A largely forgotten man rose from the San Francisco Giants bench to will the team to victory in a key game.
Yes, folks, Matt Kinney earned the victory in relief against the NL West-leading San Diego Padres by pitching 5 2/3 innings of shutout ball in front of 39,095 well-insulated fans at SBC Park.
Chances are, however, that the vast majority of those fans paid admission to see the return of one of Kinneys teammates, as 7-time NL MVP Barry Bonds made his long-awaited 2005 debut. Bonds immediately contributed a long double in his first at-bat and scored the first Giants run in what would be a 4-3 Giants victory.
But first, more on Kinney (1-0). The journeyman righthander entered the ballgame after Giants starting pitcher Kevin Correia was pulled after giving up three runs in the first while registering only one out. In fact, Kinneys three hits allowed were the only hits the Padres could muster up against a stellar Giants relief effort, as Kinney, Jack Taschner, LaTroy Hawkins, and Armando Benitez combined for 8 2/3 innings of shutout ball.
Now back to the man of the hour. After a discouraging start to the game and a quick bottom of the first inning by the Giants hitters, Bonds led off the second inning off Padres starter Adam Eaton (10-4) with an 11-pitch battle that resulted in a line drive to deep left-center field that at first appeared to be an electrifying home run. However, second base umpire Mark Wegner ruled that a fan interfered with the ball, and Bonds was awarded a double for his efforts. Ray Durham followed with the first of his three base hits on the evening, and Bonds crossed the plate to put the Giants on the board. After an Edgardo Alfonzo single moved Durham over to third, a struggling Todd Linden hit a double play grounder that scored Durham to make the score 3-2 Padres after two innings.
Bonds and the Giants gave the Padres another scare in the next inning, but his fly ball to center ended the inning with Randy Winn and J.T. Snow stranded at the corners.
But wait, theres more. Durham wasted no time tying the ballgame in the fourth inning with a towering, Bonds-like shot to right field off Eaton for his 12th home run of the season. Alfonzo again followed with a base hit a double and two batters later, Mike Matheny brought him home with a single that gave the Giants a 4-3 lead that they would not relinquish.
Bonds gave the crowd two more exciting at bats. With two outs and the bases empty in the fifth, he hit a towering fly ball, but it found a leathery grave in death valley. Bonds had another RBI chance in the bottom of the seventh with runners at the corners, but was fooled twice by Padres reliever Rudy Seanezs changeup, and suffered a rare strikeout.
Bonds may have gone only 1-for-4 in the game, but he did much to give his teammates and fans hope for a late charge in the NL West. Only time will tell, but with Bonds on board, it should be a thrilling ride once again.
SFDugout Player of the Game: Kinney and the rest of the Giants relief corps deserve the nod tonight, but one gets the feeling that their work would have been all for naught without Number 25. Bonds mere presence completely changes the complexion of the game when is the last time you thought the 2005 Giants could come back from a 3-0 defecit? Kudos to Alfonzo and Durham as well for rapping out three hits each couldnt have picked a better time to get hot.
Don Shin eats, breathes, thinks, and bleeds in Orange and Black. Pac Bell Park officially opened on his 25th birthday (the one year he decided to move out of the Bay Area!!!). For the 2000 playoff drive, he dyed his hair orange while studying in Korea. He watched Game 6 of the '02 World Series at a restaurant in LA, and couldn't finish his meal afterwards. Feel free to write him at email@example.com to commiserate, cheer, and complain.
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