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Giants beat Padres in 11 innings, gain ground in race

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Barry Bonds' latest surge might wind up
being his ticket to another season in San Francisco. He is
certainly making a case for the Giants to keep him around in 2007.

Bonds hit his 731st career home run, Mark Sweeney drove in Ray
Durham with a fielder's choice in the 11th inning and the Giants
gained another game on San Diego in the NL wild-card race with a
5-4 victory over the Padres on Saturday.

Bonds pulled within 24 of tying home run king Hank Aaron's
record 755 with a two-run shot over the wall in right-center off
San Diego's David Wells with two outs in the first inning. Bonds'
23rd homer this season and sixth in nine games traveled an
estimated 430 feet, giving the Giants a 2-0 lead.

"I'm swinging the bat good," Bonds said. "I'm doing better.
My leg's doing better. Things are getting better."

Jason Schmidt struck out 10 and Moises Alou and Todd Greene each
hit RBI singles in the fourth for the Giants, who trail the Padres
by 1½ games for the wild card. San Francisco won for the sixth time
in seven games, getting two innings from winner Mike Stanton (6-6).

With Philadelphia's loss to Florida, the Giants moved into a tie
for second place with the Phillies in the wild card chase.

Rudy Seanez (1-1) retired Bonds on a flyout leading off the 11th
before Durham tripled. Alou and Pedro Feliz were both intentionally
walked to load the bases for Sweeney, who hit a grounder into the
hole. Second baseman Josh Barfield collected the ball and threw
home, but wasn't in time to get a sliding Durham.

"I hit it just soft enough to let him get in," Sweeney said.
"We starve for those situations. It was pretty special to me to
contribute."

Brian Giles tied the game with a solo homer leading off the
eighth. The Padres failed to gain a game on the first-place Dodgers
in the NL West after Los Angeles lost 3-2 to the Mets in New York.

Giants manager Felipe Alou could sense his team believed it
would win, even after Giles' 13th homer.

"That's the last thing you want to lose is hope," said
shortstop Omar Vizquel, who made a fabulous backhanded stop on a
hard liner by Terrmel Sledge in the top of the 11th to start a
double play.

Sledge hit a two-run homer in the seventh and Todd Walker hit a
sixth-inning RBI single for San Diego, which had its five-game
winning streak snapped in Friday night's 4-0 loss and is 0-2 so far
on its 10-game road trip.

Bonds hit his third career homer off Wells, and the Padres have
allowed 85 of Bonds' homers -- his most against any team. He also
singled in the fourth and finished 2-for-5.

The main center-field scoreboard flashed "731" and Bonds
received a warm ovation while rounding the bases. He tipped his hat
toward the fans in the left-field seats when he came out for
defense in the top of the second.

"We make it exciting, that's for sure," Bonds said. "We're a
team of excitement at the end."

The 42-year-old Bonds, in the final season of a five-year, $90
million contract with the Giants, hit his first homer in San
Francisco's waterfront ballpark since Aug. 21 against Arizona. He
made a nice running catch on Dave Roberts' liner in the third and
nearly threw out Barfield at second on the play.

The Giants' top brass had a good view of it all, too: Owner
Peter Magowan and executive vice president Larry Baer sat side by
side in their front-row seats near their club's dugout.

The Giants and Bonds appeared prepared to part ways -- with the
club's star slugger perhaps leaving for the American League to be a
designated hitter -- after the 2006 season, though that now seems
less likely considering Bonds' recent tear. The seven-time NL MVP
has repeatedly said he would prefer to retire as a Giant, his team
for the last 14 of his 21 major league seasons.

Bonds wouldn't say when he last had a stretch this strong. He
missed all but 14 games last season following three operations on
his right knee.

"I don't go back in time," Bonds said.

Schmidt, expected to pitch elsewhere next year, allowed a
leadoff single to Josh Bard in the second before striking out the
side. The All-Star right-hander, who matched a franchise record
with 16 Ks against Florida on June 6, allowed four runs and eight
hits with one walk in seven-plus innings.

Wells is winless in two starts with San Diego since being
acquired from the Boston Red Sox on Aug. 31. He allowed seven hits
and four runs in five innings, struck out two and didn't walk a
batter.

"The pitch to Bonds was right down the middle," Wells said.
"It was a belt-high fastball, the type of pitch everyone would
hit."

Game notes
Heading into the teams' final meeting of the year Sunday,
the Padres have lost six straight and 11 of 12 to the Giants and
trail the season series 12-6 after winning five of the first six
meetings. ... Former 49ers running back Roger Craig also had a
front-row seat for Bonds' latest clout. He greeted Bonds at the
left fielder's locker afterward.