Bonds, McGwire provide shots heard 'round Bay area

It had to be the most exciting 20 minutes of baseball in the San Francisco Bay area in several years. Two sites. Two of baseball's biggest stars. Two heart-stopping comebacks.

The Oakland Athletics and San Francisco Giants don't usually play at home at the same time, but they each opened a home series Friday night in dramatic fashion. Barry Bonds hit a sudden-death three-run homer to carry the Giants to a 7-6 victory over the San Diego Padres. Twenty minutes later and a few miles across the bay, Oakland first baseman Mark McGwire hit a game-ending grand slam off former Orioles closer Lee Smith to carry the A's to an 8-5 victory over the California Angels.


It doesn't get much better than that -- especially in Oakland, where McGwire has 22 homers and 55 RBIs to lead the league in both departments. Too bad there weren't many fans around to see one of his finest moments of 1995. Barely 12,000 fans showed up for the game, and who knows how few were left 3 1/2 hours later.

AL Central


Eddie Murray doesn't go in for dramatics. His 3,000th career hit was a scraper through the right side of the infield, meant to move Albert Belle from second base to third. Nothing spectacular, but that is the way Murray probably wanted it. His quiet and methodical approach to the game has taken him a long way, and he still has a way to go. . . . Condolences to the Kansas City Royals, who were in position at the start of the week to make a move on the runaway Cleveland Indians. They were 5 1/2 games out of first place in the AL Central going into a three-game series with Cleveland, so a sweep would have put them right in the hunt. Instead, the Indians got out the broom, and dropped the Royals 8 1/2 games out. It figured to be a wild-card summer in K.C., anyway.

AL East

Detroit Tigers manager Sparky Anderson insists that the New fTC York Yankees still are the team to beat in the AL East, but his Tigers refuse to take their rightful place at the bottom of the standings. They dropped two of three to the Yankees early last week, but were still feisty enough to irritate the first-place Boston Red Sox over the weekend. Pitcher Mike Gardiner sparked a near-brawl when he knocked down Jose Canseco with a high fastball in the Tigers' 6-5 victory on Friday night and Detroit scored a lopsided 11-2 victory Saturday to draw within four games of first place. . . . Most telling -- and surprising -- stat of the week: The Toronto Blue Jays now own theworst road record in baseball (7-19). Hard to believe with that lineup. . . . Just when it looked as if the Yankees were about to make a move, right-hander Melido Perez left Friday's game with a stiff shoulder. That's three front-line starters on the sidelines and one more reason not to believe anything Anderson says about the division race.

NL West

Fernandomania may have been more dramatic, but Nomomania may ultimately be more statistically impressive. Fernando Valenzuela won his first eight decisions to capture the imagination of the baseball world in 1981 and went on to win both Rookie of the Year and Cy Young honors. But his performance flattened out in the second half of the split season. New Dodgers sensation Hideo Nomo waited several starts to record his first decision, but improved his record to 6-1 with a 13-strikeout performance last week. "The Tokyo Tornado" -- who leads the NL with 109 strikeouts -- made the All-Star team, but he'll have to go a lot farther than that to match Valenzuela, who led the Dodgers to a world championship in his rookie season. . . . It is a testament to NL West parity that the Giants could go into a 1-7 nose dive and hardly affect the tight division race. They snapped out of it over the weekend to keep all four teams within two games of each other.

NL Central

New St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Jorgenson must be wondering what he got himself into. The last-place Cards had scored six runs over a span of 43 innings before a three-run rally in the sixth inning Thursday helped them end a five-game losing streak with a 6-4 victory over the Chicago Cubs. . . . The Houston Astros finally are getting into the swing of things, scoring 65 runs over a six-game span last week. Manager Terry Collins gives a lot of credit for the offensive explosion to leadoff man Brian Hunter, who before going 0-for-4 yesterday was on a .465 tear. The Astros went 6-1 for the week, but could not make up any serious ground on first-place Cincinnati.

NL East


It was not a great week for the Philadelphia Phillies, who couldn't have faced any tougher competition than they encountered in back-to-back series with the Reds and Atlanta Braves. They came away with just one victory in six games, but were buoyed by a couple of promising performances by center fielder Lenny Dykstra. . . . The Montreal Expos are floundering, but don't blame former Oriole David Segui, who is batting .342. . . . The Mets' three-game win streak was their longest of the season.