San Francisco Giants 5, Atlanta Braves 2: It’s Barry Zito … again

BOX SCORE

Barry Zito. What can you say about Barry Zito.

Well, he’s done what he needed to do this season.

He didn’t need to be the ace.

San Francisco Giants pitcher Barry Zito throws to the Atlanta Braves during the first inning of a baseball game in San Francisco, Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012. (AP Photo/George Nikitin)

He didn’t need to be an All-Star.

He didn’t need to be the guy deserving $20 million a season.

He was going to get paid regardless.

What he needed to be is a serviceable end-of-the-rotation guy.

Zito is now 10-8 with a 4.31 ERA. Match that up with other No. 5 pitchers around the league, even No. 4 pitchers, and that’s right on line.

But here’s a stat that might surprise some.

Zito actually posted better ERAs in 2009, when he was 10-13, and 2010, when he was 9-14. ERAs those years 4.03 and 4.15.

The big difference this season it is that Zito has been hit-and-miss this season.

In Zito’s 10 wins this season, he has an ERA of 2.21.

In Zito’s eight losses this season, his ERA is 8.31.

Thursday was a good start as he took a shutout into the ninth inning. Manager Bruce Bochy sent him out in the ninth despite having thrown 108 pitches. Back-to-back hits to open the ninth led to Zito’s exit, and Zito finished with two runs allowed in eight-plus innings.

Here’s an interesting twist in the Zito story.

If Zito pitches 400 innings combined over the 2012 and 2013 seasons, an $18 million player option kicks in for 2014.

Some fans have expressed some concern that if Zito continues to pitch well, he might actually approach that 400 inning milestone.

Well, the numbers say otherwise.

Zito has pitched 146.1 innings this season in 25 starts, an average of 5.9 innings per start. He is slated to make seven more starts. If he pitches his average of six innings per start, that would push his 2012 season total to 188 innings.

That means he would have to pitch 212 innings in 2013 for that option to kick in. Zito has not pitched more than 199.1 innings during his stint with the Giants.

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