At one point in his career, Barry Zito was the most expensive pitcher of all time. It's an understatement to say that his tenure as a San Francisco Giant has signaled more than a slight dip in form for the former Oakland star.
At the time, not many argued against the $126 million deal that Zito signed as part of the Bay Area switch, but there are plenty out there scratching their heads right now.
That being said, Bruce Bochy is right to place faith in the man that he knows has the potential to reverse the Giants’ hopes and pull his side back from the brink of defeat.
Currently 3-1 down, San Francisco are relying on Zito to resurrect the form not seen for a while, although this season has indicated that it may be slowly on its way back.
2012 saw the 34-year-old have his best season as a Giant, winning 15 games with a WHIP of 1.389 and an ERA of 4.15.
The Giants have won their last 11 games with Zito as a starter, proving that the lefty does indeed deal well if playing from the offset.
However, in four career games at Busch Stadium, Zito has racked up an 8.20 ERA, but insists that he does love pitching in Missouri.
With the Cards just one win away from the World Series, you can bet that the home crowd will be an intimidating party to be around, but Zito sounds likely to cope in the face of adversity.
MercuryNews.com report Zito as saying:
"St. Louis is definitely a special place to me...Oh, yeah, it's always like a college football game.”
“I’m going to go out there and be aggressive tomorrow and let my defense work for me.”
"I just remember how loud it was. And it was just fun. So I'm excited to go out there and have some fun."
It’s safe to say that “fun” may not be the thing that helps Zito most in this most important of clashes, but considering his ex-Miss Missouri wife grew up just a few hours away from Busch Stadium, he’s at least a little familiar with what’s to come.
Perhaps this factor played a decision in the Giants’ decision to start Zito against St. Louis, or perhaps it didn’t. What is for sure is that Zito is the most equipped for the mental phase of this win-or-lose encounter.
The competition of Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong or Matt Cain can’t compete with Zito when it comes to pressure scenarios, and more than the physical, it’s the nerves that can tell most on days like this.
Zito has proven himself to be of no use whatsoever coming out of the bullpen, whereas Bumgarner pounces on these cameo situations with claws outstretched.
This is a factor that Friday’s visitors are using to their advantage, instead of pinning all hopes on Bumgarner to carry them back to AT&T Park.
While both players undoubtedly have heaps of stuff in them, Zito’s record of 3.45 ERA in 47 career postseason innings will tell when it comes to the mound at Busch Stadium.