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Bonds on brink of tying McGwire's home run record
SAN FRANCISCO -- The tears had turned to smiles, but the story was the same -- yet another home run by Barry Bonds, moving him within one of the record Mark McGwire set just three seasons ago.
Bonds led off the sixth inning with his 69th homer, splashing a shot estimated at 437 feet into San Francisco Bay and leading the Giants to a 3-1 win Saturday over the San Diego Padres.
Unlike Friday night, when he wept in the dugout after hitting No. 68 while mourning the death of a friend, Bonds joked with teammates and then smiled broadly as fans saluted him in left field a few minutes later.
"Yesterday, I did something for a friend, and I was able to let it go after that," Bonds said. "Today, go back to work, try to keep winning."
The solo shot was the 563rd homer of Bonds' career, tying Reggie Jackson for seventh on the career list. Bonds has five homers in his last six games.
The drive splashed into McCovey Cove, a part of the bay named for former Giants slugger Willie McCovey just behind the right-field wall. Boaters, kayakers and surfers battled for the ball in the murky water.
In the zone
"It's not that easy to hit home runs, and it's like he's playing in a Little League park right now," Padres manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's just a wrecking crew. There's no way to get him out."
The win allowed the Giants to stay two games behind NL West leader Arizona, which won 8-1 at home over the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Giants are three games behind St. Louis, which defeated Pittsburgh, in the wild card race.
Bonds homered on a 2-1 pitch off left-hander Chuck McElroy, who was facing his first batter after relieving Brett Jodie to start the sixth inning. Bonds had been 2-for-32 against McElroy with six strikeouts and only one home run.
Bonds, who put the Giants ahead 2-1, stopped after he touched home plate to point skyward -- as has become his custom in recent weeks. He then took a curtain call as fans chanted his name.
"I tried to get him out with the same pitch as always. I wanted it outside, but it came back over," McElroy said. "Now you can see it in his eyes. He's hungry and he's trying to get his team into the playoffs."
Bonds went 1-for-3 with a walk and has seven games left to surpass McGwire's mark, which wiped out Roger Maris' 37-year-old record of 61.
Seven games left
The Giants have one more game at home against San Diego on Sunday, then travel to homer-friendly Enron Field in Houston for three games. They return to San Francisco to finish the regular season with a three-game series against Los Angeles.
"You want to do things at home. Our fans deserve that," Bonds said. "You get to enjoy it a little bit more at home."
The homer was the 11th in September for Bonds, surpassing his career best for homers in the final month of the season. He has 63 career homers against San Diego, his high against an opponent.
While Bonds moved closer to history, Rickey Henderson's bid remained on hold. San Diego's Henderson went 1-for-4 and did not score, remaining one run from tying Ty Cobb's career runs mark of 2,245. He is three hits short of becoming the 25th major leaguer with 3,000.
Russ Ortiz (16-9) allowed one run and five hits in seven innings for the win. Robb Nen pitched the ninth for his 43rd save in 50 chances. McElroy (1-1) was the loser.
Wiki Gonzalez gave San Diego a 1-0 lead in the first with an RBI groundout after the Padres loaded the bases with one out. Jeff Kent tied the game with a solo homer in the fourth, his 21st of the season.
John Vander Wal added an RBI single in the sixth for the Giants, who have won five of six.