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NL West: Bonds' big slump
Well, heck, his 2007 on-base percentage has just now dropped below .500.
It's important to keep things in perspective -- Barry Bonds hasn't tumbled irredeemably off a cliff, not as far as on-field performance goes, anyway.
That didn't make it any less mind-blowing to see the San Francisco Giants' lightning rod short out this past weekend against the rival Los Angeles Dodgers, going 0-for-12 (with three walks) and grounding into three double plays. No fewer than 16 runners were on base during Bonds' at-bats in the series, and he failed to drive in any of them.
Bonds is actually zero for his past 20 since July 5 (with eight walks). Some have speculated that he's trying too hard to hit home runs as he closes in on the career record, although I seem to recall a time in the past when history was on the line and he had no trouble producing.
Nor did Bonds seem tired this weekend, coming off the All-Star Break. In Saturday's game, Bonds put himself in position to score the tying run in the bottom of the ninth inning after he walked by dashing to second on a hit-and-run to forestall a double play, and earlier made a diving stop in the outfield to prevent a base hit from going to the wall.
San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy offered that Bonds had become "pull-conscious," according to The Associated Press, a thought that Bonds quickly dismissed. In fact, in what little time Bonds gave the media after Sunday's game, he was less concerned with the why than the what.
"It's an embarrassment for me to be wearing this [expletive deleted] uniform 'cause of the way I'm playing," Bonds said. "There, that's it. Now go away,"
And the thing is, that really is probably the whole story right there. He's slumping, but right on the heels of a stretch from June 22-July 3 in which he went 11 for 24 with 16 walks, three homers and a 1.600 OPS. Even with Bonds' 43rd birthday approaching later this month, it would be a mistake to read too much into this particular dry spell.
That didn't make it any less stunning to see the Dodgers' chief tormentor fail to produce, at-bat after at-bat. With one timely Bonds hit Saturday or Sunday, the Giants could have ended their home losing streak to Los Angeles. Instead, the Dodgers have won 11 straight in San Francisco, their longest such streak in nearly 30 years.
"Barry Bonds, he's human," said Dodgers catcher Russell Martin after Sunday's game. "He's going to have times when he's not swinging the bat really well. We pretty much got lucky."
Colorado won Friday to move over .500 after the All-Star Break for the first time since ... well, actually, it was only last year that the Rockies were 44-43 until the final out of their first post-Break game.
In any case, Colorado is right on the edge of threatening in the postseason chase, but the Rockies dropped their Saturday and Sunday games. That will make them even more anxious to get pitchers Brian Fuentes and Jason Hirsh back to health.
Fuentes is tentatively scheduled for a minor-league rehab assignment Tuesday in a Single-A game, Thomas Harding of MLB.com reports. But Hirsh, recovering from a July 2 ankle sprain suffered during a game in which he shut out the New York Mets over six innings, still hasn't even completed a bullpen session yet.
In their first two days after the All-Star Break, the San Diego Padres got crushed in one game, had their renowned bullpen blow a cushy lead in another, fell out of first place in the division, had starting pitcher David Wells get suspended for seven games (now under appeal) and, perhaps most frightening, had staff ace Jake Peavy push his scheduled Sunday start two days into the future because of a sore biceps.
Though Peavy is expected to be just fine, the Padres were ready for anything to keep the weekend from total disaster. And, just as it should be for a title contender, someone stepped up: Justin Germano threw 6 1/3 shutout innings Sunday to lead San Diego past Arizona, 4-0.
Germano, a waiver-wire acquisition by the Padres this spring, had a 2.67 ERA while averaging six innings in his first nine starts. But he also averaged only 4.7 strikeouts per nine innings, leading many to believe his unpedigreed performance was a fluke -- a theory only enhanced when he posted a 10.13 ERA in his final two starts before the All-Star Game.
It still remains to be seen how well Germano will fare for an entire season -- he had only 28 career innings in the majors before 2007 -- but manager Bud Black, who had a 3.84 career ERA while striking out 4.6 batters per nine innings, and 41-year-old future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux, who also gets by mostly on guile these days, are there to tutor him on making the most of his command.
"There was a lot of 80s, 81s, 82s that weren't really his fastball and weren't really his changeup," Arizona manager Bob Melvin told Michael Schwartz of MLB.com. "He gets ahead of you and all of a sudden humps up a [mid-80s] pitch in to get an out."
Labels: NL West
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