Tigers preparing new gameplan for resurgent Zito

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Tigers preparing new gameplan for resurgent Zito

SAN FRANCISCO Some might argue Justin Verlander vs. Barry Zito in Game 1 is a mismatch. Onone side, you have a flamethrower that is the reigning American League MVP andwinner of the pitching Triple Crown in 2011. On the other side, you have asoft-throwing southpaw that hasnt posted an ERA under 4.00 since 2006, when hewas an Oakland Athletic.But while the Giants roster has combined to go 12-for-57 for a .211 careeraverage against Verlander, the Tigers have been even worse against Zito. Manyof Detroits players havent faced Zito sincehis Oaklanddays, but the Tigers collective career average against Zito is .190, with just16 hits in 84 at-bats.After facing their fare share of pitchers with overpowering fastballs on theirway to the World Series, the Tigers must now prepare for a crafty veteran whois still getting big leaguers out without topping 86 miles per hour on theradar gun.We face guys throwing his speed all year, said ALCS MVP Delmon Young, who is2-for-3 with a double facing Zito in his career. Its just baseball. If itsover the plate and you think you can drive it, you take a swing at it. Velocitycan throw you off with offspeed pitches, but if you just keep a simplerapproach, you should have a successful day at least making contact. The Cardinals were just as confident heading into Game 5 of the NLCS, but Zitokept the Giants season alive by keeping St. Louis off the board for 7.2innings. He struck out six in that start and the Tigers plan on closelyexamining that outing and previous ones to put together a gameplan for theWorld Series opener.You have to go over film, said Gerald Laird, who has three hits in 15 at-batsagainst Zito. I got a chance to face him a little bit last year and hes kindof the same guy, but obviously hes added a couple more pitches and his commandhas gotten a lot better. Hes had to change a little bit from the Oakland dayssince his velocity is not there like it used to be, but hes still a greatpitcher.What makes him a great pitcher?Hes one of those guys where you cant do too much withhim, Laird said. You cant try and pull him because hes a guy thatll make apitch away and get you to roll over or pop you inside when youre looking forsomething else. So hes one of those guys where you have to stay up the middleof the field and not try to do too much because hes a pitcher, he knows whathes doing and he knows how to get outs.Austin Jackson, the man who will likely see the first pitch of the World Seriesas Detroits leadoff man, said that Zitos slower pitches end up working in hisfavor.When somebodys throwing not as hard, you try not to pullhim, said Jackson, who is hitless in two at-bats but owns a walk against Zito. I think thats a main focus. When somebodys not throwing as hard,everybody wants to crush it and they end up getting themselves out.So how will Jacksonprepare in order to not get himself out?I think first thing, you definitely have to look at some film and what hesdone to guys similar, other leadoff hitters, Jackson said. Maybe see how he pitchesearlier in counts and how he pitches later in counts.In Zitos last start in St. Louis,his cutter was his bread and butter pitch early before he turned to thebreaking ball in the later innings. Laird said the cutter is tough to lay offbecause its so enticing out of Zitos hand.I was watching the last series, hes got the little cutter and the fastball at84 that you cant be too anxious, Laird said. The funny thing is he knows howto pitch with it. He elevates it, he sinks it, he throws it down and in, hechanges your eye level, he changes speed and hes crafty.Laird said he would tell his teammates to not get too pull-happy against Zito.I tell the guys, you got to go up there with a gameplan and not leave itbecause as soon as you leave your gameplan and try to yank him, hes going tomake a pitch and get you out.Verlander, who requires a much different gameplan, recalled the Zito ofyesteryear.The main thing I remember from Zito was his curveball,Verlander said.I think I was probably in college watching a game of his,and his curveball was just unbelievable, and he still has a good curveball. Butthat thing back when he was with Oaklandwas just unreal, and I hope not to see it.Young, who worked out with his fellow Southern California native over theoffseason following the Giants 2010 World Series win, said he was happy to seeZito bounce back from being left off the postseason roster during that run.He was happy he won a World Series and everything, but hewanted to make sure he could actually contribute so he worked his butt off. Nowhes earned what he wanted. Im happy for him. Barrys back where he used tobe.

Early offense, six strong from Cueto lift Giants past Braves in finale

Early offense, six strong from Cueto lift Giants past Braves in finale

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO -- The blisters on Johnny Cueto's middle and index fingers that limited his effectiveness in his last few starts haven't yet completely healed.

