In the pivotal three-game set with the arch rival Los Angeles Dodgers, the San Francisco Giants managed to take two-of-three games to boost their lead in the NL-West to 5.5 games over their L.A. rival, thanks in large part to Barry Zito’s shutdown outing at AT&T on Sunday night.
Hunter Pence delivered a two-out, two-run double into the left field gap with runners at the corners, Marco Scutaro knocked in a sacrifice fly and Buster Posey added a solo home run to notch the Giants’ fifth win in the last six games against the Dodgers.
But the main story line in the Giants 4-0 blanking of the Dodgers on Sunday was the resurgence of Zito (11-8). In front of a 41,517 sellout crowd, the former Cy-Young winner drew cheers throughout his stellar pitching performance, scattering only four hits and three walks on six and a third innings pitched. He has become a shining light in the Giants’ stretch run to the playoffs, notching the team’s second series win since its July 25-27 sweep of the Dodgers and some much needed relief from what’s been a shaky rotation over the last two weeks.
“This game’s obviously bigger because not only is it against our rival in the West, it’s the Dodgers, too,” Zito said after the game. “Being 5 1/2 up, we like where we’re at. We certainly can’t rest on our laurels. We have to fight every day , and that’s something we’ve been doing all year.”
Zito has become a big deal for the Giants, winning the last seven outings since a rough Aug. 2 loss to the New York Mets. He has compiled a 10-1 record when San Francisco scores four or more runs and is currently 5-2 against the NL-West this season. The veteran left-hander has given the Giants the momentum heading into the final 22 games of the regular season.
So, will Zito be added to the 2012 post-season rotation?
If you can’t quite remember, Zito was scratched from the Giants’ post-season rotation (nor was he on the bullpen roster) in the team’s 2010 playoff run due to his erratic pitching late in the year. That’s $126 million contract on the bench — the highest paid player on the team. As a result, he couldn’t be entrusted with the ball in his hands when playoff series were decided by seven games, let alone five games in the NLDS. His inconsistency coupled with erratic bases-loaded walks and a 1-8 record with a gaudy 6.66 ERA to end the season, were easy factors in determining his fate.
But chances are, Barry’s back. Well, not all the way back. Just back enough for Giants fans to feel comfortable with his starts to not make any rash decisions. Nor is he the biggest concern on the Giants pitching rotation (Tim Lincecum anyone?). That being said, he’s solidified his bid for October baseball by his recent resurgence and a dominating performance at the hands of the Dodgers. If there was any clear indication for starting him for the playoffs, this game would be it.