The title of Wedneday’s game in Houston could have been “Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Zito.”
Or is it “Dr. Zito and Mr. Hyde”?
That’s the problem. We just don’t know.
When you think Zito is going to get clobbered, he turns in a gem. When you think this is a game Zito can win, he gets lit up.
Take a look at the good and bad starts by Zito since June 20:
- 6/25 vs. Dodgers: 7 IP, 0 R, 3 BB, 4 K, win
- 6/30 vs. Reds: 6 IP, 1 R, 6 BB, 3 K, loss
- 7/17 at Braves: 7 IP, 0 R, 1 BB, 4 K, win
- 7/22 at Phillies: 7 IP, 3 R, 1 BB, 7 K, loss
- 8/7 at Cardinals: 6.2 IP, 2 R, 0 BB, 4 K, win
- 8/23 vs. Braves: 8 IP, 2 R, 3 BB, 5 K, win
- TOTAL: 41.2 IP, 4-2, 1.75 ERA
And the bad
- 7/6 at Pirates: 5 IP, 4 R, 3 BB, 3K, win
- 7/28 vs. Dodgers: 5 IP, 4 R, 1 BB, 4 K, loss
- 8/2 vs. Mets: 4.1 IP, 7 R, 3 BB, 1 K, loss
- 8/12 vs. Rockies: 5.1 IP, 4 R, 2 BB, 3 K
- 8/18 at Padres: 4 IP, 4 R, 2 BB, 1 K
- 8/29 at Astros: 2.1 IP, 3 R, 0 BB, 1 K
- TOTAL: 26 IP, 22 ER, 1-2, 7.62 ERA
Since August, it’s been even more puzzling. Zito has been able to shut down playoff-contending teams like the Cardinals and Braves. But he can’t contain losing teams like the Mets, Rockies, Padres and Astros.
Luckily for the Giants, they’ve been able to produce enough offensive to counter-act Zito’s last three poor performances and still win.
That’s what happen Wednesday, thanks to Pence and the pen.
Hunter Pence gave the Giants 4-0 lead in the first inning with his three-run home run. Then Zito slowly started to give it back.
The odd part of Zito’s start Wednesday is he didn’t walk anyone. But he did give up seven hits in 2 1/3 innings before getting the hook. He left with the Giants leading 4-3 and was lucky not to get tagged with two more runs thanks to George Kontos’ nice escape act with two on in the third.
Giants relievers Kontos, Guillermo Mota, Jose Mijares, Jeremy Affeldt, Santiago Casilla and Javier Lopez limited the Astros to one run on three hits in 5 2/3 innings to preserve the win.
Zito blamed his Wednesday struggles on pitch selection, saying he should have shook off Buster Posey when the catcher called for changeups.
“That’s my job to shake,” Zito said. “It’s nothing Posey is doing wrong. … Sometimes you’re just fixed up togo. You see a sign and go. But it’s one me to throw my pitch.”
At the start of the year, Hector Sanchez was Zito’s personal catcher. Sanchez was behind the plate in Zito’s first 18 starts of the year. But with the Giants needing to keep Posey’s bat in the lineup after Melky Cabrera’s suspension, Posey has caught four of Zito’s last five starts.
So what’s next for Zito. Who knows? His next start comes Monday at home against the Diamondbacks. Then if the rotation stays in turn, it will be vs. the Dodgers, at Diamondbacks, vs. the Rockies, vs. the Diamondbacks, at the Dodgers.
Barry Zito. What can you say about Barry Zito.
Well, he’s done what he needed to do this season.
He didn’t need to be the ace.
He didn’t need to be an All-Star.
He didn’t need to be the guy deserving $20 million a season.
He was going to get paid regardless.
What he needed to be is a serviceable end-of-the-rotation guy.
Zito is now 10-8 with a 4.31 ERA. Match that up with other No. 5 pitchers around the league, even No. 4 pitchers, and that’s right on line.
But here’s a stat that might surprise some.
Zito actually posted better ERAs in 2009, when he was 10-13, and 2010, when he was 9-14. ERAs those years 4.03 and 4.15.
