Bonds hits No. 600, labor agreement reached
This was baseball's most historic month of the year, with the possible exception of October. San Francisco's Barry Bonds hit his 600th career home run on Aug. 9, a distinction shared by just three other players.
Then, beating a player-imposed strike deadline by scant minutes, an extension to the Basic Agreement was announced on Aug. 30, averting a walkout by players and ensuring labor peace for the next four years.
Though baseball's percentages usually favor the pitcher, a hitter emerged triumphant in a classic confrontation at Montreal. In this case, the hitter was Vladimir Guerrero, whose ninth-inning home run off Arizona's Curt Schilling gave the Expos a 2-1 triumph.
First baseman Carlos Pena, who began the season with the Oakland A's, tormented his former teammates in Detroit's 3-1 victory. Pena, sent to Detroit in a three-way trade that included the Yankees on July 5, homered, went 2-for-3 and scored twice.
Alex Rodriguez continued his seemingly endless ascent toward legendary status during Texas' 8-6 victory over Boston. He hit his Major League-leading 37th home run of the season and the 278th of his career, moving him past Hall of Famer Ernie Banks for second-most career homers by a shortstop. Cal Ripken's 345 homers at shortstop are the most in history.
The Cincinnati Reds knew what they were getting when they acquired Russell Branyan from Cleveland in June -- a strikeout-prone hitter, but one with tantalizing power. Branyan was every bit a slugger on this afternoon in San Diego, belting three home runs in Cincinnati's 15-10 victory.
Ignoring rumors that he could be traded if he cleared waivers, Steve Parris won his fifth consecutive decision, working a season-high eight innings and allowing just six hits in Toronto's 7-1 victory over Baltimore.
The stage was set in Houston for a glorious homecoming. Josh Beckett, a native of nearby Spring, Texas, was starting for the Florida Marlins with 136 friends and relatives in the stands. But Houston's Lance Berkman, who happens to be a buddy of Beckett's, crashed the party by hitting a two-run double for the game's only runs.
It should have been Chris Woodward's night. The Toronto Blue Jays shortstop clobbered three home runs, including a ninth-inning shot off Seattle relief ace Kazuhiro Sasaki that forced extra innings. But Dan Wilson's homer in the 10th won the game for the Mariners, 5-4.
Atlanta's John Smoltz accented his seamless transition from starting to relieving by collecting his franchise-record 40th save in Atlanta's 4-1 victory over Arizona. Smoltz set another record by reaching 40 saves faster than any reliever in history. He did so in 114 games, eclipsing Lee Smith's mark of 117 games in 1993 with St. Louis.
Call it Mt. Crushmore -- the exclusive pantheon of sluggers with 600 or more home runs. Henry Aaron. Babe Ruth. Willie Mays. And now, Barry Bonds. The San Francisco Giants star joined this exclusive group with a sixth-inning homer against his former team, a 421-foot shot off Pittsburgh right-hander Kip Wells. Despite Bonds' milestone, the Pirates won, 4-3.
As if inspired by Bonds' accomplishment, Sammy Sosa staged a remarkable power display of his own. The Chicago Cubs slugger bashed three home runs in a 15-1 victory over Colorado. Sosa became the fifth player in history and the first since 1995 to homer in three consecutive innings.
While Pedro Martinez is Boston's most spectacular pitcher and reliever-turned-starter Derek Lowe is the Red Sox's most surprising hurler, knuckleballer Tim Wakefield might be the staff's most dependable performer. Wakefield, who has filled every conceivable role during his Boston tenure, posted his 100th career victory -- 86 with the Red Sox -- by working eight innings in a 3-1 win over Minnesota.
This was another fruitless season for the Pittsburgh Pirates and another productive one for Brian Giles. His seventh-inning homer off St. Louis reliever Steve Kline was his 30th of the season, marking the fourth consecutive year he had hit at least that many. He joined Hall of Famers Willie Stargell and Ralph Kiner as the only Pirates to achieve this feat.
Oakland's 5-4 victory over Toronto was the snowflake that started the avalanche. The A's kept winning, and winning, and ... well, they didn't stop winning until Sept. 6. By then, their streak of consecutive victories had reached 20 games, an American League record and the longest in the Majors since the Chicago Cubs won 21 in a row in 1935. The 1916 New York Giants set the big-league mark of 26 straight wins.
Another impressive streak begins. This one was launched in Kansas City, where Bernie Williams stroked a 14th-inning single to lift the New York Yankees over the Royals, 3-2. That was the first of 11 consecutive hits for Williams, whose streak finally ended on Aug. 17. He fell one hit short of tying the Major League record shared by Pinky Higgins of the Red Sox (1938) and Walt Dropo of the Tigers (1952).
In a preview of their competitive Division Series, San Francisco and Atlanta played to a 3-3 tie. The Giants were one strike away from sealing a 3-1 victory when the Braves rallied against San Francisco relief ace Robb Nen and pulled even on Chipper Jones' two-run single. Then came a two-hour, 33-minute rain delay. Umpires finally suspended the game at 1:37 a.m.
