'Rejuvenated' Bonds belts 752, 753
Giants slugger now two homers shy of tying Aaron's record
CHICAGO -- Barry Bonds was back in the Giants' starting lineup for Thursday afternoon's 9-8 loss to the Cubs and the performance was epic.With the shadow of Hank Aaron now looming large over the lefty-swinging slugger, Bonds smacked two homers into the depths and out of Wrigley Field. At 753, suddenly Bonds is now two away from tying the Hammer's Major League Baseball career-best 755 and three away from passing him into first place on the all-time list. And the next stop for the Giants is Milwaukee, where Aaron began and ended his Hall of Fame career, followed by a series in San Francisco against Atlanta, the city where Aaron passed Babe Ruth in 1974 to set the record. "Yeah, it [feels] real now," said Bonds after blasting the first pitch of the second inning from Ted Lilly over the right-field bleachers onto Sheffield Avenue and hitting a three-run shot into the basket near the top of the wall just left of center against reliever Will Ohman in the seventh -- both of them off left-handers. "It's very real." The homers, his 18th and 19th of the season, came after he rested all week, missing three consecutive starts for the first time in more than a year. Sitting in the clubhouse before the game, Bonds had a smile on his face after those days of icing and taking both anti-inflammatory and pain-killing drugs for his sore and swollen lower legs. "I was wasted," Bonds told MLB.com before the game. "I just hit a wall. Now, at least, I feel good." Bonds added a bases-loaded, two-run single off Lilly in the third inning, giving him six RBIs on the day and 48 on the season, thus placing him just 22 short of becoming the third player in modern baseball history to reach the 2,000 mark. It was the seventh game of his career in which he has had six RBIs or more and the first time he's done it since last Sept. 22 at Milwaukee. His personal record is seven. It was also the 71st multi-homer game of his 22-year career, placing him one behind Ruth, who holds the all-time record with 72. Bonds as well tied and broke Carlton Fisk's mark for the most homers by a player turning 43 or older that season. Fisk hit 18 for the White Sox in 1991 when he caught 106 games at 43. Bonds' 43rd birthday is next Tuesday. Bonds also holds the overall single-season record (73 in 2001) and the record for a 42-year-old (26 in 2006). If that wasn't enough, he's a lifetime 6-for-10 with three homers and eight RBIs against Lilly and hit his homer off him on Thursday into a 20-mph crosswind. "Sometimes he's had so much success because guys tend to pitch around him." Lilly said. "I've been aggressive with him, and he's got three homers off me. I think my aggressiveness hasn't worked, either." Ohman, who induced Bonds to line out to left in a pinch-hit appearance Tuesday, became the 443rd pitcher to allow at least one homer to Bonds. Bonds was previously 0-for-5 against Ohman with a walk. Bonds ripped fastballs for the two homers. "I hate to have Bonds hit two home runs off our pitchers, but yeah, that's what the fans came out to see, in record numbers, by the way, for a four-game series," said Cubs manager Lou Piniella, referring to the total crowd for the week of 161,374, the best ever for a four-game set at Wrigley. "So yeah, they got their money's worth. He put on a power-hitting exhibition and our team won the baseball game. I think everybody's happy." It was a heck of a way for Bonds to return. His 3-for-3 day with one walk snapped an 0-for-21 slump that dated back to the fourth inning on July 5 at Cincinnati. His last hit had been a single, and homer No. 751 was smashed into the right-field bleachers at Great American Ball Park two days earlier during the first inning off Reds right-hander Aaron Harang. Bonds had to sit out on July 4 because of soreness in his lower legs and says now he probably returned too quickly. "I felt really good out there. I felt strong," Bonds said afterward. "Rejuvenated a little bit. I want to be out there. I want to play. But sometimes, your body just takes over. Now I'm going to take some days off. I'm not going to push myself to the limit anymore." Bonds' latest malady was the residue of starting 75 of the club's first 89 games -- 69 of them in left field -- including all 30 innings this past weekend at San Francisco in a three-game series sweep by the Dodgers. That series came on the heels of Bonds starting in left field during the July 10 All-Star Game at AT&T Park and an obvious slowdown during the final days of the first half. Bonds begged out of the State Farm Home Run Derby on July 9, saying at the time that he was too old to compete in the three-round, three-hour event and that it might lead to serious injury. Bonds was roundly criticized, but the circumstances of this week underscore why he didn't participate. "Those 30 innings against the Dodgers took it all out of me," Bonds said. "But if I had competed in the Derby, I'd be on the disabled list right now. I'd have to take two weeks no matter what anybody wrote or said about me." The Giants, with or without him, have been struggling to climb back into the National League West race and have now lost seven of their last eight. Under the circumstances, Giants manager Bruch Bochy has used Bonds deep in games, including 12 full innings this past Saturday in a day game after a night game against the Dodgers. It was the third full extra-inning game Bonds has played since June 25. Bonds, though, said he understands the first-year Giants manager's plight, although Bochy has now promised he probably won't play Bonds anymore in day games after night games. "He's under a lot of pressure [to win]," Bonds said about Bochy. "So I tried to suck it up and play. But I'm not doing that again." Bochy, for his part, said after Thursday's game that he recognized how much the rest had helped. "You could see he was a different player," Bochy said about Bonds. "That's why occasionally he's going to need a break. He could be the best of all time, and he showed it today."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.