Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Welcome To Texas *

New York Times - Russ Springer's first pitch would have hit Barry Bonds in the buttocks if Bonds had not dodged it. The next pitch was headed for Bonds's ankles. The third one was so far inside that it caromed off the knob of Bonds's bat. The fourth pitch was inside, too. Springer's fifth and final pitch bounced off Bonds's right shoulder.

In a brief, testy and telling at-bat in the fifth inning Tuesday night, Springer kept coming closer and closer to plunking Bonds, and he finally did. Springer, who had been warned, and Astros Manager Phil Garner were immediately ejected. Bonds did not say anything to Springer and seemed a little confused and a lot agitated.

When Springer walked off the mound, he received a standing ovation from the fans at Minute Maid Park. The San Francisco Giants were leading the Astros by eight runs at the time, so seeing Bonds — the player the crowd of 35,286 came to hate — being drilled with a fastball was enjoyable to them. The Giants eventually won, 14-3, but the Bonds-Springer confrontation dominated the postgame discussions.

Springer was on a mission to pitch inside to Bonds and make him uncomfortable. The longer the at-bat lasted, the more tense it became.

After Bonds dug into the batter's box, Springer instantly made him move by curling a slider that would have hit his pants pocket. It soared behind Bonds only because he was agile in avoiding it. Bonds picked up the ball and studied it, like someone studying a rock that broke his car windshield. Umpire Joe West stepped in front of the plate and warned Springer about throwing inside.

The warning did not faze Springer or alter his strategy. He threw a low slider, then another fastball that was a strike only because it hit Bonds's bat, then another fastball. Finally, on a 3-1 pitch, Springer planted a 92-mile-an-hour fastball above the No. 5 on the back of Bonds's uniform.