- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 11, 2001

HOUSTON (AP) Barry Bonds put up some impressive numbers at new Enron Field last season.
His only appearance there this year starts tonight, and it finds the San Francisco slugger with a real chance at Mark McGwire's major league home run record.
Bonds went 7-for-16 with four home runs and five RBI in the Astros' downtown stadium in 2000.
Those numbers would make the chase interesting. Bonds has 63 home runs including three Sunday at Coors Field in Denver seven off McGwire's mark set three years ago.
Astros and opposing batters have hit 206 homers at Enron this season, second among all major league stadiums to Coors, which has yielded 239.
Bonds left his mark on Enron last season in two visits. His most significant homer was the longest one hit at Enron, 458 feet over the center-field fence.
With the Giants chasing a playoff spot, Bonds deftly diverts most talk about the home run record to his team's playoff chances.
"Everything is important right now," Bonds said. "Every at-bat means something. You try not to watch the scoreboard. But it's hard not to. The intensity level is a lot higher than normal."
But the home run race has intensified with the fans, especially since Bonds' weekend performance at Coors Field.
Fans in Denver gave Bonds standing ovations for home runs 61, 62 and 63, demanding a tip of the hat from Bonds, who surprisingly obliged.
"I don't think I've ever seen a visiting player take a curtain call," teammate J.T. Snow said. "They were awesome. They knew they might be seeing history, and they knew they were a part of it."
Astros fans might not be as friendly. Unlike the last-place Rockies, the Astros are fighting to stay atop the NL Central ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals.
"I'd say we'll be at capacity or near it for all three games," Astros ticket manager John Sorrentino said. "With the pennant race and of course Bonds being here, I think we'll be near it."
Bonds will be comfortable at Enron regardless of the mood of the fans. He's hit 31 homers at the Giants' Pacific Bell Park and 32 on the road. His 32 road homers equals the major league record shared by Babe Ruth and McGwire.
Bonds walked nine times during the three-game weekend at Coors Field, expanding his major league lead to 149 for the season. Ruth holds the record with 170.
Bonds is the fastest to reach 63 homers. He did it in 144 games and is eight games ahead of McGwire's record pace in 1998.
The Astros say they won't consider Bonds' home run chase during the series.
"I'm not concerned about Barry Bonds' home run chase," Houston catcher Brad Ausmus said. "If he breaks the record that's great.
"But we have to be concerned with getting to the playoffs. He's a home run threat when he steps in the box and if we have to pitch around him we're going to pitch around him.
"We have to win the ball game. If we don't have to pitch around him, then we're going to go after him and if he hits a home run, that's the chance we're going to take."
The Astros will try to stall Bonds with Dave Mlicki tonight, followed by Shane Reynolds and Wade Miller to complete the three-game series.
Bonds has been successful against all three, although Miller has faced him for just five at-bats. Bonds is 1-for-4 against Miller, but that hit was a solo homer.
Against Mlicki, Bonds is 10-for-21 with two homers and three RBI. Reynolds has allowed two homers and two RBI to Bonds, who has eight hits in 34 at-bats against Reynolds.
"Obviously he's a dangerous hitter, but I'm not about to change anything I'm doing," Miller said. "You've got to stay aggressive and go after him. You don't want to put the runner on.
"That can lead to problems. We'll be careful with him, but we're going to try to get him out."
Pitching to Bonds can lead to problems, too. Bonds' 458-footer was off Miller.


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