But the two-time All-Star is learning to pitch with them.

Cueto threw six strong innings and Brandon Crawford drove in three runs as the San Francisco Giants defeated the Atlanta Braves 7-1 on Sunday.

Cueto (5-4) bounced back from his roughest stretch as a Giant. He was 0-3 with a 4.33 ERA in his previous four starts.

"They're not bothering me like they were before," Cueto said through a translator. "I'm just getting used to it but I have to continue pitching until they get better."

The Giants won their third straight home series and posted their 11th victory in 18 games overall.

Crawford's two-run single highlighted a four-run second against R.A. Dickey (3-4) that made it 6-0.

Matt Kemp had three hits for Atlanta. But the Braves couldn't get much going against Cueto, who allowed one run on six hits and a walk. Cueto struck out eight, including five in a row at one point.

"He did what he needed to do to get us out," Kemp said. "We had chances to score runs and we didn't. I think in this series we really didn't do a good score of scoring runs."

Dickey allowed a season-high seven runs (six earned) on six hits and five walks in six innings.

"This can be a challenging place to throw because of the wind because it swirls so much," Dickey said.

Eduardo Nunez and Gorkys Hernandez each had two hits for the Giants. Joe Panik tripled to start the second-inning burst.

Cueto had two productive at-bats, bunting a runner to second in the second inning and driving in a run with a sacrifice fly in the third.

"It's always nice to have a lead and I thought Johnny was the sharpest he'd been this year," Giants catcher Buster Posey said. "Hopefully it's something he can build on. The changeup was working really well and his command of the fastball was really good."

Posey was 0 for 2 with two walks. He hasn't struck out in 55 consecutive plate appearances.

FUN FACTOR:
The Giants scored the game's first run when Nunez came around from third when a knuckleball glanced off catcher Kurt Suzuki glove in the bottom of the first. The play was ruled a passed ball. Asked if he had any empathy for the plight of his counterpart, Posey said "Yes, no question. It's not fun to hit, it doesn't look fun to catch, either."

FANCY FIELDING:
Hernandez made a diving catch in the gap in left-center robbing Emilio Bonifacio of an extra-base hit with one out in the seventh inning.

TRAINER'S ROOM:
Braves: 2B Brandon Phillips left in the fifth for pinch-hitter Jace Peterson. Phillips fouled a ball off his foot in his last at-bat in the third.

Giants: LHP Madison Bumgarner will start his throwing program on Friday, manager Bruce Bochy said. Bumgarner will start out playing catch and make five rehab starts. The 2014 World Series MVP suffered a separated left shoulder in a dirt biking accident. "The progress is happening," Bochy said. "I think he sees light at the end of the tunnel." ... Slumping rookie INF Christian Arroyo was out of the lineup on Sunday and his playing status appears uncertain. Arroyo, who turns 22 on Tuesday, is 0 for 19 in his last five games. "I'll talk to him, about what his situation is," Bochy said. "I'm definitely planning on giving him a couple of days" off.

UP NEXT:
Braves: RHP Julio Teheran will make his first career start against the Angels in Anaheim on Monday. He is 3-9 with a 5.63 ERA in 15 career interleague starts.

Giants: LHP Matt Moore will face the Nationals for the second time in his career. He was with Tampa Bay when he gave up two runs in five innings against Washington in 2012.

Giants lineup: Posey catching, Nunez at third base against Braves

Giants lineup: Posey catching, Nunez at third base against Braves

The Giants look to win two straight against the Braves and Bruce Bochy has made a few changes to the lineup Sunday.

Atlanta Braves (21-26)

1. Ender Inciarte (L) CF
2. Brandon Phillips (R) 2B
3. Nick Markakis (L) RF
4. Matt Kemp (R) LF
5. Matt Adams (L) 1B
6. Kurt Suzuki (R) C
7. Rio Ruiz (L) 3B
8. Dansby Swanson (R) SS
9. R.A. Dickey (R) P

San Francisco Giants (21-30)

1. Denard Span (L) CF
2. Eduardo Nunez (R) 3B
3. Brandon Belt (L) 1B
4. Buster Posey (R) C
5. Brandon Crawford (L) SS
6. Justin Ruggiano (R) RF
7. Joe Panik (L) 2B
8. Gorkys Hernandez (R) LF
9. Johnny Cueto (R) P