Giants 6, Rockies 4

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DENVER (AP) – Barry Bonds got to trot around the bases for a change, not just to first.

Bonds homered for the first time this season, hitting No. 709 of his career to help the San Francisco Giants beat the Colorado Rockies 6-4 Saturday night.

The slugger sliced a belt-high fastball from right-hander Aaron Cook 384 feet to left field, moving within five home runs of Babe Ruth for most by a left-handed hitter. It came in Bonds’ 31st at-bat and 13th game this year.

For San Francisco’s surly star, it was one of his longest droughts to start a season. In 1998, he didn’t homer until his 13th game and 50th at-bat, the longest season-opening drought of his career when healthy.

Brad Hennessey (2-0) allowed four runs and five hits in seven innings for the win. Scott Munter pitched the eighth and Armando Benitez worked the ninth for his first save.

Benitez struck out Clint Barmes with runners at second and third to end it.

Before the game, the Rockies placed slugger Todd Helton on the 15-day disabled list with a stomach ailment and scratched third baseman Garrett Atkins with a nasty virus that is making its way through the Rockies’ clubhouse.

Bonds got off to a slow start this season, hounded by steroid suspicions, a federal probe into his testimony in the BALCO steroid case and baseball’s investigation of performance-enhancing drugs. He’s also been plagued by sore knees, a swollen left elbow and few pitchers willing to challenge him – he walked 19 times before hitting his first home run.

Bonds brought a .200 batting average and just one RBI into Saturday night’s game.

After Omar Vizquel led off with his first homer of the year, Bonds came up with nobody on and two outs. Cook (1-3) went right after him but left a fastball over the plate and Bonds sent it into the left-field seats for a 2-0 lead.

After circling the bases, Bonds knocked fists with teammates Moises Alou and Pedro Feliz and manager Felipe Alou as he descended into the third-base dugout to jeers and a scattering of applause.

To chants of “Steroids, Steroids” the rest of the night, Bonds grounded out, lined out, reached on an error and walked on a full count.

Ray Durham also hit his first homer of the season, making it 3-0 in the third. The Giants scored two unearned runs in the fifth to make it 5-1.

Colorado second baseman Luis Gonzalez was charged with his first error since May 22, 2004, a span of 441 chances, when he lost the handle while attempting to turn a double play. Replays appeared to show that Gonzalez lost the ball on the transfer from his glove to his hand after recording the forceout, but second base umpire Tim Timmons called the runner safe, ending Gonzalez’s errorless streak at 107 games.

Lance Niekro followed with a run-scoring single and Mike Matheny added a sacrifice fly for 5-1 lead.

The Rockies cut it to 5-4 in the bottom half on Matt Holliday’s three-run homer off Hennessey, who allowed Brad Hawpe’s fifth homer in the fourth.

The Giants made it 6-4 when pinch-runner Jason Ellison scored on Pedro Feliz’s double-play grounder in the ninth.

Cook allowed five runs, three earned, and 11 hits in six innings.

Notes: Vizquel’s only other leadoff homer came on July 10, 1993. … Hennessey singled his first two times up. … The Giants and Astros are the only two major league teams that haven’t lost a series so far. … Bonds has now homered off 417 pitchers, with Mark McGwire second at 362.

AP-ES-04-22-06 2315EDT

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