On Bonds' night, Nationals prevail
Four-run eighth inning follows record-breaking home run
SAN FRANCISCO -- Less than a minute after Nationals left-hander Mike Bacsik gave up Barry Bonds' record-breaking 756th career home run to give the Giants a 5-4 lead, first baseman Dmitri Young approached Bacsik on the mound and said, "It's all right. There's nothing to be ashamed of. Hold your head up high."
Enter shortstop Felipe Lopez, who may have had the best line of the night. "We are going to win it for you," he told Bacsik.
By passing Hank Aaron for first on the all-time home run list, Bonds grabbed the headlines on Tuesday night, but Lopez proved to be a prophet, playing a big role in helping the Nationals defeat the Giants, 8-6, at AT&T Park.
"Now that we have won, it's not that tough to give up the home run to Bonds," Bacsik said. "But at that time, [during the ceremony], I'm sitting in the dugout, waiting to go out to pitch. It's like giving up the game-winning home run in the ninth. If you have to walk off the field and watch the game, it was a similar feeling to that."
The game showed the character of the Nationals. They didn't let the Bonds hoopla get to them. Washington was down, 6-4, when it made its comeback in the top of the eighth inning against three relief pitchers.
With Kevin Correia on the mound, Nook Logan singled to left field to score Austin Kearns before pinch-hitter Tony Batista singled to left to score Brian Schneider and tie the game at 6. Both runs were charged to Jonathan Sanchez.
Lopez, who predicted the Nationals' victory, was the next hitter, and he gave the Nats the lead with a double to left to score Logan.
"It was the right situation," Lopez said. "I was up, trying to get the run in, and I did it."
Enter reliever Randy Messenger, who allowed a sacrifice fly to Zimmerman to add to the Nationals' lead.
"Guys came in and got big hits," Kearns said. "It just wasn't one guy. It was a lot of people who contributed."
Relievers Jon Rauch and Chad Cordero shut out San Francisco the rest of the way to help hand the Nationals their seventh win in eight games and move them into a tie with the Marlins for fourth place in the National League East.
"Our main thing was winning the ballgame," manager Manny Acta said. "That really makes me happy that our guys were able to put behind the emotions of today and make a good comeback.
"Our guys are very resilient. They will not give up, and we go at it. These guys just don't back down. They give us the effort for nine innings. When you do that, good things happen to you."
Bacsik lasted five innings and gave up five runs on seven hits.
After having an easy first inning, Bacsik ran out of steam. In the second inning, the Giants took a 2-0 lead, but the Nationals suddenly jumped ahead, 3-2, off left-hander Barry Zito, thanks to a two-run home run by Kearns.
By the bottom of the fifth, the two clubs were in a 4-4 tie until Bonds hit Bacsik's 3-2 pitch over the right-center-field wall to give San Francisco a one-run lead.
Acta acknowledged that his emotions at the moment were not very positive, as the Nationals were trailing. He said that Bacsik was too pumped up and threw almost nothing but fastballs during the game.
"We were trailing right there," Acta said. "I knew Bonds were going to hit a home run sooner or later, but I wanted to win the game. That was a situation where I was thinking more about my team instead of him breaking the record."
But Acta's unhappiness didn't last for long, as the Nationals continue to show the baseball world that they were underestimated before this season began. Many predicted that the Nationals would be a reincarnation of the 1962 Mets, who lost a Major League-record 120 games. Now, the confidence continues to grow among the players on the Nationals, and they believe that things will improve even more before the season ends.
"I think we are capable [of finishing .500 or better]," Kearns said. "There is still a lot of work to do. We have been playing well. The pitching has been great. I think we are swinging the bats better. We are able to put some runs on the board. If we keep swing the bats well, we have a shot."
Young believes that victories like Tuesday's will make potential free agents want to sign with the Nationals.
"When we go into the offseason, potential free agents will not be afraid to come visit the Washington Nationals," Young said. "Check out the new facility, meet the ownership -- Stan [Kasten], Jim [Bowden] -- and actually think about coming here."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.