The San Francisco Giants may not have been reeling after getting swept over the weekend by the Arizona Diamondbacks. But falling three games behind in the division to last year's NL West champions was a shaky way to start the season.
Zito couldn't be a stopper, right?
The same Barry Zito who's had a losing record in each of his five seasons in a Giants uniform? The guy who pitched in only 13 games last season because of a foot injury? Perhaps the biggest free-agent bust in major league history, with a $126 million contract that the Giants still have to pay $39 million on?
Yep, that's who we're talking about. And on Monday, he was indeed the stopper for the sliding Giants.
In what might be the most surprising result of the young 2012 season, Zito pitched a complete-game shutout, holding the Rockies to four hits in a 7-0 Giants victory. It was his first shutout since 2003, when he was still with the Oakland Athletics.
But maybe we shouldn't be too surprised. This Rockies lineup was shut down by Lucas Harrell and Bud Norris over the weekend. They're not exactly lighting up the scoreboard right now.
However, if you had Zito in your "Which pitcher will get the Giants' first win?" pool, congratulations. Tim Lincecum didn't get the Giants their first win. Madison Bumgarner didn't do it. New $127 million man Matt Cain couldn't get it done, either.
Nope, it was Zito. The pitcher who looked awful in spring training, allowing 32 hits in 19.1 innings and compiling a 7.91 ERA.
Zito is the first Giants pitcher to pitch a shutout at Coors Field in its 13-year history. According to ESPN's Mark Simon, he's only the second visiting pitcher to throw a shutout in that ballpark.
And here it initially looked like the story for the Giants might be Brandon Belt (currently batting 1-for-10) getting the night off.
Teams that get quality production out of their fifth starters (and those who can find a consistent fifth starter to begin with) are often the ones that make it to the postseason.
Pitching was already going to be the reason the Giants would be contending for an NL West title (and more) this season. But in a division full of excellent pitching, Zito could make a difference by giving the Giants depth at the back end of their rotation.
Zito, the difference-maker? Would you have imagined such a thing even just a day ago?