So far this season, part of the Giants pitching has been backwards.
Barry Zito has pitched like Tim Lincecum, and Tim Lincecum has pitched like Barry Zito.
However, on Wednesday in Milwaukee, the Zito of old returned.
Zito got tagged for eight runs in the first two innings by the Brewers, although only four of them were earned.
While defensive issues did not help, Zito certainly put tons of kindling on the pile before it exploded on him.
He walked Corey Hart to open the game, then committed an error when Norichika Aoki attempted to bunt Hart to second. Then he walked Ryan Braun to load the bases. Aramis Ramirez then spanked the first pitch he saw from Zito into left center for a three-run double.
A hot shot off the bat on Jonathan Lucroy bounced off Brandon Crawford for another error on the Giants shortstop, although Crawford claimed the shadows caused by how the roof at Miller Park was left opened caused him to not see the ball properly (a legitimate claim).
After another walk to Rickie Weeks, Zito got the first out of the inning on a strikeout of Carlos Gomez. But a groundout by Cesar Izturis plated another run. Then pitcher Marco Estrada doubled home two more runs on a ball that should have been caught by third baseman Joaquin Arias, but that Arias said he never saw (again, the shadows).
The Giants were hurt in the first inning by the shadows. The rest of the game they were hurt by the shadowy figures in blue — the umpires.
In the second, the Brewers made it 8-0 on a two-run homer by Lucroy. But that blast was preceded by an infield single by Aoki in which replays indicated that Zito beat Aoki to the bag while covering first, yet Aoki was called safe. If the umpire Eric Cooper gets the call right, Lucroy does not bat in the inning.
Cooper later hurt the Giants again when replays show that Brandon Belt beat the pitcher covering on an infield grounder, yet Cooper called him out.
Even so, the Giants kept the game entertaining because the bullpen trio of Shane Loux, Steve Edlefsen and Clay Hensley pitched five shutout innings of relief. The Giants bullpen was outstanding in the series in Milwaukee.
The Giants got closer in the third on a three-run double by Hector Sanchez (which was aided by the way by another blown call by the umps). On a side note: commissioner Bud Selig again reiterated that he has no plans of expanding instant replay. Hey Bud! Maybe you should spend more time in your home park.
They got two more in the fourth on an RBI single by Brandon Crawford and RBI double by Melky Cabrera.
But that’s where the scoring stopped, hindered by a season-high 15 strikeouts by the Giants. Seven of those strikeouts were called strike threes, as home plate umpire Jeff Kellogg was calling strikes on pitches so low they would have been too low if thrown to Eddie Gaedel.
Of course, all of these issues would have been minimized if Zito hadn’t started that fire in the first inning.
So if Zito is going to pitch like Zito, is it too much to ask for Lincecum to pitch like Lincecum?
The Giants open a four-game set in Miami on Thursday with Ryan Vogelsong facing Anibal Sanchez at 4 p.m. Thursday.
The box score will say Barry Zito had a quality start with three earned runs in 6 innings pitch.
But anyone who watched the Giants’ loss to the Dodgers know Zito deserved better.
Granted, Zito did spend some time dodging bullets in the early innings. But as he’s managed to do well this season, he was working his way out of trouble, instead of into big innings.
But Zito needed some help from his defense Tuesday, and did not get it.
In the third inning, Mark Ellis hit a one-out double to left. Zito walked Matt Kemp intentionally, and then Andre Ethier unintentionally (after starting him off 0-2 in typical Zito fashion).
But Zito looked like he’d get out of the inning when Juan Rivera hit a grounder right at Ryan Theriot. But instead of turning an inning-ending double play, Theriot bobbled the ball, and only got the out at first, allowing Ellis to score the game’s first run.
After the Giants tied the game in the top of the sixth, the defense helped give the lead back.
With one out, Bobby Abreu hit a slow chopper to third. A good third baseman like Pablo Sandoval makes the play and throws Abreu out. A weak-throwing third baseman like Conor Gillaspie does not. Abreu gets an infield hit.
After Jose Uribe walked, A.J. Ellis hit a bloop double to right that scored Abreu.
