SAN FRANCISCO—In Barry Zito’s second start with the San Francisco Giants since coming off of the disabled list, he continued to win over even the most critical voices with his strong outing in tonight’s 2-1 win over the San Diego Padres. The victory evened up the series between the two teams at two wins apiece.
San Francisco, with a penchant for close games, did not stray from that pattern as they scored just enough runs to squeak by the Padres and win their 50th game of the season.
San Francisco’s offense plated enough runs to hand their starter his third win of the season. Catcher Eli Whiteside his third home run in the third inning to get the team on the board first. In the seventh, three consecutive hits brought home another run—all that the Giants needed to come away with the win.
“We found a way to get it done,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “Any time you bounce back after losing two and win the next two, that’s always huge.”
Aside from a towering home run by San Diego’s Ryan Ludwick in the seventh inning, Zito looked dialed in. He pitched eight innings, only allowing one run on four hits while striking out seven and not walking any batters. Not since August 2, 2009 has he not issued a walk and it was only the sixth time in his career in which he went at least eight innings without doing so—the last one on September 20, 2007 against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“His command has been awesome the last three games, throwing four pitches for strikes and attacking the zone a little more than he has in the past,” Whiteside said. “Tonight he took it out there to the mound and threw the ball as good as I’ve seen him throw it.”
There has been a definite change in Zito, a sort of swagger in his step, a rediscovered confidence. Though the disabled list may be a stepping-stone to being replaced for some, the 33-year-old has turned the experience into a catalyst for reawakening his dominance.
“Whenever you go to the lower levels in the minor leagues you remember the process to get here,” Zito said. “You forget sometimes after being here for so many years that there’s a huge line of guys behind every one of the guys in here that are waiting to take someone’s job. So, you just go down there and you enjoy the game a little more down there. You just try to take that into this clubhouse.”
The love affair between the fans and their $126 million man seems to have taken a turn toward the better. Just months removed from being the target of jeers and negativity, Zito walked off the field tonight with an enthusiastic standing ovation from most of the 41, 521 fans that filled AT&T Park.
“It was big to come out and give these fans what they’re looking for,” Zito said. “They’re great fans.”
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