CINCINNATI (AP) – In the city where Hank Aaron completed his quest, Barry Bonds came out hammering.
Bonds hit homer No. 751 in his first at-bat Tuesday night, a two-run shot that moved him within four of Aaron’s record during the San Francisco Giants’ 7-3 loss to the Cincinnati Reds.
Brandon Phillips’ grand slam gave Pete Mackanin a victory in his debut as Cincinnati’s interim manager. Mackanin was promoted from advance scout after baseball’s worst team fired Jerry Narron on Sunday night.
That’s not what the fans came to experience.
Bonds’ homer on his third swing of the game drew loud and prolonged boos from the crowd of 37,299, a reminder that fans outside of San Francisco view his record chase through the prism of baseball’s steroid scandal.
Like it or not, he’s closing in.
Bonds’ latest came in the city where Aaron hit No. 714 on opening day 1974, tying Babe Ruth’s previous mark. That record-book homer landed at Riverfront Stadium, which was demolished in 2002.
Bonds’ second career homer off Aaron Harang (9-2) was the master stroke in a sloppy game between last-place teams in the NL’s West and Central divisions. They combined for 14 walks, two hit batters and a wild pitch.
Giants left-hander Barry Zito didn’t give up a hit until the fifth inning – and didn’t throw many strikes, either. He walked five batters in a 44-pitch fourth inning, including Edwin Encarnacion and Alex Gonzalez with the bases loaded.
Phillips put the Reds ahead to stay with his second career grand slam in the sixth off Kevin Correia (1-4).
The game had a couple of intriguing subplots: A rare matchup of famed home run hitters in Bonds and Ken Griffey Jr., and a near-novice manager dabbling in one of baseball’s great dramas.
The 42-year-old Bonds and the 37-year-old Griffey have been friends for most of their careers, sons of famous fathers who showed them how to play the game. They catch up online about once a month and feel even closer than their home run totals.
Griffey flied out and walked three times on Tuesday, leaving him with 585 career homers.
It was the first time since Aug. 1, 1976 that two players with so many homers played in the same game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Cleveland’s Frank Robinson (586) and Milwaukee’s Aaron (755) played in that one.
The question in this one was whether Mackanin would let Bonds get anything to hit.
Bonds slept on it, taking a nap in a clubhouse chair. Then, he woke up and warmed up with a batting-practice drive off an advertising board in center, drawing aahs from the crowd and hinting that something memorable was in the making.
Fans booed Bonds loudly when he went to the plate in the first inning and came out swinging. He fouled off Harang’s first pitch, a 92 mph fastball, and swung through the next one. Then, the right-hander got a little too comfortable.
Harang tried to throw another fastball by Bonds, who sent a drive deep into the seats in right-center field near the advertising panel he plunked during batting practice.
Boos filled Great American Ball Park while an unaffected Bonds jogged the bases with head down. When he went back to left field, he raised his left hand to acknowledge a dozen Giants fans who gave him a standing ovation.
Harang and Mackanin made sure he wouldn’t get another chance.
In Bonds’ next at-bat, Harang threw four wayward pitches for a walk, showing he’d learned his lesson. Bonds got an intentional walk the next time up, then flied out and ended the game by fouling out.