Barry Zito (11-8) has made it public that if the Giants make the postseason, he wants to be on the roster. Left off of the 2010 postseason roster, Sunday night Zito made his case in a nationally televised broadcast between baseball’s best rivalry this year and one of the best all time, throwing 6 1/3 innings of shutout baseball helping the Giants to a 4-0 victory and his eleventh win of the year.
“He was sharp tonight,” Bruce Bochy said after the game, “His stuff was crisp, [he] had great focus out there, had all his pitches working…..he was just on top of his game.”
Zito was masterful at times locating his fastball on both sides of the plate which complemented his devastating hook that Dodger hitters couldn’t touch.
The game didn’t start off great for Zito, giving up a leadoff double to Mark Ellis, but in what would be a sign of things to come for the Dodgers all evening, Zito worked his way out of the jam stranding Elllis at second base.
Even though Matt Kemp didn’t play Sunday night, Zito still impressively held the 3-4-5 hitters on Los Angeles, Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez, and Luis Cruz to one hit in nine plate appearances.
Kemp still out of the lineup due to a frayed shoulder labrum was only one piece of good news the Giants received when they got to the ballpark Sunday afternoon, they also learned that Clayton Kershaw (12-8) had been scratched from the lineup due to a sore hip.
The Dodgers replaced Kershaw with Joe Blanton (9-13), who was a part of the Oakland A’s staff with Zito from 2004-2006.
Even though the five o’clock start created tough shadows for the hitters, the Giants were in the swing of things right out of the gate, touching Blanton up for two runs in the first inning.
Angel Pagan started things off with an infield single followed by a stolen base which allowing Marco Scutaro to advance him to third with a groundout to the right side. After Pablo Sandoval walked and Buster Posey struck out, Hunter Pence came up and hit a rocket line drive two out double to the gap scoring Pagan and Sandoval.
Pagan would ignite the offense again in the fifth with a one out triple followed by a sacrifice fly off the bat of Scutaro to put the Giants up 3-0.
The Giants fourth and final run would be the loudest as Posey led off the bottom of the sixth with a 400 foot bomb to centerfield, a Blanton slider that was the tenth pitch of the at-bat.
The homerun was Poseys’ 20th of the year, and his 87th RBI. Asked after the game if any player meant more to his team than Posey does for the Giants, Bochy didn’t hold back.
“You have a guy catching, hitting in the cleanup spot, and has carried us at times, I can’t think of a guy who is more valuable for his club than Buster is for us.”
If Bochy would’ve been asked who his MVP in the bullpen was he might not have been able to answer so easy.
In the eight games since the rosters have expanded, Bochy has made 42 pitching changes after his starters, that’s over five a game and includes the five relievers he used Sunday night.
When Zito was pulled in the seventh inning with two on and one out, Santiago Casilla came in and worked his way out of the jam keeping the shutout intact.
Jose Mijares and Guillermo Mota pitched a perfect eighth and Javier Lopez and Sergio Romo handled the ninth.
“For Bochy to manage the bullpen the way he has, I don’t think he gets enough credit,” Zito said after the game. “It’s not easy in the first place and when you been doing it like he’s been doing all year, really, my hats off to Bochy.”
While there was much praise for the offense, bullpen, and the total team effort, the real star of the night was Zito.
In the most important game the Giants have played this year, Zito went out and tossed a beauty and did it with a poise and presence that he hasn’t had in a while.
“My timing’s been good last couple starts and I’m just trying to take every pitch one pitch at time and enjoy the game.”
Zito continued, “Sometimes it’s tough when you start looking around and all the things that mean things to everybody [else], but at the end of the day we’re just a bunch of kids in here trying to have some fun playing baseball and that’s when we play our best. “
Zito has now improved his record to 11-8 and his ERA is down to 4.33. If he continues to pitch this well over the last three weeks there’s no doubt he will be on the postseason roster, he may be one of their starters.