SAN FRANCISCO–With a No. 25 plaque hanging in between Willie Mays’ No. 24 and Juan Marichal’s No. 27 down the left field line at AT&T Park, Barry Bonds jogged out to left field in a cream jersey one last time.
Bonds, 54, is still in excellent physical condition and looked like he could strike fear in an opposing pitcher if he wanted to, perhaps more than the Giants’ lineup has of late.
Aside from a 13-run outburst Friday, the offense has gone ice cold this week and was once again a source of frustration as the Giants failed to scratch across a run for their soldout crowd in a 4-0 loss to the Pirates.
“You could feel the crowd and the energy, we just couldn’t get it going offensively,” manager Bruce Bochy said.
Despite having another opportunity to gain ground in their division following losses by the Dodgers and Diamondbacks, the Giants squandered the chance and remain 6.0 games back in the National League West.
Though Saturday’s spotlight belonged to Bonds, whose No. 25 became the 10th different jersey number to be taken out of circulation by the Giants, the rest of the evening went off script.
Before suffering their sixth loss in eight games, the Giants held a ceremony that lasted nearly 90 minutes for fans who were reminded there may never be another player like the all-time home run leader. The two-hour, 18-minute game following the ceremony forced fans to remember the Giants are still searching for a permanent solution to the void Bonds left.
While San Francisco experienced its greatest heights as a franchise in the post-Bonds era, the team did so without ever finding a long-term replacement in left field. Since the beginning of the 2007 season, the Giants have started 12 different Opening Day left fielders in 12 years.
Two different players, Alen Hanson and Gorkys Hernández, manned the position during Saturday’s game, but this year’s Opening Day starter in left, Hunter Pence, has been relegated to pinch hit duties.
Though Saturday was circled on the calendar to celebrate the 15 seasons Bonds spent launching balls beyond outfield fences as a Giant, the current iteration of the offense never got off the ground against Pirates starter Trevor Williams.
“Baseball is such a game of momentum and unfortunately it’s been going the wrong way the last week or so,” catcher Buster Posey said. “You hope a game like last night would kind of turn the tide and it still can.”
Like Bonds, Williams is a product of Arizona State and he tweeted this week that he feared Bonds would come out of retirement for the day to hit against Pittsburgh. Though Bonds ran out to left field before the game, he never stepped in the batter’s box and Williams cruised through seven shutout innings.
The Giants’ pitching staff didn’t stack up, as spot starter Ty Blach tossed two scoreless innings before running into trouble. Blach allowed a run in the third and then surrendered a three-run homer to first baseman Josh Bell in the top of the fourth.
“I felt like I had really good stuff, the one pitch was just enough over the plate to where he could leverage it,” Blach said. “I didn’t think it was that bad, but he was able to make a pretty good swing on it.”
Blach lasted four innings Saturday and was relieved by Casey Kelly, a former first round draft pick of the Red Sox who made his debut with the Giants Saturday. Kelly was promoted from Triple-A Sacramento Friday after reliever Derek Law was optioned and threw five scoreless innings out of the bullpen in his first big league action since 2016.
“He mixed four pitches, commanded the fastball really well and has got a good curveball,” Posey said. “The changeup had some movement, he mixed in the slider and it was impressive.”
Bonds acknowledges rough ending
Bonds grinned from ear to ear during Saturday’s pregame ceremony, laughing at stories from former teammates and managers before choking up when reflecting on the role his late father Bobby played in his development.
Once the game started, Bonds met with reporters and was given an opportunity to reflect on the closure a jersey retirement ceremony brought to him after the Giants told him they wouldn’t bring him back for the 2008 season.
“I don’t deny it, I wish I had one more year,” Bonds said. “The way it happened was not right, but it’s okay. I’m okay with that. And I left everything I had on the field, so I’m definitely okay with that.”
Bonds said he takes a greater satisfaction out of walking into AT&T Park and knowing his on-field performance helped the stadium get built than he does out of seeing his retired number alongside those of other Giants legends.
“I built this park, that’s all,” Bonds said. “When I walk in this ballpark, I know whose house this is. It’s our house as a unified city, but I know who did that.”