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Chasing Ruth, Facing Dodgers

Times Staff Writer

Barry Bonds threw his head back, slapped his bat, and the aisles of AT&T; Park filled with the people who’d stayed most of a warm, sunny Thursday afternoon to see him take one more shot at Babe Ruth.

Ruth, it turns out, won’t go easily.

Another day and five more plate appearances were gone, the Chicago Cubs were on their way out, the Dodgers on their way in, and Bonds was stuck at 713 home runs, one behind Ruth and in third place all time.

In a 9-3 victory for his San Francisco Giants, Bonds was hitless in three at-bats and walked twice.

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Though the Giants led by nine after four innings, Bonds played eight on his bone-on-bone knee, once fell into the left-field stands chasing a foul pop and once misplayed a sinking liner near the line that went for a triple.

The Cubs again pitched him to the outside of the plate, and Bonds again tried to hook those balls into the bay. Next up is a three-game series against the Dodgers. Bonds is expected to play tonight and Sunday, according to Giant Manager Felipe Alou, with Saturday’s day game a question.

In 2001, when Bonds hit a single-season record 73 home runs, then-Dodger right-hander Chan Ho Park gave up No. 71, which broke Mark McGwire’s 3-year-old record, along with No. 72 two innings later. He also hit No. 73 against the Dodgers’ Dennis Springer.

Bonds has since been hounded by suspicions and news reports that he had used performance-enhancing drugs, accounts that follow him as he nears Ruth and Hank Aaron. Considering Bonds’ recent history, Dodger broadcaster Vin Scully has said it would be “awkward” for him to call home runs 714 and 715.

Bonds has not homered in 16 plate appearances since Sunday in Philadelphia, and appears to be becoming impatient. He has averaged seeing 3.79 pitches a plate appearance for the season. Since his last at-bat Tuesday, that number is 3.11. And Thursday, against three Cub pitchers, it was 2.50.

“It’s OK,” Alou said. “Maybe he had one pitch to hit that he missed. They pitched very well to him.”

Giant outfielder Steve Finley said he did not believe Bonds was feeling undue pressure. As is his custom, Bonds had left the clubhouse by the time reporters were allowed in.

“He’s taking good swings,” Finley said. “The last one he took was a great swing. The ball just went straight up.

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“It’s a matter of getting that pitch and making it happen. It’s not easy to hit home runs, though he makes it look easy sometimes.”


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