Kruk and Kuip: It was a nice ending for Barry Zito
Pablo Sandoval's two-run, opposite-field home run in the fourth inning gave the Giants a 5-2 lead. (AP)
SAN FRANCISCO -- Barry Zito is going out on top. The much-maligned left-hander limited the daunting Dodgers lineup in his final start of the 2013 season, leading the Giants to a series-evening 6-4 win Wednesday night at AT&T Park.
The win was Zito's first since May 30, where a loss would have matched his career-long losing streak of nine defeats without a victory (July 21-Sept. 14, 2010). The win also secured the Giants a season series victory against the Dodgers for the fourth consecutive year.
Curiously, on a night that was designed to be Zito's farewell performance, Bruce Bochy never gave him the chance to receive the crowd's full appreciation; Zito was pinch-hit for in the bottom of the fifth inning without the chance to tip his cap.
Zito did tip his cap to Tony Abreu, who knocked in a career-high four runs on 2-for-4 hitting. Adding to his solo home run on Tuesday, Abreu is providing a spark at second with Marco Scutaro shut down.
With the three-game set against Los Angeles even at one, the Giants have a chance to win the home series on Thursday, a feat they have struggled to do lately. San Francisco has won just two of its last 12 series at AT&T Park.
The Giants advanced their record against NL West opponents to 41-31 (.569). The fourth-place team owns the best mark against the NL West within the division.
After a Cardinals win and a Braves loss earlier in the day, the Dodgers sit 2.5 games behind St. Louis and two games behind Atlanta for the best record in the National League and home-field advantage into the World Series.
Starting pitcher report
Barry Zito closed his 2013 season -- and potentially his Giants career -- with a win against the rival Dodgers.
Zito, who hadn't pitched in 22 days, was perfect his first time through the Dodgers lineup. But he ran into trouble in the fourth inning when Yasiel Puig, Carl Crawford and Matt Kemp began the inning with two singles and a double. Zito appeared to limit the damage to one run when he induced a ground ball from Jerry Hairston, but Brandon Crawford's error allowed the Dodgers to tack on an unearned run.
Head athletic training David Groeschner joined Bruce Bochy to visit Zito in the fifth inning after Nick Punto drilled a line drive off the pitcher. Punto reached for a single, and Zito reached for his left thigh, where the ball made solid contact. After a few warm-up pitches, Zito remained in the game and cleanly fielded Ricky Nolasco's sacrifice bunt on the next pitch.
It was the first time Zito limited his opponent to one or fewer earned runs since July 3, a span of seven rough starts.
He advanced to 129-9 in his career when receiving four or more runs in support.
Zito's final line: 5 IP, 4 H, 2 R, ER, K, 77 P.
The Giants bullpen was first active in the top of the fourth, not a sight Zito was hoping for in his final start of the season. But the 'pen wasn't required until Zito departed for a pinch hitter in the fifth, leaving the lefty bereft of a standing ovation.
George Kontos pitched the sixth and allowed an unearned run.
Jean Machi was perfect in the seventh, recording two strikeouts.
Santiago Casilla pitched the eighth and allowed one run on hits from Carl Crawford and Matt Kemp.
Sergio Romo pitched the ninth inning, dispatching pinch-hitter Hanley Ramirez to earn his 37th save of the season.
It is now impossible for the Giants to lose 90 games this year.
At the plate
A day after managing to move just two runners into scoring position, the Giants' bats were active. Tony Abreu and Pablo Sandoval provided the big knocks, collecting five RBI on two swings.
The Giants have now won 23 of their last 29 (.793) games in which they score at least four runs; they are 54-17 (.760) in such games on the season.
Buster Posey's first extra-base hit since Sept. 9 wasn't all too glamorous, but he sparked the Giants' three-run second with his bat-shattering flare into the left-field corner.
Tony Abreu, whose solo home run was the Giants' entire offensive output a day earlier, delivered with the bases loaded in the second inning. He deposited an 80-mph change-up into Triples Alley, just off the outstretched glove of Yasiel Puig, scoring Posey, Pence and Sandoval on a stand-up triple and staking Zito to a 3-0 lead.
Posey's second hit of the night, a single slapped to right, started the Giants' second run-scoring rally. Sandoval finished it, collecting his first home run since he hit three on Sept. 4, and his first at AT&T Park since May 21.
Abreu collected his career-high fourth RBI in the sixth inning when Yasiel Puig's full-extension dive came up just short of his shallow pop-up. Pence was moving with two outs and scored all the way from first. Puig was visibly upset when his throw home was cut off, though it looked like Pence would have beat it anyway.
In the field
The Giants committed two errors that led to two unearned runs. They turned one double play.
Brandon Crawford's fourth-inning error with two outs and runners on second and third was costly, as it allowed the Dodgers' second run to score. It was Crawford's 15th error of the season (fourth most among NL shortstops), but just his fifth of the second half.
Tony Abreu's misplay of Pablo Sandoval's assist was also costly. Instead of a potential double play, the Dodgers moved runners to the corners with no outs and cashed in one unearned run.
It was a scary and all-too-familiar moment when Buster Posey cringed in the dirt behind AT&T's home plate, but the injury Posey suffered when his hand clipped Nick Punto's elbow throwing down to third after a strikeout was not serious. Posey stayed in the game after a quick visit from Groeschner, and proceeded to make an impressive play to retire Michael Young on his swinging bunt. Posey sprung out of the crouch, called off Casilla, picked up the ball bare-handed, spun and made a strong, accurate throw to first to get the aging Young by a step.
Nick Noonan, a late-inning defensive replacement for Pablo Sandoval, recorded the assist on the game's final out, diving into the hole and throwing out Hanley Ramirez to secure Zito's win.
But the defensive play of the game came from a gentleman sitting in the front row behind the Dodgers' on-deck circle. First, a high fly ball off the bat of Carl Crawford unceremoniously drilled him in the shoulder and send his glasses and date sprawling. Given a second chance one inning later, the Giants fan adeptly snared a pop-up in traffic, and was sure to let the crowd know about it.
There was a smattering of blue among the 41,377 fans that filled the AT&T Park stands, though the Dodgers supporters contributed to the 242nd consecutive regular season sellout on the shores of McCovey Cove.
The Giants and Dodgers play their 19th and final game of the year on Thursday with San Francisco leading the season series 10-8. Right-handers Tim Lincecum (10-14, 4.44 ERA) and Edinson Volquez (9-12, 5.77 ERA) draw the honors.