ATLANTA (AP) -- Barry Bonds didn't hit career home run No. 601,
but the two that Jeff Kent hit did the trick.
Kent homered twice, doubled and drove in four runs, backing the
solid pitching of Russ Ortiz as the San Francisco Giants beat Greg
Maddux and the Atlanta Braves 7-2 on Tuesday night. Benito Santiago added a two-run homer for the Giants, who moved
into first in the NL wild card race with their seventh victory in
nine games. They're a half-game ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers,
who lost 4-3 to Montreal. "We needed that,'' San Francisco manager Dusty Baker said.
"Our bats came alive.'' Atlanta still has the best record in the majors at 77-41,
despite its third loss in six games. Bonds went 1-for-3 with two walks and a ninth-inning single. He
has eight lifetime homers off Maddux, tied for the most he's hit
off any pitcher. Bonds declined to speak with reporters after the
game, waving them off as he headed out of the clubhouse. Career home run leader Hank Aaron, a Braves' executive, wasn't
at the game. After Kent doubled in the first, the Braves intentionally walked
Bonds, drawing a loud chorus of boos from the Turner Field crowd.
The strategy paid off when Reggie Sanders struck out. Ortiz (8-8) pitched seven innings of five-hit ball, allowing a
solo homer to Julio Franco in the third and a run-scoring single by
Keith Lockhart in the seventh. He struck out three and walked two. "For a pitcher, when you can minimize your mistakes, you can
have a chance at winning a lot of ballgames,'' Ortiz said. "I made
a couple of mistakes that could have turned out worse, but I got
away with them.'' The Giants won the first game of a seven-game road trip and
improved to 17-14 since the All-Star break. In the past two years,
they were a combined 95-56 after the break, the NL's best mark over
that period. "This was step one,'' Baker said. "It's a rough road trip. We
have to take advantage of every situation we can get.'' Kent hit a three-run homer in the third, part of a four-run
inning off Maddux (11-4) during which San Francisco sent nine
batters to the plate. "Every time I hit against him I get nervous,'' Kent said of
Maddux. "He's not looking at the catcher, he's looking at you. He
watches the batter and watches their approach. "When you start worrying about what he's thinking, you're dead
meat.'' In the seventh, Kent led off with a solo shot against reliever
John Foster. It was the 14th multihomer game of his career, and the
second this season. Santiago's homer later in the seventh, also off Foster, made the
score 7-1. Maddux lost for only the second time in 20 starts, giving up
four runs -- three earned -- on eight hits in six innings. He threw a
season-high 102 pitches. "I felt good tonight, but I didn't pitch good,'' Maddux said.
"It's probably the best I've felt all year. I didn't locate well.
It was mechanical, not physical.''
Kent also hit two home runs April 15 against the San Diego
Padres. ... Former Braves owner Ted Turner, now a member of the
board of directors which runs the club, sat in his familiar front
row seat near the Atlanta dugout. Later in the game, former
President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, occupied the seats.
... Kent raised his home run total as a member of the Giants to
164, moving him into eighth place on the all-time San Francisco
list. ... Atlanta C Steve Torrealba made his first career start.
... Despite Bonds' first appearance in Atlanta this season, the
announced crowd of 39,794 wasn't a sellout. ... Bonds also has
eight career homers off Atlanta's John Smoltz and Cleveland's Terry