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.
SAN FRANCISCO — Matt Moore knew there was something different about his final home start at AT&T Park this season, and not just the fact that he received a loud ovation as he walked off the mound in the seventh. Moore noted later that the outing was the first shutout he has been a part of this year. In fact, it was the first time in 30 starts that he walked off the mound without having allowed a run.
“I guess it’s better late than never,” he said.
The Giants are hoping it’s actually a preview of things to come. They counted on Moore to be a big part of their 2017 push, but instead, he likely will finish with the worst ERA of any full-time starter in the National League. Still, general manager Bobby Evans has informed Moore that his 2018 option will be picked up, something that Moore appreciated given the time of year.
“I always pictured myself here,” he said.
Whether coincidence or some kind of “weight off the shoulders” situation, Moore’s first start since the public revealing of the decision was his most encouraging of the year. Facing a good lineup, and a team that needed a win desperately, he pitched six shutout innings. The Giants beat the Rockies 4-0.
Moore was already showing signs of life, with a 3.76 ERA over his seven previous appearances. Bruce Bochy viewed this as another step forward.
“It’s been getting better and better with each start,” he said. “What he did really well today was on the arm side. He had good balance to both sides of the plate.”
Moore peppered the outside corner with fastballs, and he credited catcher Nick Hundley with stealing a few strikes. The plan allowed Moore to put hitters away in big spots, one of three points of emphasis he brought into the second half. The other two: limiting lefties and getting ahead of hitters.
That’s Moore’s roadmap back to being the player the Giants acquired. For the team as a whole, the roadmap back to relevance is similar to Wednesday’s plan. This is not a home-run hitting lineup, but the Giants are 47-21 when scoring four runs, and Wednesday was a reminder of the different paths to that magical number.
Brandon Crawford had a solo homer, but the first two runs came on sacrifice flies and the fourth on a walk-wild pitch-single combination. Bochy said he liked “the brand of ball” his team played.
“They executed so well today,” he said. “It’s just good baseball, and that’s what I felt good about.”
SAN FRANCISCO — A couple of weeks ago, a Giants official expressed amazement about how little was known about the desires of Japanese two-way star Shohei Otani.
“Teams know just about as much as you guys (in the media),” he said.
The Giants are hoping that changes this week. General manager Bobby Evans and assistant GM Jeremy Shelley have traveled to Japan to take a look at the 23-year-old, who reportedly will come over to play in Major League Baseball next season.
“There’s going to be a lot of attention on him and it’s part of the scouting process every club goes through,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “It’s doing our due diligence, as you say.”
Otani is a rare prospect, a potential ace on the mound and lineup-altering bat in the outfield. He has 47 homers in just over 1,000 professional at-bats, and this season he’s batting .341. As a hard-throwing pitcher with a wipeout breaking ball, Otani has a 2.57 career ERA for the Nippon Ham Fighters. He had a 1.86 ERA last season with 174 strikeouts in 140 innings.
Because he’s said to be coming over at such a young age, Otani will sacrifice the chance to sign a massive contract. The CBA limits him to collecting money from a team’s international bonus pool, and the Giants are limited to $300,000. Still, some other big-market teams are in the same boat, and despite their lack of pool money and poor season, the Giants surely believe they have plenty to offer.
It’s not known what Otani is looking for, but perhaps he wants to play in a big city to make up some of his lost earnings? Perhaps he wants to play on the West Coast, closer to his home country, or in a region with a big Japanese population? Perhaps he’s just a big Buster Posey fan? The Giants intend to find out, and to be in the bidding.
It’s possible that Otani has seen the way Bochy uses Madison Bumgarner as a pinch-hitter, but Bochy said he can’t imagine using a true two-way player.
“I don’t think it would work,” he said. “You’re talking more of something that might work in the American League. That’s a lot of throwing and wear-and-tear.”