Bonds plops HR No. 46 into McCovey Cove

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- While the rest of the San Francisco Giants
drenched each other with bubbly, beer and water, Barry Bonds stood
quietly in a corner with a towel wrapped around his neck.

Though Bonds hit the splash homer that propelled the Giants into
the playoffs with a 5-2 win over Houston on Saturday, the four-time
MVP and home run king is reserving all his excitement for a later

"I've been here, done it -- seven times,'' Bonds said. "I want
to win the World Series.''

But even Bonds, whose postseason struggles are the only baseball
hurdle he has yet to conquer, cracked a broad smile during a
champagne shower from Kenny Lofton as the Giants clinched the wild card with their seventh straight victory.

They formed a joyous huddle on the infield after Robb Nen struck
out Brian Hunter to end it -- and the party really got going in the
clubhouse, where they chased away a season's worth of tension with
an extremely damp celebration.

"We've got a lot of young kids in here, and a lot of guys that
have grinded it out for a long time,'' Jeff Kent said. "Guys are
excited and relieved. This has been a good push for us. It sets the
tempo for the playoffs, and we'll go in with some confidence.''

Though San Francisco lost the NL West title to Arizona with the
Diamondbacks' 17-8 win over Colorado, Bonds and his teammates are
headed to the postseason for the second time in Pacific Bell Park's
three seasons of existence. After an exciting monthlong playoff
race, the Giants (94-66) eliminated the Los Angeles Dodgers

"Los Angeles played great baseball, but we played better
baseball,'' Benito Santiago said.

Nothing was easy for the Giants this season, right up through
the clinching game: Houston and San Francisco set a major league
record for a nine-inning game by using eight pitchers apiece, but
Bonds' fifth-inning homer and pinch-hitter Tom Goodwin's two-run
double in the seventh got it done.

"I really believed we were going to win and make the
playoffs,'' said manager Dusty Baker, who overcame offseason
surgery for prostate cancer. "I told friends, relatives and other
people that I always thought we were going to be in the playoffs.''

A sellout crowd cheered San Francisco into a first-round meeting
with NL East champion Atlanta, starting Wednesday at Turner Field.
Russ Ortiz will start Game 1 for the Giants, but Baker hasn't
decided on the rest of his rotation.

Bonds' tiebreaking 438-foot homer off rookie left-hander Jeriome
Robertson (0-2) in the fifth -- his 46th this season and the 613th
of his career -- easily cleared the arcade atop the right-field
fence and landed among several kayakers and canoeists in McCovey

Bonds, who also drove in a run with a first-inning grounder, hit
20 of the 26 homers that have landed in the water since the park
opened. In five previous trips to the postseason and a one-game
playoff with the Cubs for a wild-card berth, however, Bonds hasn't
made the World Series.

Seven relievers pitched four scoreless innings to finish the
victory for Kirk Rueter (14-8). Nen got his 43rd save in 51

Jeff Bagwell and rookie Jason Lane homered for the Astros, who
had to watch an opponent celebrate a playoff berth for the second
time this season, following St. Louis' clinching party last week.
Struggling rookie starter Kirk Saarloos lasted just 2 1/3 innings,
walking four.

"They impress me. They find ways to win and don't beat
themselves,'' Bagwell said of the Giants. "They have one of the
best closers in the game, and they definitely have the best player.
The Giants have been through a lot of tough games down the stretch,
so that will better prepare them to handle it.''

The Giants went up 2-0 in the third when Kent led off with a
triple. Bonds and J.T. Snow were walked by Saarloos, and reliever
Brandon Puffer hit Reggie Sanders with his first pitch, sending
Kent home.

But San Francisco stranded six runners in the first three
innings, and the Astros tied it in the fourth on homers by Bagwell
-- the 31st in his least productive season since 1995 -- and Lane, a
San Francisco Bay area native playing in front of his home fans for
the first time.

The Giants' relievers navigated the Astros' dangerous lineup,
with Scott Eyre getting Orlando Merced to fly out with the bases
loaded in the eighth.

Goodwin doubled up the middle against Flash Gordon in the
seventh, scoring Santiago and J.T. Snow with insurance runs.

Game notes
The previous mark for pitchers in a nine-inning game was
15, set by Detroit and Minnesota on Oct. 1, 2000... Bonds also
walked in the third and eighth innings to extend his NL record of
18 straight games with a walk; he has 198 walks this season,
already a major league record. ... Gordon struck out Bonds looking
in the seventh. Bonds has struck out just 47 times all season. ...
Rueter pitched more than 200 innings this season for the first time
in his career.