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Bonds, Rookie Pitcher Take Place In History
Courtesy: Sun Devil Athletics
Release: 10/05/2001
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Courtesy: Sun Devil Athletics
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Oct. 5, 2001

By MICHAEL A. LUTZ
AP Sports Writer

HOUSTON - Barry Bonds got what he wanted from Wilfredo Rodriguez.

After the Houston Astros pitched around him throughout a three-game series, Bonds finally got a pitch he could hit Thursday night for his 70th homer, tying Mark McGwire for the major league record.

San Francisco won the game 10-2, the Astros' sixth straight loss and their eighth in nine games. It knocked them out of first place in the NL Central and jeopardized their playoff chances.

But that was hardly noticed by the record crowd of 43,734 that booed when the Astros stayed away from the plate with Bonds at bat.

Rodriguez, who spent most of the season at Double-A Round Rock, walked unflinchingly into the spotlight. He challenged Bonds with fastballs, and he hit the third one 454 feet into the right-field stands.

"I just got a good pitch to hit. I really just got a good pitch to hit," Bonds said.

Rodriguez, speaking through an interpreter, accepted his role in history matter-of-factly.

"I feel OK," Rodriguez said. "I am happy for him. He deserves what he got with the 70th home run. I threw him fastballs. That's what I do. I was confident with it. I was trying to get him out."

Bonds finally got his chance in his final at-bat of the three-game series after walking eight times and getting hit by a pitch once previously.

Astros manager Larry Dierker, his team trailing 9-2, decided to give Rodriguez a chance at getting some experience.

"The game was out of hand," Dierker said. "He would not have pitched in that situation if we had a chance to win. We figured he might be just wild enough to throw one down the middle and he (Bonds) would hit it out.

"Maybe he'd throw outside and walk him."

It was just another twist that went against the Astros, who held a 5{-game lead in the NL Central on Sept. 24, seemingly cruising to their fourth division title in five years.

The Astros close out the regular season with a three-game series beginning Friday night in St. Louis.

Injuries to starting pitchers and weak hitting have turned the final week of the season into a disaster. Dierker was in no mood for much conversation after Thursday's loss.

"I'm mad," he said.

What does your team need?

"To win," Dierker said. "We go back out and play again."

It was a sudden splash onto the national arena for Rodriguez, who allowed four hits and four runs in two innings against the Cubs in a 12-4 loss in his major league debut on Sept. 21.

Rodriguez was 5-9 with a 4.78 ERA in 42 appearances with the Double-A Round Rock Express this season.

Rodriguez wasn't sure he'd get into the game, and the first batter he faced was Bonds.

"It was already 9-2 when Bonds came up to hit," catcher Tony Eusebio said. "There wasn't much time to talk to him. You don't get any baby sitters up here. You just have to go out and do your job the best you can."

Rodriguez didn't hesitate. Bonds swung and missed at a 95-mph fastball and allowed another fastball to pass for a ball before hitting the big one.

"It was 9-2 and I was trying to get him out," Rodriguez said. "I wasn't trying to pitch around him. I was just trying to get him out."

Rodriguez finished out the inning after Bonds' homer. He also allowed a double to Andres Galarraga.

Anticipation mounted on the Giants' bench when Rodriguez entered the game.

"We all felt like when they brought in a lefty, that was the first sign they would probably throw to him, and the guy throws hard," Calvin Murray said. "So we thought he might get a chance.

"It's just frustrating, the whole series. We wanted to see the home run, but they wouldn't pitch to him. I don't know how he stayed focused. It's amazing to me the focus he's had through all of this."

The Astros walked Bonds while trailing 8-1 in the sixth inning, drawing loud boos from the record crowd.

"I thought when they walked him with the score 8-1, it was a little slap in the face of baseball," J.T. Snow said. "But you've got to give that last guy credit. He came right at him."

As for the Astros, the usually affable Jeff Bagwell didn't want to talk about Bonds' record.

"I'm not talking about Bonds when we just got our butts kicked three straight times," Bagwell said.

Notes: Last year, Bonds hit a 458-foot shot that ranks as the longest in the two-year history of Enron. ... Russ Ortiz (13-7) was the winner, Dave Mlicki (7-3) the loser.

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