Barry Zito (14-8) pitched six strong innings on Thursday afternoon while Hunter Pence and Marco Scutaro played long ball as the Giants won their final home game of 2012 with a victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks 7-3.
The Giants offense went to work early against the Diamondbacks starter Patrick Corbin (6-7) putting up a six spot in the second inning on three singles, a double and two home runs.
The first homerun came off the bat of Hunter Pence after Buster Posey singled to leadoff the inning. The ball was a first pitch fastball that Pence immediately rocketed into the bleachers in left field bringing the sellout crowd into a frenzy.
Brandon Belt would follow with a single and then score when Hector Sanchez smashed a double to left field.
After Joaquin Arias popped out, Zito reached out and knocked a soft one out single to left to score Sanchez.
Later in the inning with two out and Zito at second base, Scutaro would put an exclamation mark on the explosive inning by slamming a 1-0 changeup over the left field wall for his 70th and 71st RBI of the season.
“They have made such a huge difference in this ball club,” Bruce Bochy said about the additions of Pence and Scutaro after the game. “It was a great job by Brian bringing these guys in. These two guys have made such an impact on our team and really helped turn us around.”
The Giants would add another run in the eighth inning when Sanchez hit a two out bomb over the centerfield wall, his third of the season, but Zito would make the six run second stand.
Zito’s outing started off rocky as he surrendered a leadoff triple to the Diamondbacks centerfielder A.J. Pollock. Locating both his fastball and booming curve, Zito quickly recovered by getting Aaron Hill and Jason Upton out on their front foot, inducing them into lazy infield popups followed by a groundout by Paul Goldsmidt.
Zito would pitch out of trouble again in the second, fourth, and sixth innings as he allowed a runner or runners in scoring position in four of the six innings he pitched.
Zito’s final line was three runs on six hits while walking three and striking out three, and while he registered another quality start, Zito’s stuff was better than his line suggests.
Throwing his fastball on the inner half of the plate and backing it up with a devastating curve, Zito looked like a confident pitcher executing a plan.
In the first, third, and fifth innings, Zito mowed through the Diamondbacks throwing ten pitches or less in each inning.
Zito’s second inning could’ve been just as quick if Brandon Belt wouldv’e been able to snag Jason Kubel’s liner to left, a ball that popped off the top of his glove and scored a double.
Zito’s biggest issue against the Diamondbacks is something that has plagued him in his rougher outings this year, a sudden lapse of control right when he seemed to be cruising along.
In the fourth inning, Zito had one on with two out and the bottom of the order up for Arizona. Suddently Zito couldn’t find the strike zone, walking the next two hitters before Chris Young came through with a pinch hit single to drive in two runs.
Zito would get out of the inning and allow another run in the sixth on back to back doubles, but overall he looked strong, composed, and like a pitcher who is now 14-8.
To say that Zito’s year has been anything but surprising to fans and media alike would be an understatement.
If you would’ve taken a poll at the beginning of the season as to which starter would be 14-8 and be the first Giants pitcher to win ten consecutive starts since Bill Swift in 1992, which Zito accomplished with his win on Thursday, any of the other four starters would’ve garnered most of the votes.
Asked about the 14 wins and if he finally feels good, almost as if there’s been some kind of redemption, Zito played it down.
“You know it kind of feels good on one side of me but for the most part of tried to go out there and put up stats and tried to get wins and things like that and prove myself, and it didn’t work.” Zito continued, “So for me, it’s about staying in the moment, having fun and giving my best effort.”
After the game, Bochy couldn’t say enough about Zito’s effort in the win and his determination all year.
“It’s been fun to watch how he’s bounced back and really put together a really good year. He’s pitched some big games for us……There’s been so many times he’s come through for us and he did another really good job today.”
George Kontos (2-1), Santiago Casilla (7-5), and Segio Romo (4-2) would come in and preserve the win for Zito, and now he can look to add to his great year with one more start, where he could become the third Giants starter to record 15 wins this season.
The Giants recorded their 91st victory on Thursday and will now finish their final six games on the road with a three game series in San Diego and Los Angeles.