Bonds takes hitting woes on road
Slugger in 0-for-20 slump, hasn't homered since July 3
SAN FRANCISCO -- It can now be called a full-blown slump, which is not the best position for Barry Bonds to be in with his Giants facing 45 games in the next 45 days, during the heat of summer."I don't know how much I'm going to play, brother," Bonds said before the Giants were swept in a three-game series by the Dodgers, losing, 5-3, on Sunday at AT&T Park. "But I know one thing: I'm going to need my rest." Bonds hit his 751st homer on July 3 in the first inning at Cincinnati against Reds right-hander Aaron Harang, but hasn't had one since, leaving him four behind Hank Aaron's all-time Major League Baseball-leading 755. He has been 0-for-the-last-two-weekends and heads into this week's four-game series beginning Monday night against the Cubs at Wrigley Field mired in an 0-for-20 malaise with eight walks and six strikeouts. "I'm upset at the way I'm playing; it's all my fault," Bonds told MLB.com after Sunday's game, later reiterating more angrily the same sentiments to a group of reporters. "It's an embarrassment to me to wear this uniform and that's all it is." It would be convenient to say that the 'round-the-clock All-Star festivities of early last week took a toll on the left fielder, who will turn 43 on July 24. And indeed, Bonds has claimed to be fighting through fatigue and some soreness. But the slump began in Cincinnati after Bonds missed the middle game of a three-game set to rest his weary legs. He returned the next night and last had a hit (a single) in the fourth inning on July 5. "This [slump] came out of nowhere," he added. "I'm just struggling, man, and I don't understand it." It may be the vagaries of advanced athletic age. He opened with a terrific month of April (.356), had a terrible month of May (.194), regrouped in June (.364) and was voted by the fans as the starting left fielder in this past Tuesday's All-Star Game played here, and has fallen off the map again in July (.111). "You're going to go through streaks like that during the course of the year, the ups and downs," Bonds said. "There's nothing you can do about it." But in the three-game series against the Dodgers alone, Bonds personally stranded 16 baserunners. And on Friday night, he hit into a pair of double plays in a single game for the first time since 1991. Manager Bruce Bochy suggested after Sunday's events that Bonds might be trying to pull the ball a tad too much. "That's not it," Bonds said. "When you're struggling, all you want to do is get some kind of a base hit." Yet, there is good news. With 17 homers on the season, he's one away from tying Hall of Fame catcher Carlton Fisk, whose 18 homers for the White Sox in 1991 were the most for a player who turned 43 or more during that particular season. The next two long pokes will give Bonds the mark for a 43-year-old in addition to the overall single-season record (73 in 2001) and the record for a 42-year-old (26 in 2006). He also has 42 RBIs, placing him 28 away from the 2,000 mark, and his 2,902 hits are just 98 shy of 3,000. The upcoming schedule, though, is not kind to Bonds or the Giants. They play 14 in a row through this seven-game road trip to Chicago and Milwaukee and a subsequent seven-game homestand against Atlanta and Florida before the next off-day, July 30. Then it's 31 games in the following 30 days, including a makeup twi-night doubleheader at Pittsburgh on Aug. 13. Along the way, the Giants will play outdoors in typically hot-weather spots such as Chicago, Pittsburgh, Atlanta and Miami (Milwaukee's Miller Park has a retractable roof). And there's that lone off-day until another one on Aug. 30. How does Bochy plan to attack this ordeal as far as Bonds is concerned? "It's hard to quantify that," said Bochy, who played Bonds all 30 innings this weekend, including 12 on Saturday. "He's going to need his days. Sometimes he's going to need two days. I don't know how many. It's going to be a tough schedule and we're going to run into some hot weather. We'll go as far as he can take us. We'll see where we're at as we get deeper into this." Bonds' longest home run drought this season was May 8-27, a string of 15 games. Last year, Bonds didn't hit his first home run until April 22, the club's 17th game of the season. It also took him eight days from the time he hit his 714th homer on May 20, 2006, in Oakland to tie Babe Ruth for second on the all-time list, until he passed the Bambino on May 28 with No. 715 in San Francisco. "It's just the way it goes at this age," Bond said. "When I was younger and getting one pitch a game to hit, I could crush it. Now, I get those pitches and I may miss them." Bonds had plenty of pitches to hit Sunday in every run-producing situation imaginable and went 0-for-5, 0-for-10 in the past two games. As he came to bat with two out and none on in the ninth, even the hometown fans who gave him a rousing standing ovation Tuesday night when he was announced along with the National League starters, began heading toward the exits -- at least some of them, anyway. Bonds popped to short. There were no temper tantrums and no broken bats. Just some inwardly directed anger. "I can't stand it," he said. "I'm better than this."
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.