Cubs hold on to topple Giants

Ryan Theriot and Daryle Ward high five after scoring on a two-RBI single by Aramis Ramirez during the first inning against the San Francisco Giants on Thursday in Chicago. With the victory, Cubs starter Ted Lilly, who allowed three runs over five innings M. Spencer Green, The Associated Press


Ryan Theriot and Daryle Ward high five after scoring on a two-RBI single by Aramis Ramirez during the first inning against the San Francisco Giants on Thursday in Chicago. With the victory, Cubs starter Ted Lilly, who allowed three runs over five innings M. Spencer Green, The Associated Press

By Janie McCauley

CHICAGO – Barry Bonds’ worst slump is over and Hank Aaron’s record can’t be far behind.

Bonds moved within two home runs of Aaron’s record Thursday, sending No. 752 over the right-field bleachers on the first pitch he saw, and No. 753 into the basket of the center-field wall.

He was ready, all right, breaking out of his worst slump in six years.

The San Francisco slugger returned to the starting lineup for the first time in four games after resting his sore legs, though his two homers weren’t enough for the Giants in a 9-8 loss to the surging Chicago Cubs.

“Yeah, it’s real,” said Bonds, who has hesitated to discuss his quest for the record.

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    Bonds didn’t just clear the fences in the second inning when he crushed the specially monogrammed ball for his 18th homer of the season and first in 25 at-bats, he cleared the bleachers altogether.

    On Friday, the chase moves to Miller Park in Milwaukee, the city where Aaron both started and ended his career. It’s also the home of commissioner Bud Selig, who hasn’t said whether he’ll be in the seats as Bonds attempts to make history.

    Bonds said going to Aaron’s former city would not affect him because he’s more concerned with getting the Giants on track.

    “It doesn’t mean anything more than anywhere else,” Bonds said. “I’m feeling great. Maybe I’m going to take three more days off and come back.”

    Bonds sent the first pitch from Cubs starter Ted Lilly high over the right-field fence leading off the second – and it was the first drive out of Wrigley Field to reach Sheffield Avenue all season. Then he homered again in the seventh, a three-run shot off Will Ohman.

    Ohman became the 443rd pitcher to give up a home run to Bonds, who has 19 homers on the year. It was Bonds’ 71st multihomer game, second all-time behind Babe Ruth’s 72, and second this season.

    Bonds’ solo shot pulled the Giants within 4-1 and it was San Francisco’s first hit off Lilly (10-4), who surrendered his third career homer to Bonds and later a two-run single but still won his sixth straight decision to match a career high.

    Bonds’ second homer got the Giants within 9-8 and gave him six RBIs on the day, his most since driving in six runs Sept. 22 at Milwaukee. It was his seventh career game with at least six RBIs.

    The second one also moved Bonds past Carlton Fisk for most longballs by a player in a year he turns at least 43. Fisk hit 18 at age 43 in 1990 and 18 more the following year at 44. Bonds needs two more homers not only to match Hammerin’ Hank’s record, but also to tie Fisk’s 72 homers after turning 40.

    Chicago could still celebrate afterward. The Cubs earned their 18th victory in the last 23 games and sixth in seven since the All-Star break, moving six games over .500 (50-44) for the first time since June 11, 2005, when they were 33-27.

    Aramis Ramirez doubled among his three hits and drove in two runs a day after sitting out to rest his sore left knee and Alfonso Soriano added two doubles, a single, an RBI and two runs scored.

    The fans both cheered and booed when Bonds’ first homer sailed out in the direction of a beer billboard reading “755 BOTTLES F BEER ON THE WALL.” Dave Davison, a 39-year-old regular at Wrigley, retrieved the ball in the middle of the street after it bounced off someone else’sarm.

    And it wasn’t the firstsouvenir for Davison, who has retrieved more than 4,200 keepsake balls including one other from Bonds. He might be a willing seller this time, but had already turned down an offer for $5,000.

    “I’d have to seriously consider anything over $25,000,” Davison said. “I’ll be happy to keep it.”

    Tyler Olson, a 13-year-old from Freeport, Ill., came up with No. 753. The teen declined comment.

    “I was just hoping they’d throw the ball back like they said. They lied,” Bonds said. “I was going to put them in my trophy room.

    Bonds connected for the first time since a first-inning homer July 3 at Cincinnati and also ended a seven-game hitless stretch. He was mired in a season-worst 0-for-21 slump, two off his career high set during his rookie season in 1986. The latest funk was his longest since a hitless stretch of the same length from April 5-12, 2001 – the year he broke Mark McGwire’s single-season home run record with 73.

    Bonds, whose 43rd birthday is Tuesday, returned to the starting lineup for the series finale after missing two of the first three games completely while nursing his sore legs. He pinch hit Tuesday night, the first time he hadn’t started three in a row since sitting five straight games from June 7-11, 2006.

    The fans started booing Bonds lustily before he even took the field, hollering in displeasure when his name was announced with the starting lineups. They let him have it again when he emerged from the dugout and stepped into the on-deck circle in the first but didn’t bat.

    He was jeered again when he took his spot in left field for the first time, with fans lining the fence to give their voices a better chance of being heard by the slugger.

    Bonds was in an 0-for-17 slump before hitting his 746th homer against the Rockies on May 27.

    Meanwhile, it appeared that the yearlong term of the federal grand jury in San Francisco investigating Bonds for perjury had been extended. Thursday marked the year anniversary of the grand jury’s creation and the strongest indication that it remained in session was the continued incarceration of Bonds’ personal trainer, Greg Anderson.

    Anderson is being held in contempt of court for refusing to testify in the perjury probe. He will remain in prison until he talks or until the grand jury’s term expires. Grand jury terms last a year, but can twice be extended for three months.

    The Cubs batted around in a four-run first against Matt Morris (7-6), who needed 23 pitches to get out of the inning. Daryle Ward and Jacque Jones each hit RBI singles in the inning.

    Jones finished with four hits. Lilly stole his first career base in the fifth after hitting a two-out single.