The big difference this season it is that Zito has been hit-and-miss this season.
In Zito’s 10 wins this season, he has an ERA of 2.21.
In Zito’s eight losses this season, his ERA is 8.31.
Thursday was a good start as he took a shutout into the ninth inning. Manager Bruce Bochy sent him out in the ninth despite having thrown 108 pitches. Back-to-back hits to open the ninth led to Zito’s exit, and Zito finished with two runs allowed in eight-plus innings.
Here’s an interesting twist in the Zito story.
If Zito pitches 400 innings combined over the 2012 and 2013 seasons, an $18 million player option kicks in for 2014.
Some fans have expressed some concern that if Zito continues to pitch well, he might actually approach that 400 inning milestone.
Well, the numbers say otherwise.
Zito has pitched 146.1 innings this season in 25 starts, an average of 5.9 innings per start. He is slated to make seven more starts. If he pitches his average of six innings per start, that would push his 2012 season total to 188 innings.
That means he would have to pitch 212 innings in 2013 for that option to kick in. Zito has not pitched more than 199.1 innings during his stint with the Giants.
MONDAY BOX SCORE: St. Louis Cardinals 8, San Francisco Giants 2
There’s only one thing wrong with having Barry Zito follow Main Cain in the rotation.
When the Giants lose in a game started by Cain, they get Zito the next day.
Recently, that’s been happening more and more. It led to back-to-back losses to the Dodgers and then the Mets.
So optimism was not running high when the Giants took on the Cardinals Tuesday after Cain got knocked around by the Redbirds on Monday.
And then Zito did something he’s done a couple of times this season. He surprised us.
Just like he did in his first start of the season when he shut out the Rockies after a horrendous spring training.
Then came three consecutive losses to the Rangers, Astros and Angels in June, which was followed by seven shutout innings vs. the Dodgers.
He got whacked around pretty good by the Pirates in his final start before the All-Star Break. Then in his first post-break start, held the Braves scoreless for seven innings.
His most recent ugly streak included giving up 14 runs in 16.2 innings in his three most recent starts.
So what does he do Tuesday, limits the Cardinals to two runs — both on solo home runs by Allen Craig — on eight hits and NO WALKS over 6.2 innings.
He made Buster Posey’s three-run home run in the first inning stand up.
The victory was big because it allowed the Giants to lengthen their lead in the NL West over the Dodgers for the first time in a week. It’s the first time since before Zito’s ugly start agains the Dodgers on July 28 that the Giants’ lead was greater than one game.
It’s also a big win because it kept the hope of leaving St. Louis with at least a split of the four-game series more within reach. If the Giants do that, they will head home Friday guaranteed of remaining in first place.
It’s important to note because these games in St. Louis will be the Giants’ last road games against a non-divisional opponent with a winning record.
After this road trip, the Giants will have just 13 games against non-divisional foes — three at home vs. the Nationals, four at home vs. the Braves, three at Houston and three at Chicago.
Starting this weekend, the Dodgers embark on a 10-game road trip: three at Miami, four at Pittsburgh and three at Atlanta. And they still have three-game road series at Washington and Cincinnati later in September.
Oh, and the Cardinals travel to LA for a four-game set in mid-September to boot.
Starting Labor Day, the Giants will play entirely within the NL West.
Baseball is a funny game.
Fresh off a tough loss Sunday in Oakland — wasting an outstanding performacne from Matt Cain — the Giant fans entered Monday matchup with the Dodgers with low expectations with Barry Zito on the mound.
So what does Zito do? He shut out the Dodgers on three hits over seven innings of work, leading to an 8-0 victory that pulled the Giants within two game of first place.
Even Zito admitted that he wasn’t facing the same Dodgers lineup that led L.A. to a strong start. Yet, these are games the Giants need to win.
“They’re pretty banged up over there, and we’ve got to capitalize on that,” he said.
We mentioned last week that every time the Giants lose a game started by Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong, they need to win a game started by Zito and Tim Lincecum.
Giants fans are hoping more wins will come in Freak starts, but they are never sure about Zito.
