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Bonds Chases Elusive Title

Slugger starts a drive for first World Series ring as Giants open NL division series against Marlins.

September 30, 2003|From Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — Barry Bonds put to rest all the talk about his postseason failures last October. Now, there's only one thing left for baseball's most feared slugger to do: win it all.

Last year's failure to win the World Series ate at Bonds in the off-season, and he showed up at spring training vowing that the San Francisco Giants would play for another World Series title if he had anything to do with it.

He has done plenty to make that a possibility.

The National League West-champion Giants will begin their quest today when they open the best-of-five division series against the wild-card Florida Marlins at Pacific Bell Park. Jason Schmidt, a 17-game winner with the league's lowest earned-run average, starts Game 1 against Florida's Josh Beckett, who's making his postseason debut.

Beckett hinted that he would walk Bonds if necessary.

"So many guys have tried and so many have been so unsuccessful. Why be another victim?" Beckett said Monday. "You play for the tie with him."

When Bonds began the postseason a year ago, there were questions about whether he was capable of carrying the Giants in the playoffs -- he had never been to a World Series, had never even won a playoff series in five tries, and in 97 at-bats was hitting only .196 with one home run and six runs batted in.

Then the five-time NL most valuable player batted .356 with eight homers, 16 RBIs and 27 walks as San Francisco reached the World Series for the first time since 1989.

Bonds, 39, has had another remarkable year, hitting .341 with 45 homers and finishing two shy of tying his godfather, Willie Mays, for third place on the career home run list at 660.

Bonds' father, Bobby, died Aug. 23 and the slugger spent a night in a Phoenix hospital afterward to be treated for exhaustion and an accelerated heartbeat.

The Giants lost the World Series to the Angels in seven games last year after coming within six outs of the title in Game 6. After an off-season in which many key players left and Manager Dusty Baker took over the Chicago Cubs, the Giants have done just fine with the new additions -- center fielder Marquis Grissom, right fielder Jose Cruz Jr., third baseman Edgardo Alfonzo and second baseman Ray Durham.

Former Giant outfielder Felipe Alou replaced the popular Baker, and San Francisco finished with 100 victories for the first time in 10 years.

Alou, 68, is managing in the playoffs for the first time, and so is Jack McKeon, 72.

The Giants were 5-1 against Florida this year, sweeping at Miami in May -- 4-2, 3-2 and 3-2 --and winning two of three at San Francisco in August.

"It's the playoffs. Anything can happen," said Marlin center fielder Juan Pierre.

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