Then Tony Gwynn Jr. tried a safety squeeze that was too hard to Gillaspie to allow Uribe to score. But Gillaspie’s throw to first was off-line, and Uribe did score. Actually, Theriot was backing up the throw, but he failed to catch the ball cleanly. If he does, Uribe holds at third.
The Dodgers added another run in the seventh on a throwing error by pitcher Steve Edlefsen when he made the poor decision to try to throw out Matt Kemp at third, instead of getting the sure out at first.
An error by Buster Posey on a sacrifice bunt and Gillaspie’s inability to prevent a bunt single by Dee Gordon in the eighth set a five-run inning in motion.
Manager Bruce Bochy said the Giants defense “looked like we skipped spring training.” He and his staff even discussed putting the best defensive team on the field Wednesday — righty-lefty matchups be damned.
Well, it couldn’t hurt, especially with the way the Giants hitters are performing.
But here’s an interesting note about Clayton Kershaw.
Teams this year have stacked their lineups with righties against the left-handed Kershaw. Righties have 124 plate appearances in six games against Kershaw this year, compared to 24 by lefties.
Yet, righties are still hitting just .175 against him, while lefties are hitting .304.
The strikeout rate is much high among lefties (.360 to .202). But of the four home runs Kershaw has allowed this season, three have come from lefties.
Hey, it’s worth a shot. So if Bochy is honest about putting his best defensive team on the field Wednesday, this is how is should look.
- RF Gregor Blanco (I would rather put him in CF, but that won’t happen)
- 3B Joaquin Blanco
- LF Melky Cabrera
- C Buster Posey
- CF Angel Pagan
- 1B Brandon Belt
- 2B Emmanuel Burriss
- SS Brandon Crawford
- P Ryan Vogelsong
Ryan Vogelsong takes the mound against Kershaw at 7:10 p.m. The game will be carried live by the MLB Network, if you dare to watch.
The San Francisco Giants have lost a pitcher they will play $8.5 million this season.
On the flip side, they actually get something out of a pitcher they still owe $46 million to.
Barry Zito threw his second quality start of the season, giving up two earned runs in seven innings Saturday and giving the Giants the chance to rally and beat the Pirates in the ninth inning.
Emmanuel Burriss scored on an error in the ninth inning to give the Giants their first walk-off win and reason to celebrate after the news that closer Brian Wilson is likely done for the year.
With the Giants’ talented and deep bullpen, the loss of Wilson can be weathered. But getting something out of Zito is huge for the Giants’ prospects this season.
We’ve seen Zito put together decent first-halves of the season or decent second-halves. But never a full season of success. So we take the early success with a grain of salt. But what we have seen is very encouraging.
Zito will make his next start Friday against the Mets in New York.
If there’s one thing Giants fans have come to expect so far in the 2012 season, it’s the unexpected.
Backdropped against the prosect of the Giants possibly enduring their first 0-4 start since 1950, backdropped against the fact that Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain have ERAs of 8.44, 9.00 and 6.50, backdropped against a spring in which Zito was basically throwing batting practice in his final two outings, Barry Zito threw an absolute gem that goes beyond defying logic.
“Just when you think you’ve seen it all in baseball …” Aubrey Huff said without finishing his sentence.
He didn’t have to. Zito did all the finishing Monday.
The historic perspective is staggering.
- It was Zito’s first complete-game shutout since 2003, four years before signing a $126 million deal with the Giants
- It was Zito’s first complete game in which he did not issue a walk since his rookie season in 2000.
- He became the first Giants pitcher to throw a shutout in the 18 year history of Coors Field.
- He became the second visiting pitcher to throw a shutout at Coors in the past 13 seasons, joining Roy Oswalt.
“It was really satisfying,” Zito said. “I had a tough spring and made the adjustment I had to make, and I think my start in the minor leagues last week had a lot to do with it, just being able to work on stuff without worrying about getting guys out.”
Zito needed 112 pitches to get through nine innings. He only gave up four hits. With a couple of breaks, Zito could have taken a perfect game into the sixth inning, a no-hitter into the seventh.
In the third inning, Rockies pitcher Jhoulys Chacin reached on a swinging bunt that Zito couldn’t get to in time to throw him out.
Marco Scutaro followed with a single up the middle that Zito should have snared. In the fourth, Troy Tulowitzki hit a shot to third base that glanced off Pablo Sandoval.