But the Giants lost to the Angels when Vogelsong started Wednesday, then won a Lincecum start Friday in Oakland. They lost a Cain start Sunday, then won a Zito a start Tuesday.
Now Vogelsong returns to the mound to face off with Clayton Kershaw in what figures to be a low scoring game. The Giants beat Kershaw the last time they faced him in L.A. Let’s see if they can make it two in a row.
Barry Zito needs to work on his crouch again.
Last offseason, Zito worked again on his delivery, standing on the mound with a more pronounced crouch.
It made him look like a batting practice pitcher during spring training, and some began to wonder if the enigmatic lefty was done as a big-league pitcher.
But Zito stayed in Arizona to continue to work on some things when the rest of the team headed north.
Then he stunned everyone by throwing a four-hit shutout at Colorado to open the season.
That was the first of five quality starts in his first seven outings. In none of those seven starts did he allow more than three runs. He had a 2.53 ERA at that point in the season.
However since then, it’s been more of the Zito of old.
He gave up four runs in 5.1 innings against the A’s after the Giants had given him a big early lead. He got tagged for eight runs (four earned) in three innings against the Brewers. His ERA rose to 3.53.
Then he had back-to-back quality starts (7 IP, 2 ER vs. Arizona; 8.1 IP, 0 ER vs. Chicago) and his ERA went back to 2.98 and his record was 5-2. Numbers Tim Lincecum would trade a month’s worth of Double-Doubles for.
But in his last three starts, he’s allowed 17 earned runs in 14.1 innings.
At least in the past couple of starts you could pinpoint Zito’s problems to a few bad pitches or a bad inning.
There wasn’t much good to say about Tuesday’s start against the Angels.
The Angels had a 3-0 lead before Zito recorded his first out, which was mercifully (and somewhat inexplicably) given to him when the Angels decided to sacrifice with two on and no one out … after the first five Angels safely reached base.
Zito left the first giving up four runs and facing all nine Angels hitters.
The Angels tacked on another run in the second before Zito worked a scoreless third, allowing only an infield single.
But he was right back in trouble in the fourth, loading the bases with one out when he was pulled. All three runs came into score on a triple by Mark Trumbo that probably should have been caught by Angel Pagan, leading to only one run.
We’ve said it before. If the Giants win every game pitched by Ryan Vogelsong, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner and lose every start by Zito and Lincecum, they’re a .600 ball club. A .600 ball club goes 97-65 over a 162-game season.
But that’s a lot to ask. And it means that every time the Giants lose game started by Vogey, MadBum and Cainer, they need to win games started by Zeets and the Freak.
And the way Zito is going, that puts more pressure on Lincecum to get his act together.
As for Zito, his next start comes at home against the Dodgers, then at home against the Reds. So it doesn’t get much easier for the lefty.
Vogelsong takes the mound against Jared Weaver as the Giants wrap up their series with the Angels at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday. Weaver is making his first start since going on the DL with a strained back. He’ll be on a pitch limit of 80-90 pitches, so hopefully the Giants can at least make him work for his outs.
A rare thing happened Sunday at AT&T Park, something Giants fans haven’t seen in the past five-plus seasons.
Manager Bruce Bochy came out of the dugout to pull Barry Zito from the game after Zito walked a batter, and the crowd at AT&T booed.
OK, that’s not so rare. But try this on for size.
They booed Bruce Bochy.
Zito threw 8 1/3 scoreless innings Sunday. But after giving up a one-out walk to Darwin Barney, Zito was pulled despite throwing only 96 pitches.
“Your heart’s telling you ‘Hey, give him a shot” at the shutout, Bochy said. “But your brain’s telling you the right thing to do is go get him and bring in (Sergio) Romo.”
In other words, if the Giants were up 6-0, Bochy leaves Zito in the game. But with the tying run at the plate, calling on Romo was the right call.
Romo struck out Starling Castro and got Alfonso Soriano to hit a come-backer for the final outs.
So Zito’s chance for a second shutout this season went by the wayside. But thanks to Romo, he did get the victory to improve to 5-2.
