Former Giants slugger Barry Bonds threw out the first pitch before Game 4 of the National League Championship Series on Wednesday to a positive reception from the sellout crowd at AT&T Park.
Bonds, 50, who recently had hip surgery, was driven onto the field in a golf cart and used crutches to walk to the front of the pitcher’s mound. He dropped the crutches just before delivering his pitch to Giants reliever Sergio Romo.
Bonds was rarely seen at AT&T Park after his final season in 2007 amid performance-enhancing drug allegations and an obstruction of justice conviction. But he spent a week at the team’s spring training facility in Scottsdale, Ariz., this year as a special hitting instructor and expressed interest then in being involved with the Giants’ organization in some capacity.
As some of Bonds’ career achievements were read over the PA system, the crowd gave Bonds a loud ovation and some broke into chants of “Bar-ry!” Bonds told MLB.com he now considers himself a fan of the Giants and is “enjoying every minute of it.”
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One of Bonds’ franchise records fell during the game. Pablo Sandoval drew a walk in the third inning and has reached base safely in 22 consecutive postseason games. Sandoval broke the previous Giants record of 21 set by Bonds from 2002 to 2003.
Wainwright laments – Cardinals right-hander Adam Wainwright, who will start for St. Louis in Game 5 today, set a high postseason standard for himself beginning as a rookie closer in 2006, when he secured the final out of the World Series. Lately, Wainwright said he hasn’t been meeting that standard.
“Until last year’s NLCS, I was undefeated in the postseason,” Wainwright said in a media conference. “I just don’t want to get a bad rap for not being a good playoff pitcher. That’s the time I want to shine the most.”
The Giants knocked Wainwright out in the fifth inning of their 3-0 Game 1 win. All four of Wainwright’s career postseason losses have come in his last five starts, during which he has a 5.14 ERA. Wainwright has not completed five innings in either of his two starts this postseason, and said while he has “not been very proud” of his pitching this October, “I also know that I was doing my best.”
“There was no point in time where I wasn’t as prepared as I’ve ever been for a start, and my arm just didn’t respond like I wanted it to,” said Wainwright, who admitted to elbow soreness after his start in Game 1 of the NLDS. “But I’m very confident going forward.”
Wainwright will oppose Madison Bumgarner in a rematch of Game 1, when Bumgarner threw 72/3 scoreless innings, setting a major-league record with 262/3 consecutive scoreless postseason innings on the road.
Still ailing – St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina swung a bat Wednesday to test his strained oblique and “didn’t feel real great, as expected,” manager Mike Matheny said. Matheny said Molina, who sustained the injury in Game 2, “did some preliminary swings and just enough to realize it wasn’t worth pushing forward.”
A.J. Pierzynski made his second consecutive start at catcher in Game 4. Wainwright said he is comfortable with Pierzynski if the latter is behind the plate again today.
“He’s got magic fingers,” Wainwright said. “He’s called a couple no-hitters and been a world champion. He’s a big, wide target.”
Wild-card advantage? – The Kansas City Royals captured the American League pennant by completing a four-game sweep of the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday and have won eight straight games starting with the wild-card play-in game. Given the Giants are also into the NLCS as a wild card, manager Bruce Bochy was asked before the game whether having to win in a do-or-die situation just to make the playoffs has advantages.
“There’s probably something about having to play that wild-card game,” Bochy said. “There’s no lull in your play and there’s no drop in your guard. You’re not taking time off. So there could be something to that.
“But if you’re asking me which way I want it, I’d rather have things clinched a little bit earlier, so you can kind of get things in order.”