Remember the last time your favorite band's newest album was released, and all it did was get stuck on one song due to some unforeseen reason? That's the San Francisco Giants offense when Barry Zito takes the hill every fifth day.
The track stuck in neutral might as well be called, "I Pitch My Tail Off But Get No Runs," and Zito might as well be singing it himself—he is a musician, so you never know. The much-maligned $126 million man has done nothing but go out there, get the job done, and give the Giants a chance to win.
Don't let that 8-11 record and 4.26 ERA fool you. Zito is having one hell of a season.
His latest masterpiece came in the form of six innings of near perfection. Zito carried a no-no into the fifth inning. He only gave up one hit after that. His one-out walk to Bay Area boy Jonny Gomes back in the second was a minor hiccup. He recorded four strikeouts and allowed only one runner to reach scoring position.
That stat line looks like something that an ace would throw out there...not Zito.
You would think with the way the Giants offense has been hitting the ball, Zito would have it easy, right?
The Giants did pound out 10 hits against the Reds, all of them coming from a player recording a multi-hit performance, but never capitalized on a single one when Zito was in the game. It was the same old story it has been for most of the year on the road for the Giants—nothing doing with runners in scoring position.
The Giants were the team that scored the lone run of the game, but it was after Zito was pinch-hit for in the top of the seventh. Nate Schierholtz saved the day.
Even though he had thrown just 78 pitches and was cruising right along, Zito had nothing to show for the Giants' eventual 1-0 win.
But that's the story that the Giants offense has written for Zito this season.
As Giants Community Leader No. 1 seed beat writer, the San Jose Mercury News' Andy Baggarly, penned in his Postgame Notes, in Zito's 25 starts, the Giants have failed to score in nine of them. Do the math and that means that he hasn't even had a chance to win a third of the games he has started.
So when you look at it, if he was playing on a team that had any sort of consistent output, he would definitely be at, if not well above, .500.
But that's exactly the problem. The Giants haven't scored for him all year. If he gets any kind of run support this year instead of the awful 2.92 per nine innings he has gotten this year, his record would certainly be flipped into a friendlier winning record at the very least.
That would put him one win behind two guys you might have heard of the last couple of years—Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain.
Still mad at him for losing 11 games this season?
When he gets runs, Zito produces. You could say that about pretty much every pitcher, but it's even more so the case with the Giants' top southpaw—not just as a Giant, but throughout his entire career.
How good has Zito been when he gets four runs of support?
As Baggarly also points out—3-0 this season, 19-2 in the orange and black, and 104-6 in his 10-year career.
You give Zito runs, he wins. It's pretty simple, isn't it?
But because of his previous two seasons in the orange and black, people have built up the preconceived notion that every outing could end up like his final start in the first half.
Since his clunker on the day before the All-Star Break, where he gave up nine earned runs, Zito has allowed 11 runs in those seven starts. In five of those, he has gone six innings or more and allowed six-plus hits just twice.
His ERA since the second half began is a sparkling 2.74. That has seen his season clip go down from 5.01 to the previously mentioned 4.26 after Wednesday's start.
If he got the kind of runs that Lincecum and Cain get on average, he probably would have more wins than either part of the one-two punch that blesses AT&T Park.
He has gotten a decision in five of those past seven games—going 3-2 in the process. That may seem like an okay-looking record, but the way he has pitched in the second half, he should have a win for almost every time he has toed the slab.
More importantly, the Giants are 5-2 in those seven second half starts made by Zito.
Of the big league-best 16 shutouts that the Giants have, Zito has been involved in four of them. In his previous two seasons with the Giants, Zito has been involved in five shutouts.
The way he's going, it won't be surprising if there are one or two more shutouts in his back pocket by season's end.
Most important thing of the night, though—the Giants won, thanks to Zito.
And this is the time of the year where every win matters.
Another series won. Chalk it up.
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