The MLB post-season is famous for players who rise to the occasion when no one expects them to. Many of them help lead their teams to a world’s championship. If the San Francisco Giants win it all in 2012, pitcher Barry Zito may be the man who came out of nowhere to lift them over the top.
Zito was not expected to make much of an impact in the post-season. His regular season statistics showed a record of 15-8 with an earned run average of 4.15. In game four of the NL Divisional Series against the Cincinnati Reds, Giants manager Bruce Bochy gave Zito a quick hook in the third inning.
With San Francisco trailing the St. Louis Cardinals three games to one in the NL Championship Series, Bochy decide to let Zito pitch game five. With the Giants’ season on the line and facing the defending world champions this seemed like a move that would backfire. Bochy’s plan was to let Zito go as far as he could and rely on his bullpen to do the rest.
To everyone’s amazement, Zito went seven complete innings and shut the Cardinals out. San Francisco won 5-0 and headed back to the Bay Area for games six and seven. Zito’s performance was important not only because it saved the Giants season, but their bullpen as well. By throwing seven innings he allowed Bochy to save some arms for the final two games.
The Giants used this reprieve to win the series. In the final two games San Francisco pitching held St. Louis to one run. Beginning with Zito’s game five start, San Francisco gave up one run in the final three games of the series. By coming back from a three games to one deficit the Giants won the NL pennant and advanced to the World Series.
Wednesday night Zito was asked to pitch game one of the series against Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander. Verlander was coming off of dominant performances against the Oakland Athletics and New York Yankees in the AL playoffs. Zito was given very little chance to win as Verlander was thought to be too tough.
To the surprise of many it was Zito who proved too tough for the Tigers. He pitched 5 2/3 innings of six hit ball and gave up one run before handing things over to the bullpen. San Francisco third baseman Pablo Sandoval helped stake Zito to a 6-0 lead with three home runs. The Giants went on to win 8-3.
Once again, Zito came through when it counted. It was very important for San Francisco to prove that they could beat Verlander– thanks to Zito they did.
If things continue going the Giants way, and they win it all, we may look back at the performance of Zito and call it the most important of the entire post season.