In Houston, Back to Basics for Bacsik

Houston's Ty Wigginton tags out Felipe Lopez of the Nationals at third base. Wigginton also hit a home run.
Houston's Ty Wigginton tags out Felipe Lopez of the Nationals at third base. Wigginton also hit a home run. (By Pat Sullivan -- Associated Press)
By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 23, 2007

HOUSTON, Aug. 22 -- It has been more than two weeks, and the phone calls have slowed but not stopped, and his life is starting to resemble normal again. "Close," Mike Bacsik said.

For the better part of a week, Bacsik warmly received his place in baseball history, albeit an inglorious one. On Aug. 7, he gave up Barry Bonds's 756th home run, and he rarely stopped smiling in the hours and days that followed.

But Bacsik was back to the more banal aspects of his job Wednesday, and he is in a position in which security isn't offered. Back in the Washington Nationals' rotation after being sent to the bullpen, he dropped a 3-2 decision to the Houston Astros, one in which the minutiae that mattered included a solo home run he allowed to Ty Wigginton and his own inability to get a bunt down in the third inning.

The end result: six innings in which he gave up three runs. "Not my best stuff," he said. "Not my worst stuff."

That Bacsik is in this position is a bit odd. He is part of history, but his career is quite current. He will turn 30 in November, and he wants to keep his career going. But for a guy who hadn't pitched in the majors since 2004, who is now 5-7 with a 4.61 ERA, he has more to prove -- whether he gave up the homer on which Bonds set the career record or not.

As Bacsik works on his mechanics and his pitches, he is dealing with memorabilia peddlers who would like to make some money off that signature moment. Bacsik is fine with cashing in, too, but in time.

"There are phone calls that I'm not used to taking," Bacsik said. "There's business off of that, and I'm not used to that."

Star players are used to developing such a revenue stream. Bacsik began this year with Class AAA Columbus. In the spring of 2006, he thought his career might be over. Money for his signature?

"It was one night, and then all of a sudden people are calling," he said. "And I'm trying to handle things that I'm not used to handling."

Hitters would, in theory, make him more comfortable, and Manager Manny Acta said "you can't ask for anything else" than what Bacsik gave Wednesday.

The Nationals' hitters might have asked a bit more of themselves against Houston right-hander Woody Williams, the 41-year-old who struck out eight in his 6 1/3 innings -- including Ryan Zimmerman three times. The Nationals' best chance to score in the first five frames came with Zimmerman at the plate, runners on second and third and two outs in the third. Williams caught Zimmerman looking.

"He did make real good pitches," Acta said.

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