Results tagged ‘ Barry Zito ’

Seven reasons why San Francisco Giants fans should be confident with Barry Zito pitching

San Francisco Giants’ Barry Zito answers a reporters question before a workout for baseball’s World Series Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012, in San Francisco. The Tigers play the San Francisco Giants in Game 1 on Wednesday, Oct. 24. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Last Friday, prior to Game 5 of the National League championship series, someone asked me if I was confident with Barry Zito on the mound vs. the Cardinals.

I responded that no Giants fan is ever confident with Zito on the mound.

That’s because you just never seem to know which Zito is going to show up: the one who keeps hitters off-balanced or the one who walks in runs.

So to make Giants fans feel better about this Barry Zito vs. Justin Verlander matchup in Game 1 of the World Series, we came up with seven good reasons why you should feel good about Barry Zito.

NO. 1: We’ll start with the obvious one. The Giants have won their last 13 games when Zito has started on the mound.

NO. 2: It’s true that the Giants have won each of Zito’s last 13 starts sometimes in spite of Zito — he has a 3.56 ERA over that stretch. But since Sept. 9, he is 6-0 with a 2.57 ERA.

NO. 3: Against teams that advanced to the postseason this year (Reds, Cardinals, Braves, Rangers and A’s), Zito was 4-2 with a 2.98 ERA in eight starts.

NO. 4: Zito has 2.96 ERA in 9 postseason starts. It would be much less if we took out Zito’s lone postseason start vs. Detroit (in 2006).

NO. 5: The Giants score runs when Zito pitches. After giving Zito 3.7, 3.0 and 3.5 runs of support per start in 2008, 2009 and 2010, the Giants gave Zito 4.8 runs of support in 2012. During the 13 game win streak in Zito starts, the Giants have averaged 6.23 runs.

NO. 6: Zito’s last start against the Tigers in 2011, he gave up no runs on five hits in six innings of work. The Giants won that game 15-3 over Max Scherzer. Brandon Crawford and Pablo Sandoval homered in that game. To put the game into context, Zito opened his season by injuring his ankle in his third start of the season in Arizona. He then missed the next 2.5 months. Actually, he was hurt the next six weeks then he spent nearly a month in Fresno on a rehab stint after Ryan Vogelsong had seized Zito’s spot in the rotation. But the Jonathan Sanchez imploded, so Zito came off the DL. He gave up 2 runs in 7 innings vs. the Cubs, then the start in Detroit, then gave up one run in eight innings vs. the Padres. Then Zito’s season went to heck and he didn’t make another start after July 31.

NO. 7: In Justin Verlander, the Giants are facing a pitcher with an ERA of 0.74 in his three previous postseason starts. In 2010, the Giants faced Texas’ Cliff Lee in Game 1 of the World Series. Coming into that game, Lee had an ERA of 0.75 in his three previous postseason starts that year. The Giants jumped on Lee for 7 runs (6 earned) in 4 2/3 innings en route to an 11-7 win.

Barry Zito rescues the San Francisco Giants ….. again?

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Barry Zito throws during the first inning of Game 5 of baseball’s National League championship series against the St. Louis Cardinals Friday, Oct. 19, 2012, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

BOX SCORE

Game 1: Cardinals 6, Giants 4
Game 2: Giants 7, Cardinals 1
Game 3: Cardinals 3, Giants 1
Game 4: Cardinals 8, Giants 3
Game 5: Giants 5, Cardinals 0
Game 6: Cardinals (Carpenter) at Giants (Vogelsong), 4:45 p.m. Sunday
Game 7 (if necessary): Cardinals (Lohse) at Giants (Cain), 5:07 p.m. Monday

I didn’t blog after the Giants’ 8-3 loss to the Cardinals on Thursday — not entirely because I was depressed. I was actually busy with other things.

But if I had found the time to blog, this is what I was planning to write.

All hope was not lost, not even with the fact the Giants were behind 3-1 in the National League Championship series, needing once  again to win three consecutive games to advance.

And not because Barry Zito was pitching.

Jayson Stark of ESPN said Wednesday that Game 3 was the game the Giants NEEDED to win, because Matt Cain was on the mound. After Cain came the enigmatic Tim Lincecum (he was right about that one) and then the equally puzzling Barry Zito.

But as someone who has blogged about the Giants all season, I kept thinking back to similar feelings I had about upcoming Zito starts this season.

The situation was this: the Giants were coming off a loss — sometimes a couple of losses — and, oh great, now Zito is pitching.