Yes, Pedro Martinez is human. The Minnesota Twins ended the Boston ace's nine-game winning streak with a 5-0 victory, broke his 35-inning scoreless streak in the process and snapped his 15-game winning streak against American League teams.
After belting a game-winning home run against the Toronto Blue Jays one night earlier, Alex Rodriguez wasn't through. The Texas Rangers shortstop cracked three home runs in a victory over Toronto. His first homer gave Texas a 2-0 first-inning lead, his second broke a tie and his third extended the Rangers' slender one-run edge.
Not every day was dreary for the Detroit Tigers this season. It just seemed that way. This was one of the better ones, as the Tigers pounded out 18 hits in a 7-4 victory over Baltimore for their fourth win in six games against the Orioles.
This was Magic Monday. Bartolo Colon pitched Montreal's first shutout of the year, stifling San Diego, 4-0, in a game that lasted just one hour, 55 minutes. Atlanta scored three eighth-inning runs before receiving ninth-inning homers from Gary Sheffield and Chipper Jones to beat Colorado, 7-6. And St. Louis' resurgent Andy Benes won his third straight decision by pitching seven shutout innings in a 7-2 victory over Pittsburgh. It marked the seventh straight start since Benes left the disabled list July 16 in which he allowed two runs or fewer.
Raul Ibañez maintained his knack for getting key hits, lashing a three-run homer in the 12th inning to help the Kansas City Royals outlast Toronto, 6-5. Just four nights earlier, Ibañez socked a game-winning, two-run homer against Tampa Bay. Another slugger, Pat Burrell, became only the 17th Philadelphia Phillie to reach the 30-homer plateau with a solo shot against Milwaukee.
Rodrigo Lopez strengthened his bid for the American League's Rookie of the Year award. The right-hander allowed one run and five hits in eight innings for his 14th victory as the Baltimore Orioles rallied to a 2-1 win over Tampa Bay.
Trailing Pittsburgh 4-2 in the ninth inning and facing Pirates relief ace Mike Williams, the St. Louis Cardinals showed the mettle that would make them National League Central Division champions. They rallied for three runs, tallying the final two on Fernando Vina's double that sealed a 5-4 triumph.
Josh Bard made his Major League debut a smashing success. He drove in three runs, capping his big night with a two-run, ninth-inning homer off James Baldwin to break a 2-2 tie and give the Cleveland Indians a 4-2 victory over the Seattle Mariners.
Thumping 14 hits for the third game in a row, the Oakland A's extended their winning streak to 11 games with a 12-3 shellacking of the Detroit Tigers. Another streak ended as the New York Mets, losers of 12 straight games, finally saw daylight. Timo Perez's two-run homer sparked a four-run, ninth-inning rally that propelled the Amazin's past Colorado, 5-2.
Randy Johnson did it all for the Arizona Diamondbacks against the Chicago Cubs. He fired a complete-game six-hitter, struck out 16 batters and grounded a two-run single in a 7-0 victory.
Though 2002 would go down in the books as yet another frustrating Red Sox season, there was bliss in Boston on this night. Manny Ramirez went 5-for-5, Rey Sanchez's two-run double keyed a four-run, ninth-inning rally and Johnny Damon delivered a 10th-inning leadoff homer to down Anaheim, 10-9.
Pitching into the seventh inning, Joe Roa won his third straight start as the Philadelphia Phillies reached the .500 mark (65-65) for the first time since April with a 4-2 victory over Montreal. It was Philadelphia's seventh consecutive victory.
This was a day of beginnings and endings. Jon Garland of the Chicago White Sox, 22 years young, tossed his first career complete game and shutout in a six-hit, 8-0 victory over Toronto. Also, Cleveland third baseman Travis Fryman announced that he would retire at the end of the season, halting an impressive 13-year career.
Now this was a balanced attack. Mark Bellhorn became only the second Major League player and first National Leaguer to homer from both sides of the plate in one inning, leading the Chicago Cubs to a 13-10 victory over Milwaukee. Batting right-handed, Bellhorn hit a two-run homer off lefty Andrew Lorraine in the fourth inning. In his second at-bat of the inning against right-hander Jose Cabrera, he a three-run shot from the left side of the plate. The only other Major Leaguer to homer from both sides in one inning was Carlos Baerga, who did so April 8, 1993, for Cleveland in the seventh inning against the Yankees.
Peace on turf! After rigorous negotiations, Major League owners and players agreed on a four-year extension to the Basic Agreement that forestalled a work stoppage. The deal had something for both sides. Owners gained increased revenue sharing and a "competitive balance tax" on payrolls while convincing players to undergo steroid testing. Players, who were satisfied with many terms of the previous agreement, coaxed owners to accept the same salary arbitration and free agency system.
In a preview of the surge that carried them to the National League pennant, the San Francisco Giants won their second game in a row against the defending world champion Arizona Diamondbacks, 5-0. The Giants achieved a rarity by besting Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson, whom they victimized one day earlier, in back-to-back games.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.