And while he’s at it, Zito should also thank Soriano for the win. Thanks to the outfielder’s inept defense, the Giants were able to put two runs on the board.
The first defensive lapse by Soriano came in the fifth inning when the Giants were still searching for their first hit off Travis Wood.
Angel Pagan hit a deep liner to left that just about any other left fielder in the National League (yes, perhaps even Aubrey Huff) should have been able to catch. But Soriano didn’t read it right and his sore legs allowed the ball to sail over his head for a double, extending Pagan’s franchise-record home hitting streak to 27 games.
One out later, Joaquin Arias, who had been 3 for 17 with two outs and runners in scoring position, slapped a single to right. Cubs right fielder Reed Johnson threw home and the ball appeared to arrive just ahead of the sliding Pagan at home, but catcher Koyie Hill could not corral the throw, and Pagan scored the game’s first run.
It stayed 1-0 until the eighth when Gregor Blanco walked with one out. Blanco was running with the pitch when Melky Cabrera singled to left. Blanco motored to third, and when Soriano was slow getting to the ball and then threw it into second, Blanco raced all the home for a 2-0 lead.
It would surprise us to see Soriano sitting on the bench Monday afternoon.
But that should distract us much from the solid outing from Zito. The lefty lowered his ERA to 2.98 after giving up just four hits and two walks, while fanning five.
Zito’s outing shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, especially given the opponent.
One of Zito’s three victories in 2011 came against the Cubs on June 28, when Zito was making his first start in more than two months on the DL. On that day, he limited the Cubs to two runs on four hits in seven innings in a 6-3 Giants win in Wrigley Field.
In his next start Friday at AT&T, Zito will get the opportunity to do something he didn’t get the chance to do in 2010 — pitch against the Texas Rangers.
The Giants will try to go for the sweep and post their first four-game winning streak of the season when they send Ryan Vogelsong against Jeff Samardzija at 12:45 p.m. Monday.
Barry Bonds held court before Monday’s game against the Diamondbacks.
Barry Zito held court during the game.
The left-hander had one of his better starts of 2012, which is saying quite a bit.
Zito gave up two runs on seven hits and one walk in 7-plus innings. He was pulled after giving up a leadoff home run in the eighth on just his 93rd pitch of the game.
As Tim Lincecum continues to struggle, its refreshing to get quality starts out of Zito.
And if Lincecum can’t figure out his troubles, he could always ask Barry Bonds.
The former Giants slugger seemed to think he has an idea on how to fix the Freak.
Actually, Bonds thinks he has a lot to share with the younger Giants. And he indicated he’s has discussions with the Giants to do just that.
“I had a nice conversion with (Giants managing partner) Larry Baer,” Bonds said during a visit to AT&T on Monday. “The Giants have a lot of young players with a lot of ability. And hopefully I can get the opportunity to work with them.”
MoreSplashHits has always thought Bonds would be a good hitting instructor, sharing tips on pitch selection and hitting approach with Giants hitters.
But there’s been a fog over Bonds since he retired. First, it was the ongoing witch hunt by federal prosecutors that lingered on year after year.
That pursuit ended last year with a conviction for obstruction of justice, the least of the charges brought against him.
That conviction, which is currently on appeal, may be a stumbling block in Bonds pursuit to work for the Giants.
Even if the Giants agree to some arrangement for Bonds to be a roving instructor, commissioner Bud Selig, who has never had a soft spot in his heart for Bonds, could block on the basis of that conviction.
“I’m a convicted felon of obstruction of justice and that’s what I am,” Bonds admitted Monday. “I live with that. It will never go off your mind. You never forget those things. You move on (but) I’ll never forget.”
That being said, Bonds appeared in good spirits and good health. He’s dropped 20-25 pounds since his playing days as he spends his time running and cycling. And he cheered on the Giants as he hosted some inner-city youths who earned a day with Bonds by keeping up good grades.
As Barry said, the Giants have only lost once when he’s returned to AT&T as a spectator. His hot string continued Monday, which is reason enough to keep Barry coming back to the yard.