SAN FRANCISCO Way back on August 7 in St. Louis, Giants starter Barry Zito took the mound, looking to rebound from a shellacking he took in his previous start against the New York Mets when he gave up seven runs in 4.1 innings.
Ten starts later, and his team has not lost a single game in which Zito got the ball, including Thursday afternoons 7-3 win over the Arizona Diamonbacks. The 34-year-old Las Vegas native picked up his 14th win of the season by throwing six generally effective innings and allowing three earned runs.
Has Zito earned his way into the starting rotation for the playoffs? Thats a decision that Bruce Bochy places in the category of a good problem to have.
These are things were discussing. Theyre tough decisions. Its great to have these hard choices ahead of us, said the manager, whose club closed out the home portion of its schedule. Guys are throwing the ball well, and Im talking about all five starters. Its a nice luxury to have. That will be decided in the last couple games. Zito is a guy that we have so much confidence in, just like all of them. Well talk about it. We still have some time.
RATTO: Playoff decisions still loom
Its generally thought that it will be either Zito of Ryan Vogelsong who starts the fourth game of the postseason, behind Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and Madison Baumgarner. While their numbers are similar (Zito is 14-8, 4.19; while Vogelsong is 13-9, 3.58), there is something to be said for the fact that the Giants havent lost a single Zito start in a month and half. Its the longest such franchise streak of its kind in more than 20 years, when the Giants won 11 in a row behind Bill Swift in 1992.
Zito gives much of the credit to his teammates, who have averaged 6.4 runs per game over his last 10 starts.
These boys definitely come out playing great D and swinging the bats, Zito said. I just try to go out there and have fun, and keep the other team down and keep it close. Our offense has surprised many people this year.
So has Zito, who will post his first winning record in six seasons in a Giants uniform.
Hes done a great job. Hes had a real nice year and its been fun to watch how hes bounced back and really put together a really good year, Bochy said.
Belt in left a work in progress
It wasnt the smoothest afternoon with the glove for Brandon Belt, who got a rare start in left field as Bochy experiments a bit with his lineup after clinching a playoff spot. The 24-year-old misplayed a pair of catchable balls, including one that cost the team a run in the sixth inning.
Bochy chalked up that one to the early afternoon sun, which was beaming straight down into Belts eyes while a line drive screamed towards the outfield wall.
This left field in the day, its as tough as any left field in baseball in any park, Bochy said. With us not taking BP today, Belt didnt have a chance to go out there and take some balls. He had some tough plays, but Im glad he had those tough plays, to be honest. I dont know what were going to do, to be honest, each game in the postseason. We do want to have that option, especially the way hes swinging the bat.
Belt said: Ive generally felt comfortable out there. There are some balls that are a little bit tougher for me to handle, especially line drives right at me. Thats just part of it. I think the more I play out there and the more experience Ill get the easier it will get.
Belt shifted to first base after Buster Posey was removed from the lineup, putting Gregor Blanco in left. Blanco made an impressive sliding catch in foul territory in the top of the ninth inning with one out.
Praise for Marco
Giants infielder Marco Scutaro increased his hitting streak to 15 games with a two-run longball in the second inning. It was the first home run hes belted over that span, and hes now hitting .452 (28-for-62) with 14 RBI during what is the longest active hitting streak in the majors.
Posey said: Hes a professional hitter. He has an idea of what he wants to do each at-bat, depending on whos on the mound. Hes able to make adjustments mid at-bat, and hes fun to watch. Hes a guy I remember watching before I was here, and always appreciated the way he played the game.
Scutaro, of course, was acquired mid-season, as was Hunter Pence, who also had a two-run homer in the six-run second inning.
They have made such a huge difference in this ballclub, said Bochy. Great job by Brian Sabean to bring these guys in. The presence of Pence, we needed somebody to help out the middle of the order, especially what happened earlier in the season.
Scutaro, I cant say enough about what hes done. Hes just been so consistent since Day 1. These two guys have made such an impact on our team and really helped turn us around. Once we acquired them, weve been a different club. Their energy, how they play, they are very professional how they approach every game.