Then Zito turns in a pearl.

Seven of Zito’s 15 wins this season — that’s almost half — have come on days that followed a Giants’ loss.

It started with  his first win of the season way back on April 9. You remember? Zito was gawd-awful in the spring, stayed in Arizona to “work on some things,” the Giants drop their first three games to the Diamondbacks, then they get Zito pitching in Colorado.

And what did he do? He pitched a shutout, being the Rockies 8-0.

He would do it six more times following a Giants’ loss, including two more when he didn’t allow the opponent to score:

  • June 25 vs. Dodgers, Giants win 8-0
  • July 6 at Pirates, Giants win 6-5
  • August 7 at Cardinals, Giants win 4-2
  • September 9 vs. Dodgers, Giants win 4-0
  • October 2 at Dodgers, Giants win 4-3

Well, Zito did it again on Friday, when the stakes were far higher than they had ever been previously.

He held the Cardinals to no runs on six hits and one walk (which was an intentional walk) while striking out six in 7 2/3 innings, sending the Giants back to San Francisco with the hopes of a pennant still alive.

“I couldn’t be happier for him,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “I don’t know how many times we needed to win this year, he found a way to get it done for us.”

Afterwards, Zito knew what the victory meant to him and his team.

“This is definitely it for me,” Zito said. “Coming here, really doing it in a Giants uniform. A lot of people were saying stuff about my A’s days. And for me, the most important thing is doing everything for San Francisco right now.”

And as they have so often this season, the Giants did something for Zito. They got him some runs.

For the second time in this NLCS, the Giants went hitless against Cardinals’ starter Lance Lynn the first time through the lineup.

And for the second time in this NLCS, they jumped on him for a four-run fourth inning.

Marco Scutaro and Pablo Sandoval opened the inning with singles before Buster Posey struck out. Hunter Pence hit a high chopper back to Lynn, who fielded the ball, spun and threw to second. But the ball was low, shortstop Pete Kozma was late in covering, and the ball bounced off the bag and into the outfield, allowing Scutaro to score the game’s first run.

After Brandon Belt popped out — failing to get a runner home from third with less than two out — Gregor Blanco walked. Then Brandon Crawford delivered in the clutch again, as he has before this postseason, smacking a single up the middle to score Sandoval and Pence.

Then Zito made the offensive play of the night for the Giants. After falling behind in the count, he saw David Freese playing deep at third and punched a bunt up the third base line, then hustling down to first for an infield single that scored Blanco with the fourth run.

The play stunned the Cardinals, and even some Giants, too.

“Shocked,” third-base coach Tim Flannery said. “We work on it. We talk about it. But he did that all on his own. It was beautiful – brilliant.”

Said Blanco: “I was thinking, maybe, ball in the dirt, I’ve got to be ready. But I wasn’t expecting that. It was awesome, unbelievable. That’s what I told him: ‘Awesome! Awesome! You’ve got to do it again!’ ”

It wasn’t all Zito after that. Pablo Sandoval added another home run, and the Giants’ defense behind Zito was superb.

But the bottom line is that for the 13th consecutive game that Zito has started, the Giants came away winners.

Incredible. Amazing. Unbelievable.

Now the Giants return home where they will throw Ryan Vogelsong in Game 6, and hopefully Matt Cain in Game 7.

And here’s another amazing thought. If the Giants can pull off another comeback and advance to the World Series, who do you think might get the call at AT&T Park next Wednesday against the Tigers?

Could it be Barry Zito?

Oh, and the last time Zito faced the Tigers, he delivered his only scoreless start of the 2011 season, pitching six scoreless in Detroit on July 2, 2011.

And the Giants scored runs for him, winning 15-3.

Stunning: Ryan Vogelsong to start Game 3 for San Francisco Giants

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Ryan Vogelsong pitches to the San Diego Padres during the first inning of a baseball game Friday, Sept. 28, 2012 in San Diego. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

I’m stunned. Absolutely stunned.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy announced Sunday who will start Game 3 in Cincinnati: Ryan Vogelsong.

After Vogelsong pitched last week in Los Angeles — his third consecutive solid start after a very rough patch in August and early September — I felt Vogelsong was the best option for Game 3.

He has allowed one earned run in 17 innings over his last three starts. He’s back to the Vogelsong of old.

Tim Lincecum has just been to inconsistent this season, especially of late.

In his final two starts of the regular seasons, Lincecum got tagged for 11 earned runs in 10 innings.

