09/30/2003 4:28 PM ET
Bonds: Three walks, two intentional
SAN FRANCISCO -- The day before the start of the National League Division Series between the Giants and Marlins, Florida manager Jack McKeon said that he wasn't sure what his team's strategy would be in pitching to San Francisco slugger Barry Bonds, saying that the situation would dictate his choice.
But with the exception of Bonds' leadoff at-bat in the sixth, McKeon opted for the popular option: staying as far away from the single-season home run champ as possible. The Marlins walked Bonds three times, twice intentionally, including an eyebrow-arching deliberate pass with two out and the bases empty in the eighth.
Bonds followed that final walk, issued by reliever Chad Fox, with a stolen base, then scored on Edgardo Alfonzo's double off the left center-field wall.
"If I would have pitched to him, and he hit it into McCovey Cove, you guys would have been saying, 'You said you weren't going to pitch to him,'" said McKeon. "You are damned if you do, damned if you don't. I'd rather do what we did than have him hit it into McCovey Cove."
In the first inning, after Ray Durham singled and took second on a flyout, McKeon chose to have right-hander Josh Beckett intentionally walk Bonds, sparking the traditional "Chicken Dance" over the public-address system and the waving of rubber chickens in the stands.
But the strategy paid off that time, as Alfonzo flied out to left-center to end the inning, stranding Durham and Bonds.
After Beckett walked Rich Aurilia in the fourth, pitching coach Wayne Rosenthal visited the mound to talk strategy with Beckett. Given the go-ahead to pitch to Bonds, Beckett gunned a fastball strike past him at 97 mph.
"You'd like to go out there and blow him away," said Beckett during his Monday press conference. "But there's been so many guys who have tried and haven't been very successful. Just play for the tie, do what you need to do, listen to your manager."
An outside pitch followed to even the count, and after another close ball, Bonds fouled the next pitch straight back. Beckett's next pitch was high, bringing the crowd to its feet for the full-count offering, but they were disappointed when ball four put Bonds on first.
McKeon said he felt that several pitches during that at-bat should have been called strikes.
Alfonzo then beat out a bunt single, and on Miguel Cabrera's wild throw to first, Aurilia scored the Giants' first run and Bonds moved to third. Despite walking Marquis Grissom to load the bases, Beckett got out of the jam with a pair of strikeouts.
Bonds led off the sixth inning and, after looking at three pitches (two of them called balls), flied deep to center, with Juan Pierre making a running catch. But in the eighth, after Bonds' second intentional walk, Pierre couldn't run down Alfonzo's double, and Bonds scored a valuable insurance run to account for the final score of 2-0.
Bonds' final line: 0-for-1, three walks, a run scored. He saw 18 pitches, and 14 of them were called balls. He swung at three of the strikes, making contact twice and putting one in play.
Bonds walked 148 times in the regular season, 61 of them intentional free passes. Other than the Giants, only two entire teams in the National League had more intentional walks. Bonds hit 45 homers, tied with Milwaukee's Richie Sexson for second in the National League and two behind league leader Jim Thome of Philadelphia.
Before last season, Bonds had homered once in 27 postseason games. In the 2002 postseason, he first homered in the ninth inning of Game 2 of the NLDS against the Braves' John Smoltz en route to clubbing three in the Division Series and a Major League-record eight total in the playoffs.
He also set records for the most walks in a postseason (27) and in a World Series (13).
Chris Shuttlesworth is an editorial producer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
By Chris Shuttlesworth / MLB.com