Nats' Pitchers Know History With Bonds
Saturday, August 4, 2007
They all know their records, and can recite them almost without thinking.
"I walked him," Chad Cordero said, "and he flew out. Twice. Like, deep."
"Hit him once," Mike Bacsik said. "Grounded to second, and popped him up."
They do not speak his name, but they know what is in the offing. Barry Bonds entered play last night with 754 home runs, one off Hank Aaron's all-time record. He had not homered in a week, flailing more often than not. Unless his form returns over the weekend -- and he hits two home runs at San Diego's spacious Petco Park -- Cordero, Bacsik and the rest of the Washington Nationals will arrive Sunday night in San Francisco, the most likely suspects to be part of history.
Bonds's quest is a two-part equation. Not only must he find a pitch he can work with -- and he hasn't been catching up with fastballs he used to drive routinely -- but he must also find a pitcher who can provide such a pitch. In theory, that should be much easier against the Nationals than his two most recent opponents, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Padres. The former ranks fourth in the National League in ERA, the latter first -- allowing a run fewer per game than the Nationals.
Moreover, the Nationals' rotation for their four-game series at AT&T Park next week sizes up like this: John Lannan, Bacsik, Tim Redding and Joel Hanrahan. When they arrive in San Francisco next week, that group will have 118 major league starts, or one for roughly every 6 1/2 Bonds homers. Only five of the 12 active members of the Nationals' pitching staff have actually faced Bonds. His numbers against them are surprisingly poor -- 2 for 27 with three walks, a hit-by-pitch, a double and a homer.
Lannan, who at 22 is just more than half Bonds's age, gets the first shot. It will be his third major league start. Bonds has hit four home runs for every pitch Lannan has thrown in his "career" -- 185.
"I haven't thought about it," Lannan said, eyes wide, this week. "I mean, this is my first week in the big leagues. I guess I'll ask some of the older pitchers how I should feel about it."
What, then, would the older guys tell him?
"I've joked about it," said lefty reliever Ray King, a man who could be brought in specifically to face the left-handed hitting Bonds. "Maybe if I give it up, I can do the 'Tonight Show,' 'The Early Morning Show' and some sort of 'Evening Show' all in one day."
There is no consensus on how any of the Nationals feel about the prospect of being tagged with No. 756, the guy who will be on the highlight reel, neck craning to watch the flight of the ball, the one who will have to hold a separate postgame news conference to go over what he threw and why he threw it and what it means to be part of it all.
"I don't want to be the guy," said reliever Chris Schroder, who has never faced Bonds. "Nobody wants to be the guy."