And Barry Zito is, well, Barry Zito.

I felt best about Vogelsong in Game 3, regardless of the situation. I’m sure most Giants fans feel the same way.

I just wasn’t sure if Bruce Bochy would feel the same.

Bochy’s M.O. over the years have been to go with players who have success in the past — not necessarily in the present.

We saw it all last year when he sided with a struggling Aubrey Huff, instead of Brandon Belt. And there have been numerous others examples.

With Bochy, sometimes it seems more about loyalty than results.

I thought Bochy would go with Lincecum in Game 3, and Zito in Game 4, with Vogelsong coming out of the pen.

There is some logic to that strategy as Vogelsong is probably the best suited of the three to work out of the pen.

Bochy did not announce who would pitch Game 4, “but we have a pretty good idea of what we want to do,” he said.

Translation: Barry Zito pitches Game 4. But Bochy is leaving that option open, depending on what happens in Games 2 and 3.

The Giants have won the last 11 games in which Barry Zito has started, dating back to Aug. 7 in St. Louis. Zito was 5-0 in his last five starts, allowing eight earned runs in 30.2 innings (a 2.35 ERA). And the Reds have several key left-handed bats in their lineup.

Bochy said he talked to Lincecum and he’s ready to do anything he can to help the team, which Bochy said includes coming out of the pen.

Again, another sign that Zito is the Game 4 option.

But Lincecum out of the pen? I’m not so sure about that.

Lincecum posted a 7.64 ERA this season in the first inning of games. That doesn’t speak to a lot of confidence of him coming out of the pen. He’s struggled to find his rhythm early.

So is Lincecum only an option to pitch as an innings eater in the event the Giants fall behind big early in the game?

If so, it seems like a waste of a roster spot. But he is a two-time Cy Young winner. Although those trophies don’t get you any outs this October.
So it’s Ryan Vogelsong in Game 3, Barry Zito probably in Game 4, Matt Cain in Game 5. And Tim Lincecum in the pen.
I bet you Chris Lincecum, Timmy’s daddy, is going nuts right about now.

San Francisco Giants 4, Los Angeles Dodgers 0: Barry Zito does it again

 

Giants 79-61

Dodgers 74-67

Lead: 5.5

Magic number: 17

Entering Sunday night’s game, the Giants were still nursing the soreness of missing an opportunity to really stick it to the Dodgers, wasting a solid outing from Matt Cain on Saturday.

Then they had Barry Zito going up against Clayton Kershaw. So the odds of the Dodgers leaving town with a 3.5-game deficit were looking good.

Then the Dodgers announced that Kershaw was nursing a sore hip, and they decided to stick with Joe Blanton in his regular turn in the rotation, giving Kershaw two more days to make his regular turn Tuesday in Arizona.

That was the first bit of good news.

With Blanton on the mound, the Giants struck early with Hunter Pence delivering a two-out, two-run double in the first. Angel Pagan’s triple led to a third run, and Buster Posey’s 20th home run of the season made it 4-0.
Then Zito did what he’s done a number of times this season — he shut down a contending team.

Zito shut out the Dodgers before leaving with two on and one out in the seventh.

Santiago Casilla pitched out of that jam. Jose Mijares, Guillermo Mota, Javier Lopez and Sergio Romo finished out the shutout.

It was the fourth time this season the Giants have shut out the Dodgers. To make that sweeter, the win was the rubber match for games at AT&T Park for the rivals. The Giants won 5 of 9.

The Giants have 22 games left. The Dodgers have 21. We were incorrect in any earlier post in saying the Dodgers now head to Washington and Cincinnati. That trip will come in another week. Now the Dodgers head to Arizona for two-game before a brief four-game homestand against the Cardinals.

Now if the Giants finish the season 11-11, the Dodgers’ hope of winning NL West ends with their sixth loss. Done at 15-6.

Those are long odds for a team that is 6-9 since their blockbuster trade that was supposed to put them over the top. Long odds for a team that still has 13 games left against playoff contenders. Long odd for a team whose ace has a sore hip, whose No. 2 pitcher is done for the year, whose closer’s status is uncertain, whose best player has a sore shoulder.

It might be to stop looking back at the Dodgers and start looking up at the Reds and National. See if they can’t catch those guys and secure some home cooking in October.

First things first. Let’s beat the Rockies on Monday, extend Colorado’s five-game skid and officially eliminate the Rockies from the NL West race. And it would be nice to get Ryan Vogelsong right.

