|Friday, October 5
Park's season ends with disastrous start
By Alan Schwarz
Special to ESPN.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- They say no park can hold Barry Bonds. Well, no Park can, either.
Dodgers right-hander Chan Ho Park joined the ignominious ranks of Tracy Stallard, Al Downing and Steve Trachsel by coughing up Barry Bonds’ record-breaking 71st home run Friday night at Pac Bell Ballpark. By sending Park’s first-inning, 1-0 fastball 442 feet into the right-center field bleachers, Bonds also sent Park’s name straight into the record books.
Apparently not satisfied with such a flimsy tie to history, Park also served up Bonds’ 72nd homer in the third inning. Both were solo shots. Finally catching on, Park walked Bonds intentionally in the fourth.
“It was kind of fun pitching to him in this situation,” Park said. “I missed with the fastball in the first at-bat, and in the second one I tried a breaking ball. All I can do is throw strikes . . . I didn’t try to give up the home runs. He just hit the pitches.”
Added teammate Paul LoDuca, “I give Chan Ho a lot of credit. He went right after him. If he hits it, he hits it.”
Park, 28, was a good candidate to give up No. 71. In the last three seasons, Bonds had already gone 5-for-20 with three longballs against him. And the Dodgers were clearly taking a different approach to Bonds than did the Astros, who walked him eight times during their just-completed series.
“We said we were gonna play this game to win,” Los Angeles manager Jim Tracy said. “We gave up two home runs to him, but the first was when we’re up 5-0 with two out and no one on, and the second was when we’re up 8-4 and he’s leading off. We’re pitching to him.
“If (Bonds) had been pitched to all year long, who’s to say he wouldn’t have hit 100 home runs? The guy is that good.”
Park suffered a muscle spasm in his left buttock while warming up before the bottom of the first inning, which he began with a 5-0 lead. He bent over several times to stretch it out and made a half-dozen extra warmup tosses.
Whatever pain he was feeling was immediately heightened by the beating he took from Bonds, plus a three-run second inning in between and another three-spot in the fourth. His final line read 4 innings, 7 hits, 8 runs (7 earned), 3 walks and 2 strikeouts. Just 48 of his 82 pitches were strikes.
“(The pain) was bad, but I didn’t want to leave because we got many scores in the first inning,” said Park, adding that the spasms weren’t responsible for his poor outing. “I didn’t have a good fastball . . . It was just a bad day.”
Park became a notable major leaguer the minute he stepped on a big league diamond in 1994. An early member of the Asian influx, he was the first Korean-born player to appear in the majors, and was the 18th player since the amateur draft began in 1965 to make his pro debut in a major league uniform.
Five years later, he entered the record books by allowing two grand slams in one inning to the Cardinals’ Fernando Tatis. And this July he served up Cal Ripken's home run at the All-Star Game in Seattle -- on the first he ever threw as an All-Star.
Record-breaking home run or not, Park will probably be the most sought-after pitcher in the upcoming free-agent market -- assuming there’s a market at all with the ever-volatile labor situation and the slumping economy. Entering Friday’s start, he had a 15-11 record with a 3.29 ERA that ranked eighth in the National League. Though Park’s home-road breakdowns suggest he’s a huge beneficiary of Dodger Stadium’s large dimensions, his pure stuff is regarded as among the best in the game -- he was third in the NL by allowing batters just a .213 batting average.
Then again, he has shaky control. Park also inspires some questions about his mental toughness; his responding by doing everything he could to blow the Dodgers’ early lead Friday night didn’t help those matters. He has never been on the disabled list.
In an interesting twist, Park is represented by the same agent as Bonds, Scott Boras, and both will be free agents this offseason.
Asked if he was thinking about how this could have been his last start in a Los Angeles uniform, Park said, “No comment.”
Alan Schwarz is the Senior Writer for Baseball America and a regular contributor to ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine.