The Bakersfield Blaze greeted former 20-game winner and 2002 American League Cy Young Award winner Barry Zito rudely on Monday, putting up two runs on three hits in the top of the first en route to a 4-2 victory over the San Jose Giants. The Blaze’s opening frame was highlighted by Brodie Greene’s two-run home run, his 12th of the season. Zito rebounded quickly, keeping the Blaze hitters off balance by utilizing his off-speed repertoire early in the count. He allowed just one run on four hits while striking out seven in the remainder of his 7 2/3 innings of work. However, he was saddled with the loss as Bakersfield starter Tim Crabbe held the San Jose lineup in check for much of the evening. Crabbe pitched six shutout innings and struck out eight to earn the win.
“I was in there getting a feel for the game, and they jumped on a couple of pitches in the first,” Zito said. “After that, I was getting ahead with the curveball, changeup and cutter. That stuff helped me out later in the count.”
Zito’s loss was the first of his career in the California League dating back to when he came up with the then-Visalia Oaks in the Oakland A’s organization in 1999. Between his time in Visalia and his two previous rehab starts with San Jose earlier this year, Zito entered Monday’s game with an all-time record of 5-0 with a 2.33 ERA in California League play. In addition, he had compiled an impressive strikeout-to-walk ratio of nearly 3-to-1 (74 K, 25 BB).
The Giants would not score until the bottom of the seventh, although they had plenty of chances to put runs on the board and help put Zito into a position for the win. San Jose stranded a runner at third base to end an inning four times on Monday. Regardless, Zito kept the Blaze lineup guessing, and for several innings he and Crabbe built a formidable pitcher’s duel.
“I think the fastball command could have been a little better and down in the zone,” Zito said. “But I made an adjustment later in the game, probably around the fourth, and it was where I wanted it to be. Other than that, the off-speed was good tonight.”
Before San Jose could get its first run across, Bakersfield added on to Greene’s home run with a run in the top of the sixth. Devin Lohman’s double to center provided a two-out spark for the Blaze, and Jorge Jimenez’s base hit to center allowed Lohman to slide in at home just beneath the tag of Giants catcher Tommy Joseph. Jimenez’s RBI gave Bakersfield a 3-0 lead.
Derrik Lutz replaced Tim Crabbe for the Blaze in the seventh, and the San Jose production began instantly. Jarrett Parker drew a leadoff walk, stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch. After a Jose Flores strikeout, Luke Anders also walked to put runners at the corners with one out.
It appeared the Giants’ rally was dead when Nick Liles grounded to Bakersfield third baseman Alex Buchholz, who set a 5-4-3 double play in motion. Buchholz’s throw to second pulled his teammate Greene off the bag, however, and all runners were safe. Parker crossed home to shrink the Blaze lead to 3-1.
Gary Brown was beaned with the very next pitch, and San Jose suddenly had the bases loaded and was on the verge of a big inning with one out. Ehire Adrianza provided the second Giants run, grounding into a fielder’s choice that brought Anders in from third to pull San Jose within one, 3-2. The Giants were inches from tying the game when Nick Noonan’s line drive seemed destined for left field. But Buchholz atoned for his miscue earlier in the inning, snaring the liner and robbing Noonan of an RBI hit to end the Giants’ threat and the seventh inning.
The Blaze tacked on an important insurance run in the top of the ninth when Dayne Read homered to put his team ahead, 4-2. Read took a 3-2, Stephen Harrold fastball over the wall in left for his fourth home run of the season.
The Giants mounted a two-out rally in the bottom of the ninth, putting two runners on after a Brown single and an Adrianza walk. But Noonan would leave both runners on the bases, striking out looking to end the game.
The result was not what the Giants, Zito and the 4,010 in attendance had hoped for. But if there was one positive that emerged from the game, it was the fact that Zito’s nagging right foot sprain, which has sidelined him since August 1, appears to be on the mend.
“The foot was good,” Zito said. “I had a couple of comebackers, one in the last inning where I had to run and get it. So everything was good on that.”
San Jose is now 74-40 overall, having dropped five of its last seven games. The Giants look to avoid a sweep on Tuesday in the finale of their three-game series with Bakersfield. Chris Heston (10-4, 3.79 ERA) is on the mound for San Jose. Heston has won his last three consecutive starts. The Blaze counter with Matt Fairel (0-1, 81.00 ERA). Fairel was assigned to the Blaze on August 4 from the Double-A Carolina Mudcats, and lasted just 1/3 of an inning against High Desert in his only start the same day. Fairel was pulled after surrendering three runs, three hits, two walks and no strikeouts in his only appearance thus far for Bakersfield.
Tuesday’s game is scheduled for 7:00 p.m., and will be the last until August 19 as the Giants embark on a seven-day, seven-game Southern California road trip on Thursday. Tickets are available by visiting www.sjgiants.com, or by calling (408) 297-1435.
* Giants starter Barry Zito, an accomplished pitcher at baseball’s highest level for several years, expressed his thoughts on playing in San Jose with up-and-coming stars that are in the same shoes he was in 12 years ago: “It’s great to come back to San Jose. This is where I made my first start in professional ball in ’99. Getting down here with these kids that are having a good time and they all have big league dreams… It’s nice to come in here, talk with them a little bit and have some fun with them.”
* Giants catcher Tommy Joseph went 0-for-3 on Monday, snapping his 10-game hitting streak.
Former Giants in the News:
* Former San Jose pitcher Chuck Lofgren gets the start on Tuesday for Double-A Richmond as the Flying Squirrels are on the road to take on the Harrisburg Senators. Lofgren has been successful since being promoted to Richmond on July 20. In three starts heading into tonight’s action, Lofgren is 2-0 with a microscopic 0.92 ERA. He has allowed just two earned runs in 19 2/3 innings pitched.
* Former Giants catcher Hector Sanchez went 1-for-4 on Monday for Triple-A Fresno in the Grizzlies’ 4-2 loss to the Omaha Storm Chasers.
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