Urban: Zito's biggest start for Giants -- again

June 27, 2011, 7:18 pm
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June 27, 2011


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Mychael Urban

It's time for everyone's favoriteleast favorite quasi-regular occasion: Barry Zito's Biggest Start As A Giant.The latest installment drops Tuesday at Wrigley Field, and how Zito performs will leave the fan base thinking one of two things.If he pitches poorly -- less than six innings andor more than three runs allowed -- it will be something along the lines of, "Not as easy as it was in the minors, is it? You overpaid flop."If he pitches well -- no less than six innings and no more than two runs allowed, our new and improved definition of a quality start (brought to you by Ryan Vogelsong) -- it will be, "The Cubs are a minor-league outfit, anyway. Let's see you do it against a real team."Such is life for Zito, who has accepted as much. That's a good thing.

His time in the minors was good for him, too, no matter how much eye-rolling accompanies his comments about the benefits of getting back to basics, enjoying the game more, etc."I realize nobody wants to hear any of that stuff, but when I get asked a question, I'm going to answer it honestly," he told CSNBayArea.com this week. "And I honestly think this might end up being the best thing that could have happened. At the same time, none of it means anything if I don't go out there and get the job done."And get it done well. Really well. Repeatedly. The most reviled athlete in recent Bay Area history -- Alex Smith has nothing on this guy -- might never completely win over Giants fans. He's made too much money for too long with too many hide-the-kids outings already.He's well aware of this, too, and that's made him just a tad gun-shy when it comes to talking about anything he suspects might help him turn things around. Remember when Johnny LeMaster wore "BOO" on the back of his jersey? Zito might as well wear "MIRANDA," because anything he says can and will be used against him.Even his good outings have been used against him -- or at least conveniently forgotten.Quick: Who was the Giants' most effective starter in the first month or so of last season? Remember how much the 2010 team talked during spring training about the need to get off to a hot start? Zito went 5-0 with a 1.49 ERA through his first six starts.He wasn't just good early, either. He was 6-2 with a 2.78 ERA through May.He was 7-4 with a 3.43 ERA midway through June.Over six starts in July, he had a 3.26 ERA.But none of that matters. He was brutal in the August (7.76 ERA); he was as bad as the rest of the rotation in August; and when it mattered the most he was at his worst, giving up four runs (three earned) on four walks and five hits over three innings with a chance to clinch the division title at home on Oct. 2.Had he shone that day, Zito's standing with Giants fans might have forever been changed. He might have made the postseason roster. He might have contributed to the brilliant run through October.But he didn't, he didn't, and he didn't, and that's all that matters. So nothing has changed.Not much will change Tuesday, either. But at least if he pitches well, there's a chance it'll change. If he doesn't? Not one, but two steps back.

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