Bonds hits homer No. 711 in big spot

Bonds hits 711 in big spot

SAN FRANCISCO -- It was one of the seminal moments of the young season on Wednesday at AT&T Park. Power against power in the ninth inning. Billy Wagner closing for the New York Mets. Barry Bonds pinch-hitting for the San Francisco Giants. The game and possibly career homer No. 711 on the line.

The predictable thing would have been to walk Bonds intentionally with two out, a runner on second and the Giants trailing by two runs.

Instead, Wagner went right after Bonds with an express of a waist-high fastball and the left-handed-hitting slugger went right after Wagner, depositing the 2-1 pitch into the bleachers just to the left of center field to tie the score in a game the Giants would eventually lose, 9-7, in 11 innings.

"To come off the bench and then have to face that, especially against Billy, that was crazy," Bonds said. "I haven't hit a ball like that off him. Ever."

And now the magic number is three.

The homer, Bonds' third of the season and second in as many games against the Mets, leaves the slugger just three behind Babe Ruth's 714 and 44 short of Hank Aaron's all-time mark of 755.

Mets manager Willie Randolph could only laugh about it in the end, particularly after his National League East-leading team came back to score a pair in the 11th for the win.

Talk about a man not being able to win for losing, Randolph walked Bonds twice intentionally on Monday night and Moises Alou followed with a three-run homer and a two-run, bases-loaded single in a Giants win. On Wednesday, he had his world-class left-handed reliever on the mound. And this time Randolph had no intention of giving Bonds a free pass.

"I figured I had one of the best hitters in the game at the plate and I had one of the best closers in the game on the mound, so I liked my guy and I'll take my shot," said Randolph, the second-year Mets manager. "I trust Billy Wagner and I was not going to put the winning run on in a situation like that. Everybody can have fun with it, but that's OK. You get killed for walking him and then you get killed when you don't."

The big Wagner-Bonds confrontation was set up when Mets third baseman David Wright stabbed Alou's ground ball, but instead of squaring himself, threw wildly to first, allowing Omar Vizquel to score from second on the error and Alou to scoot down to second base.

Bonds hit for Steve Finley, and it didn't surprise manager Felipe Alou when Wagner opted not to walk him.

"If that guy doesn't pitch to him, who will?" the manager said. "He's a guy throwing 97, 98 [mph]."

Four pitches later, Bonds went out and got that fastball just off the outside corner, smacking the fourth pinch-hit homer of his career and first since Aug. 23, 2001, at Montreal's old Olympic Stadium. The homer was Bonds' first off Wagner, making him the 418th pitcher to allow a home run to the slugger in his 21-year career.

Wagner said there was no shame in being added to that list.

"There's no secret what he can do and there's no secret what I can do," said Wagner, who left the Philadelphia Phillies and signed as a free agent with the Mets in the offseason. "It was fun for me and it was fun for him. I've struck him out with fastballs right down the middle. Maybe I should go back to just throwing the ball down the middle again."

After opening the season with no homers in his first 13 games, Bonds has now homered three times in the Giants' last five games -- all three coming in his last nine at-bats.

He is gimpy. And again Bonds said that his thrice surgically repaired right knee was sore. But with five games remaining on this homestand beginning Friday night against the Arizona Diamondbacks, he now has the Bambino squarely within range.

Bonds hit homer No. 700 right here against San Diego Padres right-hander Jake Peavy on Sept. 17, 2004. It has been an odyssey, but it has taken Bonds nearly 19 months to hit the next 11.

Since the knee injury kept him out of all but 14 games last season, this is only the second time since he hit 700 and 701 on consecutive days that Bonds has homered in back-to-back games. Prior to Tuesday night, he hadn't hit a homer at home since Sept. 18 of last year.

Still, even in his present state, Bonds continues to amaze, said Randolph, who played with Reggie Jackson on the World Series-winning New York Yankees teams of 1977 and 1978, and can make the comparison.

"You just marvel on the bench at what a great hitter he is," Randolph said. "All of a sudden, he puts a good swing on it and you just shake your head. He's one of the most phenomenal hitters I've ever seen in my life and I've seen a lot of great hitters."

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.