Giants' Bonds is in zone all his own

Angels can't believe how `locked in' the slugger is


World Series

October 22, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

SAN FRANCISCO - Barry Bonds and Anaheim Angels pitching coach Bud Black are ex-teammates, and when they saw each other near the batting cage before Game 1 of the World Series, Black promised Bonds, "You're going to get some pitches to hit."

In retrospect, Black sounded like a little kid who couldn't resist sticking his finger in an electrical socket. Two games into what is shaping up to be another dramatic Fall Classic, Bonds seems even scarier than the Angels imagined.

He hit a 418-foot home run in his first World Series at-bat, and added a 485-foot blast in the ninth inning of Game 2 that left the Angels talking about how the balls must be juiced.

With two outs and a two-run lead, Anaheim closer Troy Percival took his chances, grooving a 97-mph fastball that Bonds turned into one of those mythical home runs people will be talking about for years.

The ball didn't land in the right-field seats, it landed in a tunnel, two sections over from the right-field foul pole. Tim Salmon, who has played with the Angels since 1992, said he had never seen one hit farther at the ballpark now called Edison International Field.

With the series moving to Pacific Bell Park tonight, kayakers in McCovey Cove might want to start paddling south.

"He's as locked in as anybody I've ever, ever seen," said Black, who pitched for the Giants and teamed with Bonds in 1993 and 1994. "I looked at [first base coach] Alfredo Griffin [when Bonds homered off Percival], and we just sort of shook our heads. To square up a 97-mph fastball and hit it as far as he did, it was just an awesome display of talent."

Still, the Angels are determined not to change anything in their approach to Bonds. He has been to the plate nine times, but only once with a runner on base. Rich Aurilia was on second when Bonds came up in the fifth inning of Game 2. Angels pitcher John Lackey walked him intentionally.

Bonds has two hits in five official at-bats, with four walks, four runs scored and two runs batted in. But it's not just the home runs that concern the Angels. He has scalded two ground ball outs to Anaheim first baseman Scott Spiezio, showing an incredible amount of bat speed.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia has employed a shift when Bonds comes to bat, moving third baseman Troy Glaus near second and putting second baseman Adam Kennedy in shallow right field. Still, the Angels can't help but feel defenseless.

"It's the first time we've seen him since spring training; he's incredible, we realize that," Scioscia said. "What he's doing is real. I don't think I have to sit down and try to analyze it or explain it.

"I think there are some things you can try to do with Barry. Your margin of error is not very comfortable because he can take you out to any part of the ballpark and on any pitch."

If there's one statistic killing the Giants in this series, it's the collective on-base percentage of the three hitters batting in front of Bonds.

Kenny Lofton, Aurilia and Jeff Kent are reaching base at a .115 clip - a shade better than once every 10 trips to the plate.

Percival could laugh about Bonds' home run Sunday night because he had retired the first two batters in the ninth inning (Aurilia and Kent), and he retired Benito Santiago to preserve an 11-10 victory.

"I supplied the power, I think," Percival said. "You don't want it to be a wall scraper or one of those where you have to sit there and watch it."

Ripken appearance

Major League Baseball will announce its all-time most memorable moment tomorrow, before Game 4, and Cal Ripken will be on hand for the festivities.

Ripken's 2,131st consecutive game was leading the voting, last time the results were announced, and he has been told the moment finished somewhere in the top three.

Juiced balls?

Percival and Black both raised suspicions that the World Series baseballs are juiced. Already, the two teams have combined to hit 11 home runs.

"As soon as I picked up the balls in this series, I knew there would be a lot of homers," Percival told the San Francisco Chronicle. "They're twice as hard as any ball I've played with.

"The seams are nice, there's a good grip on it, but when it's hit, it's gonna go."

Said Black: "If [the balls] are hard, they're hard for both teams."

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