Zito: 'They hit my pitches, so I've got to tip my hat'
Barry Zito’s streak is over in Tuesday's 10-8 loss to the Brewers after 16 consecutive team wins in his starts. (AP IMAGES)
MILWAUKEE – It was a shame that Barry Zito’s streak came to an end in America’s Dairyland.
At home, there would have been an appropriate response. A warm ovation, the way tennis fans respond to a long and grueling rally or a baseball crowd salutes a pitcher when a no-hitter slips in the ninth.
It’s acknowledgment of a job well done. More than that, it’s admiration for the effort.
That gallant moment didn’t come for Barry Zito after he gave up eight runs in the third inning Tuesday night. But his teammates nearly kept the streak going anyway before Andres Torres’ well-struck fly ball settled into a glove on the warning track to end a 10-8 loss to the Brewers.
The Giants hit a lot of balls hard while scoring in five of the last seven innings. Many of them weren’t hits.
So Zito’s streak is over after 16 consecutive team wins in his starts. That’s including the postseason, of course, and how could you leave out Game 5 at St. Louis or Game 1 against the Tigers?
How could you leave out any part of an eight-month stretch that melted down six years of hardened perceptions? That changed forever the way Zito the Giant will be perceived by the faithful?
How could you leave out #RallyZito?
Zito did not receive his Centre Court moment. But the admiration lived and breathed within the clubhouse walls.
“You look back at the games he won for us, the losing streaks he stopped, and the postseason … it’s just incredible,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s upbeat. He’s gotta wash this one off because he’s been so good.”
Said first baseman Brandon Belt: “He figured something out and he just went off. Everybody in here still has the fullest confidence he’ll come out next time and shove (it).”
Zito’s streak was the longest by a Giants pitcher since 1936-37, when the club went 22-0 with Hall of Famer Carl Hubbell on the mound. Odds are, it won’t happen again for decades.
“Well, hopefully it will,” Bochy said. “It’d be nice to see a run like that because it’s tremendous, what he did. It took a big inning like that to stop it.”
Bochy took Zito aside to make sure there were no sore feelings about leaving the left-hander on the mound so long to try to escape that third inning. He wasn’t.
Zito’s nine earned runs matched the most he’s allowed in 397 starts in the big leagues, and the eight-run third was the biggest inning of his career. He faced 10 batters that inning and allowed seven hits and hit another. But he didn’t issue a walk. And his mistakes, he felt, were minimal.
“Baseball is a strange game,” Zito said. “I actually felt better today than the last couple games. I’ve gotta tip my cap. Five hits in a row, and every (pitch) I’d throw again.”
It appeared Zito might escape after striking out Ryan Braun on a 3-2 cutter with no outs and the bases loaded. But Rickie Weeks managed to keep a 3-2 cutter fair for a ground-rule double. And four batters later, Yuniesky Betancourt’s grand slam boomed like a service ace.
“Changeup,” Zito said. “The same pitch he popped up the first time up. It looked like he was just waiting back for it. Sometimes you just have to scratch your head.”
Zito did record five outs before giving up his first run of the season on Carlos Gomez’s pole-clanging solo home run – moving the former Cy Young Award winner past Ryan Jensen (14 1/3 innings) for the longest streak of scoreless innings to start a season by a Giants pitcher in the club’s San Francisco era.
That’s something Zito can appreciate down the line. But even moments after the loss, reflection came quickly to him. And for someone who tries to operate in the moment, he was able to put eight months into cogent perspective.
“Yeah, of course I can appreciate the fact that the team was clicking on all cylinders when I was on the mound,” Zito said. “I had my share of games when I struggled and the buys picked me up. What mattered most was the playoffs, and that’s something I’ll always take pride in.
“It’s just important to put the past in the past and not take anything for granted, and that each day is a new day. That’s something I pride myself on.”