SAN FRANCISCO -- Barry Bonds peeled off his elbow armor, trotted off the field for a pinch runner, and then something remarkable happened.

A sellout crowd of 42,366, many who came on a history quest to watch Bonds hit a home run, didn't make a bull rush for the exits.

The Giants played another fundamentally sound game and their fans mostly stayed to the end, finally cheering when Brad Hennessey closed out a 4-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Thursday.

There was no reason for fans to frame their ticket stubs. Bonds was 1-for-4, his only hit an end-of-the-bat flare that Braves center fielder Andruw Jones misplayed into a double in the seventh inning. Bonds left to a standing ovation despite remaining at 753 career home runs -- no closer to Hank Aaron's all-time standard of 755.

But then, the fans sat back down.

"They didn't leave, did they?" said outfielder Dave Roberts, who hit a tying two-run double in the fifth inning and scored the go-ahead run on Ray Durham's single.

Bonds won't be the Giants' drawing card forever. He might be down to his final two months. But there's one sure way to lessen losses at the gate.

"We played very good baseball against a quality opponent, and the fans recognized that," Roberts said. "It was good to see the fans stick around. Obviously, they want to see Barry do his thing, and nobody is more frustrated than us at how this year has gone. But when you see positives, you want to build on them.


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Tim Lincecum gave up just a two-run homer to Jeff Francoeur over six innings, and the Giants won their second consecutive game to split the four-game series.

The flashbulbs continue to pop each time Bonds swings the bat, but he hasn't given anyone a moment worth recording this homestand. He is in a 6-for-42 slump (.143 average) that would look even worse if not for his two-homer game at Wrigley Field on July 19.

"He wants to do it for the fans at home and he might be expanding the zone a little bit," first baseman Ryan Klesko said. "But give the Braves credit. They went after him."

Atlanta right-hander Buddy Carlyle threw Bonds several strikes, including two that could have had "hit me" signs attached to them. Bonds fouled back two fastballs in the fourth inning that appeared to be in his hitting zone.

He popped to third base, hit a foul pop to the catcher and flied out to medium left field before his double against Oscar Villareal.

Before the game, Bonds hinted that his problems were more mental than mechanical.

"I've just got to take myself back a little bit," Bonds said. "It's hard to explain what's going on inside."

Asked if he was breaking down his swing, Bonds said, "It's more complicated than that. There's too many things in my head. Not one thing, not one statement to make."

Bonds reiterated that he prefers to break the record at home.

"But it's not like I'm not going to try when we go on the road," he said.

Manager Bruce Bochy said pinch running for Bonds was an obvious decision, adding that he didn't want to squeeze his 43-year-old cleanup hitter in the hopes of another at-bat.

"He'll break the record," Bochy said. "That's not the concern now. Taking care of him, when I have a lead, I'll play him like I've played him all year. He's coming out."

Bochy also noticed that the stands remained well populated after Bonds retired to the dugout.

"You know what, it was nice to see," Bochy said. "I know a lot of them come to see Barry hit, but it was a good ballgame. We did a lot of good things to win a game."

Contact Andrew Baggarly at abaggarly@mercurynews.com.

GIANTS 4, BRAVES 2

  • TODAY: Marlins (Rick Vanden Hurk 3-2) at Giants (Barry Zito 7-10), 7:15 p.m. TV: FSNBA. Radio: 680-AM

    BARRY BONDS' DAY

  • 1-for-4, double