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Dodgers Can’t Deny Bonds’ Bat

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Barry Bonds is pursuing Mark McGwire with each focused swing, and the Dodgers are as determined to momentarily derail him.

It would be unsettling for the Dodgers if Bonds established a single-season home run record at Chavez Ravine, but the all-star left fielder moved a step closer to achieving that goal with his 67th homer Monday night in a 2-1 victory by the San Francisco Giants.

Bonds thrilled a crowd of 38,849 at Dodger Stadium in his fourth plate appearance against starter James Baldwin, connecting in the seventh inning on a two-out, solo shot into the right-field corner after the Dodgers had pitched around him to that point.

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On a 1-and-1 fastball, Bonds hit his fourth homer in five games to pull within three of McGwire’s record of 70 in 1998.

The key three-game series between National League West contenders began badly for the Dodgers, and Bonds will only try to make things worse.

“I wasn’t surprised [Baldwin] pitched to me with nobody on base,” said Bonds, who hit his 500th homer April 17 against Terry Adams in a 3-2 victory at Pacific Bell Park. “I’ll let you know how I feel [about the record] when I get there. I finished today. I’ll figure out what happens tomorrow. Nothing is guaranteed.”

Bonds received a standing ovation in joining McGwire as the only major leaguers to hit at least 67 homers in a season, and accomplishing the feat in the fewest number of games.

He reached the mark in the Giants’ 151st game. McGwire hit his 67th homer in the St. Louis Cardinals’ next-to-last game in ’98.

“Let’s give Barry some credit,” Dodger Manager Jim Tracy said. “When you get the ball in, you have to get it in far enough so that the best he can do is foul it off.”

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The homer also provided an insurance run for Giant starter Livan Hernandez, giving the right-hander a 2-0 lead in the opener of another late-season showdown between the rivals.

Hernandez (13-14) pitched seven strong innings and gave up three hits, including the Dodgers’ run on Adrian Beltre’s 15th homer in the seventh.

Beltre failed to deliver in the eighth with the bases loaded, flying out to Bonds against setup man Felix Rodriguez. Robb Nen pitched a perfect ninth for his 41st save.

The second-place Giants (83-68) trail the idle Arizona Diamondbacks by 11/2 games in the division. They are two games behind the Cardinals in the league’s wild-card standings.

The Dodgers (80-71) dropped 41/2 games behind Arizona with their sixth loss in eight games since play resumed. They are five games behind St. Louis.

“We haven’t been playing like we want to win,” left fielder Gary Sheffield said. “You have to do the things to win, and we’re not doing that.”

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Baldwin (2-5) gave up 10 hits but worked seven innings for the second time in as many starts after three ineffective outings.

Bonds entered Monday’s game batting .122 (six for 49) with two homers, four runs batted in and a .265 slugging percentage against the Dodgers in 13 games--his lowest batting and slugging averages against an opponent this season. He was leading the majors with a .841 slugging percentage.

Bonds walked on four pitches in the first, flied out to center in the third and was intentionally walked in the fifth.

“Barry is a good hitter,” Baldwin said. “I made a mistake and he made me pay.”

Tracy summoned left-hander Jesse Orosco to face Bonds in the ninth. Bonds, three for 21 against Orosco, flied out to left.

“We’re in a pennant race, and you’re going to manage the game accordingly,” Tracy said.

“If you get into a situation where Barry Bonds can beat you ... you’re not going to allow that to happen.

“You can’t afford to let that happen, because there’s a lot at stake for them and there’s a lot at stake for us. We have to continue to approach it in that manner.”

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