Bonds still stuck at 713


HOUSTON – Barry Bonds said any kind of hit will do.

Then the San Francisco slugger made good on that statement, lining an RBI double to right in the third inning of the Giants’ 10-1 victory over the Houston Astros on Monday night for his first hit in six games.

Yet Bonds’ streak without a home run reached seven games and he remained stuck at 713 in the tiny section of Texas listing 713 as its area code. He remained one homer shy of tying Babe Ruth for second place on the career list.

“This thing, it’s like chasing ghosts, you know?” Bonds said before the game. “Babe Ruth, I think he just kind of hovers over people a lot.”

On a warm night at hitter-friendly Minute Maid Park, where the thermometer read 76 degrees at first pitch, Bonds watched teammate Pedro Feliz hit his fourth career grand slam and Randy Winn lead off the game with his fourth homer of the year.

Bonds went 1-for-3 with the double, a walk, a called strikeout and a popup before Jason Ellison replaced him in left field in the seventh. Mike Matheny drove in two runs and Feliz matched his career high with five RBIs for the Giants a day after they lost a weekend series to the rival Los Angeles Dodgers.

Bonds scored in the Giants’ five-run third, when Feliz hit the first pitch he saw off the brick facade in left field for his team-leading seventh homer. The Giants made for an easy night on fill-in starter Brad Hennessey (3-1), who pitched well in place of struggling rookie Matt Cain.

Bonds has made history in Houston before. It was here five years ago in October 2001 where Bonds hit his 70th home run to tie Mark McGwire on the way to the single-season record of 73.

Exhausted and sore but playing for the seventh straight day, Bonds said he has become impatient at the plate as the pressure mounts for him to move past Ruth.

Despite his struggles, he’s still getting walked – including on four pitches from rookie Taylor Buchholz in the first inning Monday.

“I’m accustomed to it,” Bonds said in an impromptu media session in the dugout before the game. “I just haven’t been patient with the opportunities that I have. I’m swinging at a lot of pitches that I normally wouldn’t swing at. I’m taking more chances than I ever have in my whole entire career. Right now, I just haven’t had that patience to wait it out.”

The 41-year-old Bonds, booed by Astros fans whenever he moved, hasn’t homered since a 450-foot shot to right May 7 at Philadelphia. He ended an 0-for-15 funk with the double – his first hit since a seventh-inning single last Tuesday night against Cubs left-hander Scott Eyre. Bonds went 1-for-18 during the Giants’ last homestand.

Buchholz (2-3), who retired Bonds twice last month in his only appearance against the seven-time NL MVP, avoided becoming the 420th pitcher to give up a homer to the slugger. That’s partly because he only lasted three innings.

Bonds returned to the cleanup spot following two games in the No. 3 hole – his first appearances in that spot since 2003 – a move manager Felipe Alou had said might be long-term.

“It really didn’t help anything to bat him third for two days,” Alou said. “It was not right. It was not comfortable. It was not productive. He’d rather bat fourth.”

Houston has given up 37 of Bonds’ home runs. Bonds didn’t play in last Monday’s makeup game with the Astros in San Francisco after the cross-country flight from Philadelphia.

Since his homer against the Phillies, his fifth this season, Bonds hasn’t hit one out in 22 at-bats. Booed as he stepped into the batter’s box Monday night, Buchholz quickly walked him.

Bonds was booed loudly two more times when he made back-to-back catches in left field in the second. Fans waved yellow and green sheets of paper with asterisks printed on them – a reference to Bonds’ alleged steroid use and how many believe his milestones are tainted.

Another sign read “Barry: Brought to you by BALCO.” The Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative was the supplier of designer steroids for many professional athletes.

Alou said Bonds would play again Tuesday night and that he might give the slugger a day off Wednesday, meaning Bonds would have close to three days to rest with an off day for the team Thursday before Friday’s series opener at Oakland – where Bonds can be the designated hitter for the interleague matchup.

Astros manager Phil Garner – like Dodgers skipper Grady Little before him – said he wouldn’t pitch to Bonds in key situations.

“If it’s a factor in the ball game and he can hurt us, then we’re just not going to pitch to him,” Garner said. “We’re out to win the ball game. If it’s not going to have a bearing on the game we’ll pitch to him. I’d just as soon not see him celebrate on our turf.”

Hennessey allowed seven hits, struck out four and walked three in five innings, though Alou said Cain was expected to pitch Sunday against the Athletics. Mike Lamb doubled in the Astros’ run.

Notes: Feliz also had five RBIs on Aug. 15, 2005, at Colorado. … Winn hit his 10th career leadoff homer and fifth with the Giants. … Houston Rockets forward Tracy McGrady and his 4-year-old daughter, Layla, had front-row seats behind home plate. … Mark Sweeney started at 1B for the Giants because Lance Niekro had a sore lower back. … Craig Biggio’s 620th double tied him with Charlie Gehringer for 41st on the all-time hits list with 2,839.

AP-ES-05-15-06 2312EDT