugger’s 762 career home runs—more than any other team.
Maddux and Bonds squared off 154 times, with Bonds hitting eight homers off the four-time Cy Young Award winner but none since 1998.
The Giants have struggled to score runs without Bonds and have matched the worst start since the team moved west in 1958.
“It’s too early to say we’re not good enough, we can’t get it done,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “That’s why it’s so important to wash all these games off and come out here and be ready to go. It will take a little time for this team to believe it can win. We need a few wins for that to happen. It hasn’t happened yet.”
Cain allowed five runs—four earned—and seven hits with five walks in 4 1-3 innings. He fell to 0-4 in his last seven starts against the Padres.
Padres C Michael Barrett left with a strained right elbow and went back to San Diego to have it checked out. … Longtime Giants equipment manager Mike Murphy, who began his tenure with the team as a bat boy in 1958, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. … Maddux walked two batters in the first, marking the first time he had a pair of unintentional walks in an inning since June 4, 2006, against St. Louis.