'Mentally tough' Zito blanks Braves

July 18, 2012, 4:02 am
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ATLANTA With two innings of satisfactory janitorial work,George Kontos and Clay Hensley held up quite a storyline for Barry Zito Tuesdaynight.

The Giants shut out the Atlanta Braves 9-0 at Turner Field just the clubs second shutout victory in the 16 years the locals have beenwaving Chick-Fil-A sandwiches and eating foam tomahawks here.

Zito contributed seven of those shutout innings on an easilybearable night in North Georgia. The other blanking here? It was in 2008 whenZito contributed seven shutout innings.

It was exactly what the Giants needed after getting carpetbombed on their previous road trip to Washington and Pittsburgh.

Hows this for another stat? Zito (8-6) has now pitchedat least seven innings without allowing a run in four of his 18 starts thisseason the most on the Giants staff. Matt Cain owns three such starts, RyanVogelsong and Tim Lincecum have two apiece and Madison Bumgarner has one.

And while it wasnt pretty, it should be noted that Zito startedin the only victory the Giants managed on their last woeful trip East.

Hes done a great job, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. Hesgot eight wins. Its been a real pleasure to see how hes bounced back thisyear.

Hes tough mentally tough.

Thats what the manager said: Barry Zito, mentally tough.How many times over the last six years could Bochy say that?

Zito agreed with what Bochy told reporters prior toTuesdays game about the staffs unacceptable 4.85 ERA on the road, third worstin the majors. The left-hander and former Cy Young Award winner said he tookpride in being the one to start off a tough road trip.

Its not something weve addressed, but its definitelysomething were aware of, Zito said. We havent called a team meeting, but weknew on the road we had to bear down.

Its good to just be the guy. We all want to be out therewhen the team is scuffling. We all want to be the stopper.

Zito held a hot Braves lineup to three hits and a walk inseven innings.

Just throwing strikes, putting the pressure on them, beingaggressive same old things, he said. Those things work.

Zito even lined an RBI single after a foul ball nearlykilled both Gregor Blanco in the on-deck circle and Ryan Theriot on the topstep of the dugout. Both had to use Matrix-style moves to avoid the hot shot.

And Zito managed a catching change without any turbulence.After Hector Sanchez exited with a sprained left knee in the fourth inning,Zito worked with Buster Posey for the first time all season and didnt clashswords in the slightest.

Posey credited Zito with carrying his fastball through thezone.

He used his cutter in and out, and threw the curveball bothwhen behind in the count and ahead in the count, Posey said. He bounced itwhen he needed to bounce it. And he threw his changeup for strikes. He wasimpressive.

Zito was in less than impressive shape over the All-Starbreak. He took a commercial flight home, ate the cold chicken meal that wasoffered to him and came down with some kind of violent bacterial infection thatwreaked havoc with his GI tract for three days. So you could say he didntexactly enjoy the break.

It worked out good, Zito said. I had four or five days tobe sick.

And then provide seven innings of medicine the Giantspitching staff badly needed.