Did Zito think any of this was possible?
“Yeah sure,” Zito said. “I mean, anything’s possible.”
Almost lost in all the Zito excitement was the fact the Giants scored seven more runs and pounded out 10 more hits. Pablo Sandoval belted another homer, Aubrey Huff had a double and two walks, Hector Sanchez went 2 for 5 in his season debut, Brandon Crawford had a three-run triple. Every Giant collected at least one hit (including Zito) except Gregor Blanco.
The Giants are 1-3 despite outscoring opponents 21-17.
“Not a personal thing, but from a team standpoint, it feels great especially to win in the fashion we did,” Zito said. “We had good at-bats early. We just played good baseball overall today. It’s a good feeling to motivate us to keep it going.”
Sounds good to us.
After a day off Tuesday, Tim Lincecum returns to the mound to face Jeremy Guthrie as the Giants face the Rockies at 5:40 p.m. Wednesday.
What are the Giants going to do with Barry Zito?
That’s the $19 million questions as the Giants prepare to break camp (it will be a $20 million question next year).
In the short term, the Giants will leave Zito in Arizona as they travel north Sunday for the Bay Bridge Series.
Zito pitched a bullpen session Sunday in which is was more upright, ditch much of the crouch that he had experimented with this spring.
He’ll pitch a minor league game Wednesday in Arizona instead of pitching against the A’s at AT&T Park.
But we have serious doubts that two bullpen sessions and one start against minor leaguers will provide enough time for Zito to convert himself from a pitcher who “was throwing BP” (as one scout put it) to a servicable No. 5 starter by April 9.
He’s clearly starting from scatch.
The best option right now is for the Giants is to find a way to put Zito on the DL to open the season to give him more time to get himself right (or as right as possible for Zito). Then find someone, like maybe Yusmeiro Petit, to fill Zito’s spot in the roster until Ryan Vogelsong and Erik Surkamp are ready to pitch.
Or they could just have a couple of bullpen games featuring Guillermo Mota and Clay Hensley. Heck, they’re carrying 12 pitchers to break camp.
In the meantime, they’ll need to find some acceptable reasons to put Zito on the DL. So we offer these suggestions:
- Have Jeremy Affeldt invite him over for a cookout so Affeldt can share his technique for separating frozen hamburger patties.
- Schedule exhibition with Tigers, have Zito throw at Prince Fielder …. one … more… time….
- Have the team doctor diagnose him with being a carrier of a contagious form of Tourette Syndrome. If MLB wants proof, just tell them that everytime Zito pitches, it causes 40,000 people to have uncontrollable outbursts of profanity.
- Have him wash Jeff Kent’s truck.
- Make Zito collect his next salary payment … in pennies.
- Have him take Joba Chamberlain’s kids trampoline jumping.
- Have Dan Runzler teach him proper batting technique to swing and miss and dislocate your knee.
- Battle fatigue. It’s reasonable after being shelled in his last two spring starts.
- Take Zito on a day trip over the border into Mexico and confiscate his identification papers. Then make him try to re-enter the country with falsified documents under the name of Leo Nunez.
- On DL for “left arm weakness.” Can anyone contest that diagnosis?
It’s time to start worrying, Giants fans. Barry Zito may have hit a new low.
And for Zito, that’s saying something.
The San Diego Padres thumped the Giants pitcher for five runs on seven hits (five extra-base hits) and three walks in three innings.
And it took Zito 69 pitches to get through those three innings. He threw only 34 strikes.
Here’s how his outing went.
- Cameron Maybin walked, then picked off first base
- Orlando Hudson walked
- Chase Headley lines out to right
- Jesus Guzman doubles to left, Hudson scores
- Nick Hundley doubles to left, Guzman scores
- Kyle Blanks singles to left, Hundley scores
- Chris Denorfria flies to right
- Everth Cabrera singles to right
- Dustin Moseley sacrifices Cabrera to 2nd
- Maybin grounds to short
- Hudson flies to center
- Headley grounds out to 2nd
- Guzman walks
- Hundley doubles to center, Guzman scores, Hundley out trying to advance to 3rd
- Blanks doubles to left
- Denorfria triples to center, Blanks scores
- Cabrera grounds out to first
Zito recorded nine outs, but two were recorded on the basepaths and a third was recorded on a sacrifice (on a 3-0 pitch to the pitcher, thank you very much).
