Bonds' Homer Binge Stalls, But History Still In Reach

July 23, 2001

AP Sports Writer

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    SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Barry Bonds' race against history has become a grind.

    With 10 weeks left in the regular season, Bonds no longer is on thebreakneck home-run pace that grabbed the nation's attention this spring. Hestill leads the majors with 42 homers, but he has just three since the All-Starbreak - which he entered in a 13-game homerless drought.

    In fact, for the first time since mid-April, the San Francisco Giants'slugger has fallen behind the pace set by Mark McGwire during hisrecord-breaking 70-homer season in 1998.

    But Bonds' early season power display was so prolific that the recordremains within reach. Bonds proved earlier this year that he's capable ofhitting homers in huge bunches.

    'It's a long season, and I know for a fact that we haven't heard the lastof Barry Bonds,' Arizona manager Bob Brenly said Sunday after his Diamondbacksheld Bonds hitless in nine at-bats with two walks in a three-game series.

    Entering a series at Coors Field that started Monday night, Bonds had justthree homers in the Giants' last 25 games, going 15-for-75 (.200) with just 11runs but 28 walks.

    Bonds hasn't had much to say about his home-run chase recently because, likesome athletes, he prefers to speak to reporters only when his play isnewsworthy.

    The news conferences that preceded each of the Giants' series in June nolonger are held regularly, and manager Dusty Baker intimated that they mighthave been a distraction.

    But neither Bonds' teammates nor his opponents think this story is over -particularly with a challenger edging ever closer in Bonds' attempt to lead theNL in homers for the first time. While Bonds' pace has slowed, Arizona's LuisGonzalez has maintained a steady position in his wake.

    Gonzalez beat Bonds in the Home Run Derby at the All-Star game, and he hithis 38th homer of the season - tying the Diamondbacks' franchise record - onSaturday.

    'I'm NASCAR right now,' Gonzalez said with a grin. 'I'm staying rightbehind him.'

    The most obvious cause of Bonds' slowdown is his earlier success. For muchof the past six weeks, many pitchers have given Bonds few pitches to hit.

    Even many of his unintentional walks were on four or five pitches. Giantsfans have lustily booed many pitchers who obviously didn't want Bonds to putthem on late-night television highlight shows.

    'He's not seeing any good pitches to hit. That's why it's not happeninglike it did earlier,' teammate Eric Davis said. 'If you went up there everyday and didn't see one pitch you can drive ... even Barry can't do everythingunder those circumstances.'

    Some pitchers might be tempted to go after Bonds again now that he's nothitting balls out of parks with such regularity. Colorado's Mike Hampton didjust that at Pacific Bell Park on Wednesday - and Bonds responded with twohomers, despite back spasms that later forced him from the game.

    Bonds tied Mickey Mantle for ninth place on baseball's career homers list(536) with his second shot off Hampton, but he didn't have much to say aboutmatching the achievements of one of his childhood idols.

    Arizona's Curt Schilling also was unafraid to pitch to Bonds, though themajors' winningest pitcher had better results. Schilling got Bonds to groundout twice on Saturday, and also struck him out with a wicked 96-mph fastball.

    Brian Anderson held Bonds hitless in three at-bats on Sunday, but he didn'tclaim any insight into the task that will challenge every NL pitcher for thenext 2{ months.

    'I just did what everybody tries to do and usually isn't lucky enough tosucceed at,' Anderson said. 'I tried to keep the ball down and make him swingat pitches he doesn't want. Fortunately, he didn't crush anything. That's allyou can hope for.'

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