San Francisco Giants 6, Houston Astros 4: The continuing saga of bungling Barry Zito

San Francisco Giants pitcher Barry Zito, right, waits as manager Bruce Bochy (15) comes out to the mound to remove him from the baseball game against the Houston Astros in the third inning, Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012, in Houston. Zito pitcher two and one third innings, giving up seven hits and three runs. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

BOX SCORE

The title of Wedneday’s game in Houston could have been “Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Zito.”

Or is it “Dr. Zito and Mr. Hyde”?

That’s the problem. We just don’t know.

When you think Zito is going to get clobbered, he turns in a gem. When you think this is a game Zito can win, he gets lit up.

Take a look at the good and bad starts by Zito since June 20:

The good

  • 6/25 vs. Dodgers: 7 IP, 0 R, 3 BB, 4 K, win
  • 6/30 vs. Reds: 6 IP, 1 R, 6 BB, 3 K, loss
  • 7/17 at Braves: 7 IP, 0 R, 1 BB, 4 K, win
  • 7/22 at Phillies: 7 IP, 3 R, 1 BB, 7 K, loss
  • 8/7 at Cardinals: 6.2 IP, 2 R, 0 BB, 4 K, win
  • 8/23 vs. Braves: 8 IP, 2 R, 3 BB, 5 K, win
  • TOTAL: 41.2 IP, 4-2, 1.75 ERA

And the bad

  • 7/6 at Pirates: 5 IP, 4 R, 3 BB, 3K, win
  • 7/28 vs. Dodgers: 5 IP, 4 R, 1 BB, 4 K, loss
  • 8/2 vs. Mets: 4.1 IP, 7 R, 3 BB, 1 K, loss
  • 8/12 vs. Rockies: 5.1 IP, 4 R, 2 BB, 3 K
  • 8/18 at Padres: 4 IP, 4 R, 2 BB, 1 K
  • 8/29 at Astros: 2.1 IP, 3 R, 0 BB, 1 K
  • TOTAL: 26 IP, 22 ER, 1-2, 7.62 ERA

Since August, it’s been even more puzzling. Zito has been able to shut down playoff-contending teams like the Cardinals and Braves. But he can’t contain losing teams like the Mets, Rockies, Padres and Astros.

Luckily for the Giants, they’ve been able to produce enough offensive to counter-act Zito’s last three poor performances and still win.

That’s what happen Wednesday, thanks to Pence and the pen.

Hunter Pence gave the Giants 4-0 lead in the first inning with his three-run home run. Then Zito slowly started to give it back.

The odd part of Zito’s start Wednesday is he didn’t walk anyone. But he did give up seven hits in 2 1/3 innings before getting the hook. He left with the Giants leading 4-3 and was lucky not to get tagged with two more runs thanks to George Kontos’ nice escape act with two on in the third.

Giants relievers Kontos, Guillermo Mota, Jose Mijares, Jeremy Affeldt, Santiago Casilla and Javier Lopez limited the Astros to one run on three hits in 5 2/3 innings to preserve the win.

Zito blamed his Wednesday struggles on pitch selection, saying he should have shook off Buster Posey when the catcher called for changeups.

“That’s my job to shake,” Zito said. “It’s nothing Posey is doing wrong. … Sometimes you’re just fixed up togo. You see a sign and go. But it’s one me to throw my pitch.”

At the start of the year, Hector Sanchez was Zito’s personal catcher. Sanchez was behind the plate in Zito’s first 18 starts of the year. But with the Giants needing to keep Posey’s bat in the lineup after Melky Cabrera’s suspension, Posey has caught four of Zito’s last five starts.

So what’s next for Zito. Who knows? His next start comes Monday at home against the Diamondbacks. Then if the rotation stays in turn, it will be vs. the Dodgers, at Diamondbacks, vs. the Rockies, vs. the Diamondbacks, at the Dodgers.

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.

San Francisco Giants 4, St. Louis Cardinals 2: Barry Zito continues to be full of surprises

BOX SCORE

MONDAY BOX SCORE: St. Louis Cardinals 8, San Francisco Giants 2

There’s only one thing wrong with having Barry Zito follow Main Cain in the rotation.

When the Giants lose in a game started by Cain, they get Zito the next day.

Recently, that’s been happening more and more. It led to back-to-back losses to the Dodgers and then the Mets.

So optimism was not running high when the Giants took on the Cardinals Tuesday after Cain got knocked around by the Redbirds on Monday.

