Pittsburgh-Giants: What to watch for

April 14, 2012, 7:25 pm
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PROGRAMMING NOTE: Get all your Saturday Giants coverage on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. Giants Pregame Live starts the party at 5:30 p.m. Watch the Pirates and Giants game at 6:05 p.m. and Giants Postgame Live after the last out.

The Giants' uncharacteristic start to the 2012 season is picking up momentum. They've scored four or more runs in each of the first seven games, and their starting pitchers have thrown shutouts in two of the past four starts.One of those shutouts was authored by Barry Zito, who will take the mound tonight against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Game 2 of the three-game bayside set.Here are some things to watch for in the Saturday evening game:Fending doubt: Barry Zito silenced naysayers with his first shutout since 2003 on Monday. All 27 outs go out the window when he takes the mound tonight as the contract-elicited magnifying glass focuses on Zito's every start.When the 13-year veteran can effectively locate his pitches and carve the edges of the strike zone, he is still a dangerous pitcher. But 1,687 strikeouts in, his stuff isn't electric enough to miss.Zito, 33, has faced the Pirates three times over the past three years with an ERA of ... 3.00.Watch your Hips: Carlie Morton is making his first start of the season, and his return from hip surgery. Morton is coming off his best season as a big leaguer. He was 10-10 with a 3.83 ERA in 29 starts in 2011."I've been ready," Morton told the Pirates' official website. "I'm really eager to get back out there."He's especially eager to face the Giants, who he's owns a 0.64 ERA against in two starts.But the 2012 Giants have shown signs they're breaking free from the offensive shackles of years past.Whole Melky: There are a number of changes to the Giants' 2012 lineup, but none more impressive than the infusion of Melky Cabrera into its heart.Cabrera has hit safely in each of the first seven games, and he has hit safely twice in five of them.He barely got his chin over the 200-hit mark last season with the Royals -- getting hits 200 and 201 in the antepenultimate game. In his eighth full season and a contract year, Cabrera looks to be gunning for the mark.Bay Pirates: The Giants haven't exactly been able to keep Pirates from patrolling San Francisco Bay at their leisure; Pittsburgh has the third-best winning percentage at AT&T Park among NL opponents. NL Team Win Record
Dodgers .519 56-52
Cubs .512 22-21
Pirates .474 18-20McClutchen: Andrew McCutchen -- like batters 1-through-8 in the Pirates' order -- was a non-factor in Friday's game, but he's out to a hot start this year.The Bucs' center fielder is batting .360 in the first seven games, and he sees Zito well. He owns a 4-for-9 career mark against the Giants' lefty.

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