The first month of the season has never been easy for Giants starter Barry Zito. Even when he was at his best in Oakland, the stats he put up in April made it look the subsequent months would be a struggle.
However, for the first time as a Giant, Zito has found a groove in his first five starts of the season. His ERA is under four for the first time since June of 2007 and his dominance at home is something to note.
It didn't start all holly jolly as it may seem. In his first two starts, Zito allowed 10 runs in nine innings pitched, and basically had everybody thinking that it was just the same 'ol Zito they had seen the previous two years.
Yet a return to thee friendly confines of AT&T Park is exactly with the Giants lefty needed.
In three starts by the bay this season, Zito has allowed only three runs, pitching 20.1 innings, recording a 1.28 ERA, striking out 11 while walking just four. For a control pitcher like Zito, having his control on-point is vital to his success.
His numbers at home last year? 3-11 record with a 5.93 ERA.
The boo birds are gone, and now Zito is receiving cheers instead of jeers.
The only problem is, he has no wins to show for his vast improvement in the season's first month.
San Francisco wasn't expected to blow anybody away with the bats this season and they are certainly doing nothing to change that perception.
The Giants have scored the fewest runs in baseball so far this season—and that's coming off an 2008 in which they scored the second-fewest runs in the majors.
Coming into Sunday's game against Rockies, Zito was getting 2.78 runs of support a game. And even though he pitched seven scoreless innings, the Giants were also held without a run while Zito was in the game.
Another Giants pitcher getting the Matt Cain treatment. At least they're spreading it around this year, right?
But more importantly, Zito is pitching with confidence. So many times last year, he looked completely lost on the mound, just searching for answers just a few batters into the game. He would pace around the bump as if he had an incredible life decision to make, when it was actually a 2-2 pitch in the third.
This season is different. He's throwing more strikes, his velocity is up, and because of it, he is just going out and throwing the ball while not giving teams extra outs to play with, and the results are evident.
Even more so, he's doing it against division opponents.
These aren't players who have never seen Zito before. He has faced these clubs time and time again, and the end result wasn't always a good thing.
Whether it's the fact that he knows he's not the big guy in the rotation anymore, or that he's just found a comfort zone, it doesn't really matter at this point. As long as he keeps pitching the way he has been the past two weeks, his confidence level will be high when when the Giants get going into the grind as the season progresses—right when Zito usually finds his groove.
With the offense struggling to put consistent runs on the board, the pitching staff is going to need these kind of performances.