"I'm playing," Bonds said as he walked out of the clubhouse after the Giants came from behind for the second consecutive game Saturday night and defeated Florida, 4-3, with a pair of runs in the ninth inning.Those words brought a smile to the face of manager Bruce Bochy, who has been pushing all the right buttons lately as the Giants have won four in a row and six out of nine since the big media crush began in Milwaukee on July 20 to follow the chase. "If he feels good, he'll play," Bochy said. "He'd like to play all the time, but I'm not going to wear him down chasing this thing." Bonds stalled Saturday night in a quartet of wonderful plate appearances against All-Star left-hander Dontrelle Willis, who walked Bonds to lead off the sixth inning, struck him out swinging in the first and induced him to pop out to end the third and seventh. The last pop came with runners on first and second, and when catcher Matt Treanor grabbed it just behind home plate nearly becoming entangled with Bonds, Willis, the native of nearby Alameda, pumped his fist forcefully with glee. Willis was in the clubhouse and Bonds was in the on-deck circle when Ray Durham ended matters in the ninth inning with a single to right field. But Willis felt he did his job after challenging Bonds. "I'm not afraid of [facing him]," said Willis, who left after seven innings with a 3-2 lead when he was still the pitcher of record. "I felt I showed it today. I came after him with my best stuff, and whatever happened, happened. If he did it, it's not like I'm the only pitcher he's hit one of his 700 home runs off of. If I let up 755, I'd be the answer to a game-show trivia question, but I wasn't afraid out there." Bonds has faced a bevy of those no-fear, All-Star pitchers this week. On Monday and Tuesday, it was a pair of stellar Braves right-handers: John Smoltz and Tim Hudson, who didn't bend or break in the presence of the greatest left-handed home run hitter in MLB history. Including the southpaw Willis, Bonds went 1-for-9 and two walks against the trio. It's no wonder that he hit his only homer of the homestand -- No. 754 -- on Friday night against Rick Vanden Hurk, a 22-year-old Dutch right-hander who didn't know whether he had served up a fastball or a changeup to the seven-time MVP of the National League. "You'd like to think that if you're a pitcher facing him, if you make your pitches, you're going to get Barry out," Bochy said. "Smoltz and Hudson have been around. They have confidence and they attacked Barry. Willis didn't mess around with him. He has tremendous respect for Barry. He wanted to challenge him and he did all night." Barring a two-homer day Sunday, the moveable feast will shift back out on the road Tuesday night to Los Angeles where the Giants open a six-game road trip with three games on successive nights at Dodger Stadium followed by three weekend games in San Diego. The Lads don't return home until Aug. 6 against the Nationals. For those keeping score, Bonds takes his time reaching these milestones. Last year, when he was chasing Babe Ruth for second on the all-time list, it took him three weeks and 30 at-bats between hitting homer No. 713 on May 7 in Philadelphia until he passed Ruth with No. 715 on May 28 in San Francisco. So there still may be miles to go before he sleeps, miles to go before he sleeps.
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.