Sunday, May 2, 2004

Giant guy, slumping team

Despite Bonds' numbers, San Francisco has stumbled out of gate

Barry Bonds might flirt with .400 this season - he was hitting .490 through his first 22 games - but the man can do only so much.

Even before Friday's game against the Marlins, the Giants had assured themselves of their first losing month since going 14-15 in May 2001. The 17-month span was the longest active streak in the majors.

The Reds open a three-game series against the Giants on Friday at Great American Ball Park.

"If we continue to play the way we've been playing, it's not going to be a very fun season," San Francisco first baseman J.T. Snow said. "We just need to do better in all aspects of the game."

Entering Friday, when the Giants were five games under .500 and last in the National League West, the pitching staff ranked 15th in team ERA (5.44) and 16th in hits allowed (246) among NL teams.

The offense has been just as sickly.

San Francisco ranked 14th in the NL in team batting average (.249), 13th in homers (19) and 12th in runs scored (90) through Thursday.

What happened to the club that batted .264 and scored 755 runs in 161 games and won the NL West last season?

Free agency.

Gone from last year's starting eight are catcher Benito Santiago (Royals), shortstop Rich Aurilia (Mariners) and outfielder Jose Cruz Jr. (Devil Rays).

They represent a loss of 395 games, 387 hits, 208 runs and 182 RBI.

"In 2000, we lost the first six games at Pac Bell and were swept by the Dodgers and Diamondbacks and were reeling a little bit," Snow said. "But we stayed after it and kept playing.

"I don't think it's for lack of effort this year. I think the effort is there. We just haven't executed. I think we're better than we've showed."

LONG GONE: Two days before a shoulder injury landed him on the 15-day disabled list for the first time in his career, Diamondbacks first baseman Richie Sexson unleashed a tape-measure home run Monday at Bank One Ballpark.

Sexson's homer off Chicago's Francis Beltran traveled 503 feet and left the video scoreboard in center field in need of repair.

"I had to straighten my back, it hurt so much watching Richie hit that ball," Diamondbacks pitcher Randy Johnson said.

The home run was Sexson's ninth of the season and 200th of his career.

But Arizona could be without its cleanup hitter for up to six weeks because of the right shoulder injury - a bruised humeral head and a small tear in his labrum - suffered while swinging Wednesday.

Sexson was the only major-league player to play every inning of every game last season.

WORLD CUP: The creation of a baseball World Cup next spring is still in the works.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia said he would not be opposed to letting his players participate during spring training.

"Any time guys play outside, you're concerned about the risk of injury," he said. "But a World Cup, especially if you get enough participation where you would have dream teams for each country, would be real special for baseball."

SWEET DEAL: Krispy Kreme stores in South Florida were busier than usual last weekend thanks to the Marlins.

All 41,226 fans who attended Florida's 13-hit win against the Braves on April 24 were entitled to a dozen free doughnuts from Krispy Kreme as part of a season-long "Baker's Dozen" promotion if the Marlins get 12 hits or more in a game.

"Call in for the doughboy. He'll be baking doughnuts all week," Marlins manager Jack McKeon quipped. "The doughboy will be calling in for relief."

Information submitted by other baseball writers was used in this report.

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