And then Zito did something he’s done a couple of times this season. He surprised us.

Just like he did in his first start of the season when he shut out the Rockies after a horrendous spring training.

Then came three consecutive losses to the Rangers, Astros and Angels in June, which was followed by seven shutout innings vs. the Dodgers.

He got whacked around pretty good by the Pirates in his final start before the All-Star Break. Then in his first post-break start, held the Braves scoreless for seven innings.

His most recent ugly streak included giving up 14 runs in 16.2 innings in his three most recent starts.

So what does he do Tuesday, limits the Cardinals to two runs — both on solo home runs by Allen Craig — on eight hits and NO WALKS over 6.2 innings.

He made Buster Posey’s three-run home run in the first inning stand up.

The victory was big because it allowed the Giants to lengthen their lead in the NL West over the Dodgers for the first time in a week. It’s the first time since before Zito’s ugly start agains the Dodgers on July 28 that the Giants’ lead was greater than one game.

It’s also a big win because it kept the hope of leaving St. Louis with at least a split of the four-game series more within reach. If the Giants do that, they will head home Friday guaranteed of remaining in first place.

It’s important to note because these games in St. Louis will be the Giants’ last road games against a non-divisional opponent with a winning record.

After this road trip, the Giants will have just 13 games against non-divisional foes — three at home vs. the Nationals, four at home vs. the Braves, three at Houston and three at Chicago.

Starting this weekend, the Dodgers embark on a 10-game road trip: three at Miami, four at Pittsburgh and three at Atlanta. And they still have three-game road series at Washington and Cincinnati later in September.

Oh, and the Cardinals travel to LA for a four-game set in mid-September to boot.

Starting Labor Day, the Giants will play entirely within the NL West.

San Francisco Giants 8, Los Angeles Dodgers 0: Go figure, Giants win

BOX SCORE

Baseball is a funny game.

Fresh off a tough loss Sunday in Oakland — wasting an outstanding performacne from Matt Cain — the Giant fans entered Monday matchup with the Dodgers with low expectations with Barry Zito on the mound.

So what does Zito do? He shut out the Dodgers on three hits over seven innings of work, leading to an 8-0 victory that pulled the Giants within two game of first place.

Even Zito admitted that he wasn’t facing the same Dodgers lineup that led L.A. to a strong start. Yet, these are games the Giants need to win.

“They’re pretty banged up over there, and we’ve got to capitalize on that,” he said.

We mentioned last week that every time the Giants lose a game started by Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong, they need to win a game started by Zito and Tim Lincecum.

Giants fans are hoping more wins will come in Freak starts, but they are never sure about Zito.

But the Giants lost to the Angels when Vogelsong started Wednesday, then won a Lincecum start Friday in Oakland. They lost a Cain start Sunday, then won a Zito a start Tuesday.

Now Vogelsong returns to the mound to face off with Clayton Kershaw in what figures to be a low scoring game. The Giants beat Kershaw the last time they faced him in L.A. Let’s see if they can make it two in a row.

Los Angeles Angels 12, San Francisco Giants 5: Crouching Zito, Whacking Angels

BOX SCORE

Barry Zito needs to work on his crouch again.

Last offseason, Zito worked again on his delivery, standing on the mound with a more pronounced crouch.

It made him look like a batting practice pitcher during spring training, and some began to wonder if the enigmatic lefty was done as a big-league pitcher.

But Zito stayed in Arizona to continue to work on some things when the rest of the team headed north.

Then he stunned everyone by throwing a four-hit shutout at Colorado to open the season.

That was the first of five quality starts in his first seven outings. In none of those seven starts did he allow more than three runs. He had a 2.53 ERA at that point in the season.

However since then, it’s been more of the Zito of old.

He gave up four runs in 5.1 innings against the A’s after the Giants had given him a big early lead. He got tagged for eight runs (four earned) in three innings against the Brewers. His ERA rose to 3.53.

Then he had back-to-back quality starts (7 IP, 2 ER vs. Arizona; 8.1 IP, 0 ER vs. Chicago) and his ERA went back to 2.98 and his record was 5-2. Numbers Tim Lincecum would trade a month’s worth of Double-Doubles for.

But in his last three starts, he’s allowed 17 earned runs in 14.1 innings.

At least in the past couple of starts you could pinpoint Zito’s problems to a few bad pitches or a bad inning.

There wasn’t much good to say about Tuesday’s start against the Angels.

