By Carol-Ann Rudy

The San Francisco Giants are back home to play the Atlanta Braves in a four-game series, followed by three games against the Florida Marlins. Pitching for the Braves will be John Smoltz, Tim Hudson, Chuck James, and Buddy Carlyle. For the Marlins: Rick Vanden Hurk, Dontrelle Willis, and Sergio Mitre.

All will be evening games, except for the last game against the Marlins. All will be home games—giving Bonds the edge to perform his magic and knock three more home runs out of the park to tie, then break, the career home run record. That’s the way the San Francisco fans prefer it, of course, that the tie be broken in their own AT&T Park. . .

Last Thursday night the Giants played against the Chicago Cubs. In the second inning and again at the top of the seventh inning, Bonds hit home run Nos. 752 and 753. In the second inning, he sent a fastball from left-handed pitcher Ted Lilly over the wall in right-field and out of Wrigley Field onto Sheffield Avenue, the first home run to do so this season. Then at the top of the seventh off left-handed Will Ohman, the ball landed between the outfield wall and the bleachers. Bonds’ 0-for-21 slump, his worst in six years, was broken.

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The Giants headed for three away games against Milwaukee in Miller Park last Friday night, Saturday and Sunday. That’s the park where Hank Aaron began and ended his career. Bonds faced right-handed pitchers Suppan, Bush, and Vargas, although he sat out Sunday, ready to pinch hit if needed.

Notably, Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, a friend of Henry Aaron, was present for the Friday night game and the Saturday game, which may explain why Bonds played Saturday afternoon as well as Friday night. He usually doesn’t play a day game after a night game, but he surely wasn’t about to miss the Commissioner himself being in the stands. The Giants won that game, 8-to-4, ending an eight-game losing streak, while Bonds hit 0-for-4 that night with a strike-out and a walk.

It was a long slump for Bonds; his last home run was July 3 at Cincinnati. Last Thursday’s hits marked the end of seven hitless games. His frustration over sore shins, fatigue, and disappointing performance expressed itself the previous Sunday when he knocked over a laundry cart in the Giants’ clubhouse. Last Tuesday, his personal friend the Rev. Jesse Jackson prayed with him before the game. On Wednesday, Bonds’ mood improved as his legs responded to rest. And Thursday, his swing returned.

Thursday’s triumph was also his second multiple-home-run game of the season, the 71st in his career, and his 18th and 19th home runs for the season as well.

Bond’s 43rd birthday is tomorrow, the 24th. Maybe he can give himself a birthday present that can’t be beat. It looks like it’s nobody’s game in San Francisco—except maybe the Giants and Bonds.