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Bonds Sees a Rare Fat Pitch and Belts No. 699

The slugger hits the homer in the ninth, as the Giants beat the Diamondbacks and take the lead in the wild-card race.

September 13, 2004|Steve Henson | Times Staff Writer

PHOENIX — It was telepathy from 60 feet 6 inches, a melding of the minds of batter Barry Bonds and pitcher Mike Koplove.

From the batter's box, Bonds saw disgust in the face of the Arizona Diamondback right-hander. The crowd of 30,903 at Bank One Ballpark booed lustily because the count was 3 and 1, it was the ninth inning, and it appeared that Bonds would walk for the seventh time in three games and leave town Sunday without hitting a landmark home run.

Koplove paced around the mound, rubbing a ball marked with a special serial number to ensure its authenticity. He looked at Bonds, sensing his frustration at not getting a good pitch to hit.

Impatience and bravado got the best of Koplove, and he threw a fastball down the middle. The result was predictable: Bonds drove it an estimated 460 feet to center field for career home run No. 699. The ball struck the bottom of the scoreboard just under a huge screen bearing Bonds' grinning likeness.

The homer was Bonds' 41st of the season and extended the Giant lead to two runs in a 5-2 victory that moved them a game ahead of the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros in the wild-card race.

"Against him, it's hard to control your emotions," Koplove said.

Bonds, who had gone 21 plate appearances without a homer, always seems able to keep his passions in check. He had sized up his adversary and expected a mistake.

"I could see in his face that he was thinking, 'I'm tired of this too,' " Bonds said. "That's the first time I've ever seen a pitcher say with his expression, 'I'm disgusted.' "

Koplove became the 414th pitcher Bonds has homered against. Afterward, he laughed about joining a club that isn't exactly exclusive and found levity in Bonds' liftoff.

"He was just standing a little too close to the JumboTron when he hit it," Koplove said. "Back at the Polo Grounds, that's a wall-scraper."

Bonds' pursuit of 700 will continue at Milwaukee for three games beginning Tuesday before the Giants return to San Francisco. His previous milestone homers have come at home -- that's where he hit Nos. 71, 72 and 73 in 2001 as well as Nos. 500 and 600.

However, he wouldn't mind hitting No. 700 in Milwaukee, where all-time home run king Hank Aaron played much of his career with the Braves and Brewers.

"That'd be nice," said Bonds, who trails only Babe Ruth (714) and Aaron (755).

All he asks is to get a few pitches within reach of his potent bat. He walked twice Sunday, increasing his single-season record to 203.

"If you don't start your car, the battery goes dead," Bonds said. "It's frustrating not being able to participate in the game. It's hard. The frustration comes because you want to participate in your team's success or failure. You want to go out there and compete."

He made sure to mention teammate Jason Schmidt (16-6), who pitched a complete game.

"We're still in this," Bonds said of the wild-card race.

The Brewers are not, and fans in Milwaukee could be similar to those at Arizona and Colorado, other teams eliminated from playoff contention. Bonds was cheered and hometown pitchers who walked him were booed.

It doesn't strike Giant Manager Felipe Alou as odd. "People want their money's worth," he said. "They came to see the guy swing the bat."

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Career Home Run Leaders

*--* Player No. 1. Hank Aaron 755 2. Babe Ruth 714 3. Barry Bonds 699 4. Willie Mays 660 5. Frank Robinson 586

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