The Angels had a 3-0 lead before Zito recorded his first out, which was mercifully (and somewhat inexplicably) given to him when the Angels decided to sacrifice with two on and no one out … after the first five Angels safely reached base.

Zito left the first giving up four runs and facing all nine Angels hitters.

The Angels tacked on another run in the second before Zito worked a scoreless third, allowing only an infield single.

But he was right back in trouble in the fourth, loading the bases with one out when he was pulled. All three runs came into score on a triple by Mark Trumbo that probably should have been caught by Angel Pagan, leading to only one run.

We’ve said it before. If the Giants win every game pitched by Ryan Vogelsong, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner and lose every start by Zito and Lincecum, they’re a .600 ball club. A .600 ball club goes 97-65 over a 162-game season.

But that’s a lot to ask. And it means that every time the Giants lose game started by Vogey, MadBum and Cainer, they need to win games started by Zeets and the Freak.

And the way Zito is going, that puts more pressure on Lincecum to get his act together.

As for Zito, his next start comes at home against the Dodgers, then at home against the Reds. So it doesn’t get much easier for the lefty.

UP NEXT

Vogelsong takes the mound against Jared Weaver as the Giants wrap up their series with the Angels at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday. Weaver is making his first start since going on the DL with a strained back. He’ll be on a pitch limit of 80-90 pitches, so hopefully the Giants can at least make him work for his outs.

San Francisco Giants 2, Chicago Cubs 0: Barry Zito needs to buy Alfonso Soriano dinner

BOX SCORE

A rare thing happened Sunday at AT&T Park, something Giants fans haven’t seen in the past five-plus seasons.

Manager Bruce Bochy came out of the dugout to pull Barry Zito from the game after Zito walked a batter, and the crowd at AT&T booed.

OK, that’s not so rare. But try this on for size.

They booed Bruce Bochy.

Zito threw 8 1/3 scoreless innings Sunday. But after giving up a one-out walk to Darwin Barney, Zito was pulled despite throwing only 96 pitches.

“Your heart’s telling you ‘Hey, give him a shot” at the shutout, Bochy said. “But your brain’s telling you the right thing to do is go get him and bring in (Sergio) Romo.”

In other words, if the Giants were up 6-0, Bochy leaves Zito in the game. But with the tying run at the plate, calling on Romo was the right call.

Romo struck out Starling Castro and got Alfonso Soriano to hit a come-backer for the final outs.

So Zito’s chance for a second shutout this season went by the wayside. But thanks to Romo, he did get the victory to improve to 5-2.

And while he’s at it, Zito should also thank Soriano for the win. Thanks to the outfielder’s inept defense, the Giants were able to put two runs on the board.

The first defensive lapse by Soriano came in the fifth inning when the Giants were still searching for their first hit off Travis Wood.

Angel Pagan hit a deep liner to left that just about any other left fielder in the National League (yes, perhaps even Aubrey Huff) should have been able to catch. But Soriano didn’t read it right and his sore legs allowed the ball to sail over his head for a double, extending Pagan’s franchise-record home hitting streak to 27 games.

One out later, Joaquin Arias, who had been 3 for 17 with two outs and runners in scoring position, slapped a single to right. Cubs right fielder Reed Johnson threw home and the ball appeared to arrive just ahead of the sliding Pagan at home, but catcher Koyie Hill could not corral the throw, and Pagan scored the game’s first run.

It stayed 1-0 until the eighth when Gregor Blanco walked with one out. Blanco was running with the pitch when Melky Cabrera singled to left. Blanco motored to third, and when Soriano was slow getting to the ball and then threw it into second, Blanco raced all the home for a 2-0 lead.

It would surprise us to see Soriano sitting on the bench Monday afternoon.

But that should distract us much from the solid outing from Zito. The lefty lowered his ERA to 2.98 after giving up just four hits and two walks, while fanning five.

Zito’s outing shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, especially given the opponent.

One of Zito’s three victories in 2011 came against the Cubs on June 28, when Zito was making his first start in more than two months on the DL. On that day, he limited the Cubs to two runs on four hits in seven innings in a 6-3 Giants win in Wrigley Field.

In his next start Friday at AT&T, Zito will get the opportunity to do something he didn’t get the chance to do in 2010 — pitch against the Texas Rangers.

UP NEXT

The Giants will try to go for the sweep and post their first four-game winning streak of the season when they send Ryan Vogelsong against Jeff Samardzija at 12:45 p.m. Monday.

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