September 29, 2002
SAN FRANCISCO -- While the rest of the 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 his excitement for a later date.
"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 a 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, Bonds and his teammates are headed to the postseason for the second time in Pacific Bell Park's three seasons. After an exciting monthlong playoff race, the Giants eliminated the 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 each, 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 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 in the fifth, his 46th this season and the 613th of his career, easily cleared the arcade atop the rightfield fence and landed among several kayakers and canoeists in McCovey Cove.
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.