The last time they were chanting "Barry! Barry!" at AT&T Park, it wasn't because Barry Zito was lighting it up and dealing a complete gem in a San Francisco Giants uniform.
Saturday night's chants were brought about as a result of a home run that Barry Lamar launched into McCovey Cove, it was because Zito was twirling a gem...again.
The Giants' 31-year-old lefty has been getting some much-deserved love in the second half of the season—and rightfully so. If you said two years ago that Zito would be getting this kind of appreciation during any one of his outings, you might be subject to a MLB drug test right then and there.
Whenever he was on the mound, Giants fans turned into East Coast fans—patience was at a minimum. The boos would be almost as loud as the chants were for the other Barry who used to wear a Giants uniform.
Well, that seems to be gone after the month Zito has had.
What was the line this time in the Giants' 5-3 win against the Colorado Rockies? 8 1/3 IP, 8 H, 1 BB, 7 K, and only a Brad Hawpe solo shot in the top of the ninth that prevent Zito from recording his first shutout since 2003 when he was warming up with stuffed animals over the Bay Bridge in Oakland.
The home run he gave up with one out in the ninth broke a streak of 20 scoreless innings Zito had compiled over his past three starts. Hard to believe we really had no idea about it.
Then again, when you're on a staff with a pair of All-Stars, it's somewhat easy to fly under the radar.
Zito was on from the time he first toed the slab for the opening pitch of the game. In the first inning when he struck out the side. His looper for a curve was snapping as good as it has been all year and Zito even hit 90 MPH on the gun a couple of times. Yes, Barry Zito is hitting 90 again.
His quality stuff continued as the man whose agent called him "Zicaso" when he was a free agent two winter's ago was working all four pitches with ease. Of his 112 pitches on the night, 72 of them were for strikes. Other than the one walk, he never battled any kind of serious control issues.
It was just time to watch the man, Zicaso if will, at work with his top stuff present.
Even more impressive that just five days ago, against these same Rockies, Zito walked six batters and had to battle with all his might to get through six innings. He did only allow three hits in that outing, but it was a struggle to find any kind of consistent command whatsoever.
Somehow, someway, he got out of it without giving up a run.
Obviously Saturday, as you could probably determine, was a little different.
The stellar outing to close out his August dropped Zito's ERA this month to a minute 1.93—his lowest single-month total since May of 2006. He could easily be undefeated this month if not for the Giants' offense giving him the usual run or two he has to work with.
That's a better ERA than Cliff Lee has in August. Too bad ESPN would never let you know about it.
He has also gone 3-1 in August, allowing just 27 hits in 37 1/3 IP while striking out 29 and walking 12. So throw out the walk total against the Rockies in Denver a week ago and Zito has walked six people...all month.
Not bad for a guy people, including certain Bay Area media members, wanted to kick out the door after his clunker against the Padres to close out the first half of the season.
If not for the Cardinals righty Adam Wainwright walking all of one batter the entire month of August, Zito might be at the top of the list for National League Pitcher of the Month. Other than ERA (1.26 to 1.93) and walks, Wainwright and Zito are basically even in every category.
You can throw in Wainright's teammate Chris Carpenter, or the Phillies' one-two punch of Lee and J.A Happ, or the Rockies' Ubaldo Jimenez, or anybody else you can think, but when stack things up, Zito has to be one of the top candidates.
He may not get the nod, but he certainly deserves it.
His August performances have come at a time where the Giants have been fighting every single way possible to stay in the NL Wild Card race—something his other two years in orange and black haven't included. He has always been a second half pitcher, but it has never been this good.
When the second half began, his ERA was 5.01. After Saturday, it's 3.94.
When the second half began, he had just given up nine earned runs. After Sunday, he has given up a total of eight in seven starts since then.
This is the Zito the Giants thought they were getting when he signed that seven-year, $126 million contract before the 2007 season. And for the first extended period of time since that contract was inked, Zito is pitching like the person who won the American League Cy Young in 2002.
The swagger is back and the Giants are seeing the result of it.
As somebody said Saturday night on the San Francisco Chronicle website—"Zito is neato!"
For Zito, getting his first-ever curtain call in San Francisco was also pretty neato.