For all its postcard beauty, the Bay Area was a cold, dank place tonight. A low sky spit light rain onto Game 3 of the World Series, the wind gusted and fog rose like smoke over the stadium arc lights.
Then there was Barry Bonds. The San Francisco Giants left fielder has dominated the postseason, but in these late stages he has become an element unto himself, a force of nature whose performance may yet overshadow an entire national event.
Bonds now has seven home runs in 35 at-bats during the postseason, including the one off Troy Percival the other night that may have landed next to your newspaper. Tonight, the Angels, who drubbed the Giants, 10-4, had an 8-2 lead in the fifth, so right-hander Ramon Ortiz felt he had the luxury to throw Bonds a fastball. The sound that followed was as if someone had smashed a lead pipe into the sidewalk. The ball looked like a white blur as it easily cleared the 399-foot center field fence, then rattled around beneath the scoreboard.
The two-run homer was Bonds's third home run in three games, tying a Series record.
The Giants gave every impression of a team unraveling. Livan Hernandez, who will pitch Game 7 in Anaheim if it gets that far, gave up rope after rope in his first postseason loss and Jeff Kent was deathly quiet.
And yet even in defeat Bonds was thoroughly dominant. The Angels walked him intentionally with one out and runners on first and third in first, leading to a run and a brief lead. They pitched around him in the seventh, even though they led 9-4.
Bonds has walked an astonishing 20 times in the postseason, tying the record, and he will almost undoubtedly break it Wednesday night.
"Can we talk about something else besides all my [expletive] walks?" Bonds said afterward.
He was standing in the losers' clubhouse, half-dressed, fairly seething as reporters tried to find a question he liked. Someone asked him about how he felt about his postseason record for homers, and whether it meant as much as his record 73 regular season homers.
"No," he said curtly. "I just want to win a World Series ring. That's it."
Someone asked how he felt about participating in the first World Series in the Bay Area in 13 years. "It's a dream; it's everything I've ever dreamed of," he said pleasantly. Then his mood shifted. "But I don't feel like talking all [darn] day. So why don't you guys find something else to do."
It's hard to believe that Bonds came into this postseason trying to erase a reputation for under-performance in clutch situations. Even now he's asked about it, whether he thinks he's erased it. He chafes some more. In fact, it now seems surprising when anyone gets him out; it's as if he never misses.
Pacific Bell Park is a fairly raucous place, but it gets unusually quiet when Bonds is on his way to the plate. Then his name is announced, and you sense that anything could happen and probably will. That's why the walks, intentional or not, are so disappointing: it's as if infinite possibility is erased.
It happened in the first, after Ortiz walked the leadoff hitter, Kenny Lofton, and gave up a check-swing single to Kent. The crowd deflated as Angels Manager Mike Scioscia gave the sign to put him on.
Scioscia said he'd prefer to pitch to Bonds, but has not choice.
"My preference would be if we could make some pitches and get the guy to swing at a bad pitch or get the guy to roll over on a groundball that isn't going 8,000 miles an hour," he said.
By the end tonight, Bonds was a forlorn figure, alone in left, his pants stretched over the tops of his shoes as he stood dragging his cleats across the grass as more hits fell around him. The Giants are down 2-1. There may yet be only a couple more days in the season, but still more time to catch Hurricane Barry.