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Rookie Pitcher Yields Historic Homer
Courtesy: Sun Devil Athletics
Release: 10/05/2001
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Courtesy: Sun Devil Athletics
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By MICHAEL A. LUTZ
AP Sports Writer

HOUSTON (AP) - Wilfredo Rodriguez started the season in Double-A and ended up in the history book.

Less than two weeks after his major league debut, Rodriguez challenged Barry Bonds with a fastball in the ninth inning Thursday night and Bonds hit his record-tying homer.

"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."

While most Astros pitchers avoided giving Bonds anything to hit, Bonds finally got a chance to match Mark McGwire's mark in his final at-bat of San Francisco's 10-2 win, which completed a three-game sweep.

"The game was out of hand," Astros manager Larry 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 would hit it out.

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

In his major league debut Sept. 21, Rodriguez allowed four hits and four runs in two innings in a 12-4 loss to the Chicago Cubs.

Rodriguez wasn't sure he'd get into the game but ran to the mound in the ninth winning and Bonds was his first batter.

"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 up and in before the homer.

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

When Bonds was asked if he had heard of the 22-year-old left-hander before the homer, he said: "Not at all. He throws hard. No doubt about that."

Bonds' teammates were glad he finally got a pitch to hit after being walked eight times in the series.

"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 trailing 8-1 in the sixth inning, drawing loud boos from the record crowd of 43,734.

"Hats off to the pitcher, he challenged him," Giants outfielder Shawon Dunston said. "Barry stayed within himself the whole time and go the pitch he wanted. He's my teammate and he's getting better and better."

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