Facing the Giant(s)…

Well the Braves rolled into San Fransisco on Monday and, despite all of the frenzied media coverage of Barry Bonds homerun chase, handed the Giants a 4-2 loss in the first of four. Bonds did not leave the yard, instead going 1-for-3 with a single and a walk in four trips to the plate.

The win marks a promising start to the seven game swing out West, giving Smoltz his 10th win of the season – a victory that could have and probably should have already occured. Run support for Smoltz has been hard to come by. Perhaps the question on everyone’s mind was how exactly Smoltz was going to go about pitching to Bonds.

The answer was clear – challenge him and try to get him out. The two have battled in the National League for 20 years and have a tremendous amount of respect for each other, exchanging a few words and a smile when Smoltz retired Bonds the last time they faced each other on the night.

"Somebody’s going to have to deal with giving it up," Smoltz said of homerun number 756. "I really don’t mind giving up eight homeruns to him – it’s only been really one game that’s cost me. But I’m not a dummy either, I’m not just going to lay it in there."

That’s pretty much the approach you have to have, I’d think. Someone is going to give up the homer, and become the next Al Downing. But in some ways, the pitcher who gives up the "record breaking homer" only joins a long list of pitchers who have surrendered a longball to a player like Hank Aaron, and now Barry Bonds – who has homered off 453 different hurlers since 1986.

Our old friend Craig McMurtry was the first to be victimized, on June 2, 1986. Bonds connected for his first career homer at Fulton County Stadium that day. And now as he closes in on the greatest record in all of professional sports, he has a chance to attain it against Aaron’s former team – the team for whom Hank shattered Babe Ruth’s record for in 1974. Call that baseball karma?

Tim Hudson gets the call tonight, and it’s likely – judging from his comments before taking off on the roadtrip – that Huddy will be taking the Smoltz approach as well. By the way, Smoltz has given up those eight homers to Bonds in 87 match-ups, but Hudson has allowed four in 26 plate appearances. Here’s a look at his numbers against the Atlanta starters for the rest of the series.

Bonds vs. Hudson:  .474 AVG (9-for-19) 1 2B, 4 HR, 6 RBI, 6 BB (3 IBB), 0 K

Bonds vs. James:  .— (0-for0) 2 BB, 1 HBP

Buddy Carlyle has never faced Barry Bonds – neither have Tyler Yates, Peter Moylan, Wilfredo Ledezma or Jo-Jo Reyes. Oscar Villarreal has walked Bonds intentionally in both meetings while bullpen mates Chad Paronto and Rafael Soriano have given up singles to Bonds in their only match-ups. Closer Bob Wickman has only allowed Bonds a double in five at-bats, struck him out twice and has yet to walk him.

Chip and Pete said that scalper’s prices were reportedly hovering around $50 above face value for this series – a number that is sure to rise if Bonds belts 754 or 755 in the next day or two. I’m sure tickets from that point on – in San Fran for sure and likely elsewhere – will be outrageous.

Rumor of the week: On Sunday, ESPN’s Buster Olney and Pete Gammons made mention of a trade that would have seen the Braves sending Edgar Renteria to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for righty starter Jon Garland. It’s an intriguing prospect, and the first time I’ve heard Renteria’s name mention in trade speculation. One thing is for sure, starting pitching is going to be more expensive this season than ever before.

Till next time,

G-Mc

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