Zito finished Cactus League play allowing 15 earned runs in 19 1/3 innings. And his last two starts were his worst — 10 runs in 5 1/3 innings.
Zito has been battling himself and his new pitching mechanics all spring. And now, with the season looming, he’s looking to make more adjustments.
“It’s not ‘Scrap the whole thing,’ ” Zito said after Friday’s debacle. “It’s just make a small adjustment. … It’s about starting tomorrow morning with (pitching coach Dave Righetti), finding out what the adjustment is and go with it.”
Everything Zito threw was up in the zone. And when it’s up and coming in at 74-82 mph, it’s going to get clubbed.
“It’s funny how when everything is up, it seems everything is off-kilter,” Zito added. “But it’s one click.”
Sounds more like a cha-ching to us, like $19 million this season, $20 million next season, then a $7 million buyout in 2014. And that’s not funny at all.
Zito has just one more preseason start coming, next Wednesday at AT&T Park against the A’s — and two more bullpen sessions — before the start of the season.
So unless Zito develops some kind of ailment like bicep tendinitis (that’s what Jonathan Sanchez had when he stunk it up last season) or some other ailment, it looks as if he’ll be on the mound on April 9 at Colorado for his 2012 debut.
And by the looks of things, it won’t be pretty.
Well, that was a very Barry Zito-like outing.
While Zito has had some good moments this spring, Sunday’s game against the White Sox was not one of them.
Zito gave up five runs (all earned) on nine hits and two walks in 2 1/3 innings.
“The ball was up in the zone,” Zito said. “I’ve been harping on getting the ball dow, throwing in a downhill plane. Today I was just rushing my body and the arm couldn’t catch up. Downhill plane is everything.”
Well, Giants fans know all to well about Zito and his downhill plane.
Zito’s outing is worth a second look (perhaps not for those with weak stomachs).
It started well enough, with Alejandro De Aza striking out. But then came a double to Brent Lillibridge, a walk to Adam Dunn and an RBI single by Paul Kornerko. However, Dunn helped the Giants out by trying to take third on the play and was thrown out by Melky Cabrera.
Then came another walk to AJ Pierzynski. A single to Alex Rios loaded the bases. Then Zito got out of the mess by striking out Dayan Viciedo.
So the first inning line was 1 run on three hits and two walks.
Gordon Beckham opened the second with a double and took third on a single by Eduardo Escobar to open the second. De Aza bunted Beckham home for the second run of the game and first out of the inning. Lillibridge grounded out and Dunn struck out.
Konerko opened the third with a single, then Pierzynksi homered to left. Rios made it back-to-back by homering to left. Viciedo grounded out, but Beckham’s double to left brought the hook for Zito.
Zito threw 60 pitches in the game, then threw another 25 in the bullpen after getting pulled.
“Just give us a chance to win,” manager Bruce Bochy said of the expectations of Zito this season. “He got knocked out today. That’s what we want to stay away from. He never got settled in. Every inning was a struggle for him. If (Cabrera) didn’t make that play in the first inning, I don’t think he gets out of that inning.”
Despite seeing his spring ERA jumping from 4.50 to 6.61, Zito is in no danger of losing his spot in the rotation.
“He was out of sync,” Bochy said. “He couldn’t get the ball where he wanted. He just didn’t have it today. You don’t like to see it when you get this close to the season, but it’s going to happen, and better now than during the season.”
Charting Zito starts this spring, his next start should come Friday against the Padres, then April 4 at AT&T Park against the A’s in the preseason finale. That would align him to make his first start of the season on April 9 at Colorado, assuming Ryan Vogelsong starts the season on the DL.
A late-spring road game meant most regulars did not play against the White Sox. And the ones that did, didn’t do much (Gregor Blanco 0 for 3, Nate Schierholtz 0 for 3, Melky Cabrera 0 for 2 with a walk, Brett Pill 0 for 4).
Ryan Vogelsong will get the start and aim to make 40 pitches as the Giants face the Royals at 1:05 p.m. Monday.