Professor takes Bonds to school

Tim Brown

SAN DIEGO – Amid sea air and left-field verandas, having spent a week on Hank Aaron's doorstep, and with the commissioner slouched in a chair behind home plate, Barry Bonds logged four more hitless at-bats in the San Francisco Giants' 4-3 loss to the San Diego Padres on Friday night at Petco Park.

In three entertaining at-bats that pitted Bonds, soon to take his statistical place as the game's greatest home-run hitter, against Greg Maddux, the 340-game winner, both playing into their 40s, Maddux won each.

"I didn't want to be the guy," Maddux said.

Asked about his "game plan" against Bonds, Maddux said, "The game plan was to try to win, to win and beat the Giants. Not one player."

Beyond that, he said, "The game plan is to try to keep him in the park. If you keep him in the park, it's a good at-bat."

In seven days since Bonds hit No. 754, subsequently stirring flashbulbs in San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego over 28 plate appearances, he has two singles and 10 walks. He was batting .302 on July 6. He is batting .269 today.

So, Bonds hung at the brink of Aaron for another day, baseball history strolling behind, alongside the pack of reporters and the national television cameras and – depending on one's perspective – the celebration and gloom.

He did not address the media upon arriving in San Diego, and the Giants announced late in the game he would not afterward, either.

Conceivably, Bonds and Maddux could share a Hall of Fame stage someday. On a mild evening before a mostly polite crowd, they shared a couple hours in downtown San Diego.

Periodically, Bonds has complained about pitchers who will not challenge him, a concept he defines, basically, as the pitcher divulging the velocity and coordinates of his fastball while the infielders take two steps back and cover their soft-tissue areas.

Nobody's really volunteered. Nobody since Troy Percival, anyway.

If they were fastballs he wanted, Bonds had his guy in Maddux. Since 2002, and going into Friday's game, Maddux had thrown 51 pitches to Bonds, 47 of them fastballs.

The last three times he had faced Maddux – all this season – Bonds saw four pitches and swung at three of them.

Maddux lacked that efficiency at Petco. He was in and around the strike zone, however, and retired Bonds twice on full-count fastballs. Over 16 pitches he flaunted three sliders and a changeup, but generally ran and cut his fastball. Bonds swung at nine of the fastballs, fouled most of them straight back, and put two in play.

He struck out looking at an inside fastball in the first inning, his jaw dropping in protest, then grounded to second base in the third and flied to medium-deep right field in the sixth, when Maddux ran a fastball to the end of his bat.

"I pitched him pretty good," he said. "I might have left a couple up a little bit, but they were away."

Maddux had allowed eight home runs in 127 at-bats to Bonds, a club whose membership is Curt Schilling, John Smoltz, Terry Mulholland and Chan Ho Park, but Bonds had not gotten Maddux in more than nine years, and wouldn't again.

"Maybe it's just being a little fortunate," Maddux said.

In the eighth inning, Bonds had a crack at rookie right-hander Kevin Cameron, who trails Maddux in career wins by 340. On a 2-and-1 fastball, against a pitcher whose stuff generally runs in on left-handed hitters, Bonds swung hard and hit a bouncer to first base.

When the bottom of the eighth came along, Bonds stayed in the dugout.

Fans lined the three balconies suspended from the brick Western Metal Supply Co. building in the left-field corner, and crowded the left-field bleachers, all of which hung over Bonds' head. But, other than the occasional chant while Bonds was in the field and mixed boos when he batted, the folks were civil.

It is unknown if Bonds will play Saturday night or Sunday afternoon. Presumably he will play in one of the two, then return to San Francisco for seven games.