DENVER Youd assume that Barry Zito and Coors Field go together like stepladders and margarine.
Crazy. Dangerous. Someone really should intercede before someone gets hurt. That kind of stuff.
But you might be surprised to learn that Zito owns the Colorado Rockies over his career. He owned them again Monday afternoon. And at least to start the 2012 season, he owns the title of staff stopper.
The Giants beat Colorado 7-0 in the Rockies home opener on Monday, they avoided starting 0-4 for the first time since 1950 and they had Zito to thank for it. Despite having just two bullpen sessions and one minor league camp game to reinvent himself, Zito rebounded from his disastrous spring with a result that nobody could have predicted.
He threw a four-hit shutout his first in six seasons as a Giant. He had done it just four other times in his career, and not since April 18, 2003 at Texas, when he still wore green and gold.
Starting pitching report
Zito only allowed two runners into scoring position in a 112-pitch masterpiece. He didnt abandon all elements of the delivery he developed with pitching guru Tom House over the winter, staying in a crouched position especially from the stretch. But he made enough changes to ensure he could repeat his delivery, throw strikes and keep the ball below the belt.
Zito improved to 6-2 with a 2.39 ERA in 18 career games against the Rockies. He hasnt lost to Colorado since 2008 a span of 11 appearances (nine starts).
He began the ninth with 102 pitches with Brian Wilson all warmed up in the bullpen. But he didnt allow a baserunner and he got Todd Helton to ground out to third base to end it. Zito was a picture of relaxation as he accepted a hug from catcher Hector Sanchez and then an emphatic embrace from first baseman Aubrey Huff.
It was Zitos third complete game as a Giant and the 12th of his career.
Guillermo Mota put on a uniform and everything, too.
At the plate
Pablo Sandoval hit a two-run home run in the first inning, marking his fifth homer in his last five games at Coors Field. Hector Sanchez posted his first career multi-hit game, including an RBI single in a two-run third inning after Rockies starter Jhoulys Chacin walked the bases loaded.
Brandon Crawford provided more breathing room in the fifth inning with a bases-clearing double after shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and outfielder Carlos Gonzalez both committed errors that helped to load em up.
Crawfords hit came off a lefty pitcher, too another encouraging sign that hell be more than a good glove at shortstop.
In fact, before Sanchez singled off Greg Reynolds in the fifth inning, the Giants had been 0 for 19 against left-handed pitchers this season.
The Giants have scored at least four runs in all four games this season. Thats something they managed to do in just two stretches of four or more games last year, when they scored the fewest runs in the NL.
Even Zito hit a cue-shot single, inspiring mass laughter and cheering in the Giants dugout.
In the field
Sandoval made a diving stop of leadoff hitter Marco Scutaros hot grounder, giving Zito a chance to settle in and continue pitching from the windup. Crawford made a diving catch of pinch hitter Eric Young Jr.s line drive in the fifth.
Center fielder Angel Pagan dropped a shallow pop fly for an error leading off the sixth, but Zito pitched out of trouble.
The Rockies sold out the joint for their home opener. They announced 49,282 paid. Roughly 40,000 fell mute after the third inning.
The Giants and Rockies have a scheduled day off Tuesday, which is often the case in April series at Coors Field in case of snow. Thankfully for all parties, it was sunny with a high of 70 degrees on Monday and the forecast calls for more of the same the remainder of the week.
Tim Lincecum (0-1, 8.44) will take the mound against right-hander Jeremy Guthrie (1-0. 3.86) when the series resumes Wednesday night. First pitch is at 5:40 p.m. PDT.