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Barry Zito turns back the clock with gem in Game 5

Oct 20, 2012, 12:00 AM EDT

Barry Zito Reuters

10 years after winning a Cy Young Award for the A’s, six years after signing one of the worst contracts in major league history and two years after being left off the postseason roster for the World Series champions, Barry Zito finally came up big for the Giants on Friday.

With his team on the verge of elimination, Zito shut out the Cardinals for 7 2/3 innings in a 5-0 victory, sending the ALCS back to San Francisco for a Game 6 on Sunday.

It was actually the 13th straight start of Zito’s that the Giants have won, but tonight was easily the left-hander’s best outing during the run. He had a 4.04 ERA during the previous 12 starts and had pitched more than seven innings just once.

That surge left Zito with far and away his best win-loss record in six years with the Giants. At 15-8, it was his first season over .500 since 2006, his last year with Oakland. Still, his 4.15 ERA was no better than his marks from 2009 and 2010. He finished with the worst strikeout rate of his career, fanning just 114 batters in 184 1/3 innings. Six years into a seven-year, $126 million deal, he has a 58-69 record and a 4.47 ERA for the Giants.

For one night, though, it hardly matters. Zito’s win tonight was his first in a postseason game since the 2006 ALDS with the A’s. He was a fine postseason pitcher for Oakland, going 4-3 with a 3.25 ERA in seven starts, but the Giants had no need of him when they won the World Series in 2010, opting to ┬áleave him off the roster for all three series while they went with a rotation of Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner.

And if not for Bumgarner’s struggles in Game 1, Zito may never have gotten the call in this series, either. The Giants were lining up Lincecum for Game 4, and Bumgarner was initially supposed to pitch Game 5. It was Bumgarner’s 11.25 ERA in two postseason starts that led to the change of heart.

Now Zito is the hero, turning in the best start by a Giants hurler in 10 postseason games to date. If his teammates can help him out Sunday and Monday, then he’ll be lined up to start a World Series game for the first time in his career.

  1. randygnyc - Oct 20, 2012 at 12:08 AM

    Very impressive performance.

  2. mgflolox - Oct 20, 2012 at 12:18 AM

    Couldn’t have happened to a better human being. Zito’s been the consummate team player throughout, doing whatever he could do to help his team, and always working hard to try to get back to what he had been with Oakland. Hopefully, he still can make the necessary adjustments to once again become a quality major league pitcher.

  3. bestcoastinfluence - Oct 20, 2012 at 12:42 AM

    He turned back the clock by bringing back that nasty 12-6 curve.. Filthy

  4. gaykegayden - Oct 20, 2012 at 1:11 AM

    So did he pitch a gem or were the Cardinals over aggressive? It blows my mind you get paid to blog on NBC Sports. I am not the one who rarely comments but reads and thinks the same thing.

    • cur68 - Oct 20, 2012 at 3:16 AM

      Well a guy can pitch really well AND be facing a team that’s over aggressive. Its not mutually exclusive, y’know? I think its fair to say that the Cards were overaggressive. BUT, in the face of who they were facing, why not be? BZits hasn’t exactly been lighting up the pitching the past few seasons. I’d tell my boys to go up there hacking: you are not facing Sabbathia after all. You’re facing Barry Zito. He is gettable. So get him. Zits of course threw nasty breaking pitches and got some calls. He handled those lively bats real well. So yeah, a hat tip to Ole BZits. But a wag of the finger to the Cards. Next time those boys will show more plate D. Might be a different story then.

    • natstowngreg - Oct 20, 2012 at 2:07 PM

      Matthew addressed the Cards’ overaggressiveness in a previous post. You might have taken note of that before taking a cheap shot at him. As often happens, truth lies somewhere between the extremes. Give Zito credit, give Cards’ hitters blame.

  5. vader3234 - Oct 20, 2012 at 4:23 AM

    I’ve been an admitted Barry Z hater and tonight I’m glad he made me eat my words and then some. His bunt was an impressive move as well. Here’s hoping for continued success.

  6. aceshigh11 - Oct 20, 2012 at 5:29 AM

    Good for him. It’s a shame he never lived up to the promise of his early career, but this performance is a small measure of redemption for him.

  7. nickmiller63 - Oct 20, 2012 at 9:32 AM

    Zito thrives on the over-aggressive. Thus the Cards needed to be patient. They weren’t, they lost. What a ridiculous comment.

  8. hustleandflomax - Oct 20, 2012 at 11:13 AM

    Smoke and mirrors. Good for him. That’s exactly how you tame an aggressive lineup. He did play with fire a couple times, throwing that 83 mph cheese numbers-high to Carlos Beltran and Allen Craig.

    I like Zito, and think it’s sad and unfair that he gets criticized for that contract. Yeah, it was bad, but I don’t believe he held a gun to anybody’s head to offer him that.

  9. psunick - Oct 20, 2012 at 11:45 AM

    You could not be more right on, hustle.

    Especially with how horribly he’s been treated by the SF fans and media.

    But Zito is way too classy to tell them all to shove it. Even though, today, he can finally do so.

    • TheBlindUmp - Oct 20, 2012 at 1:46 PM

      I go to games, live in the bay area, and I always thought that the fans treated him pretty well given his performance. Plus, the fans really embraced him this year, easily his best as a Giant. And he’s handled all of it really well. Go Barry!

  10. Marty - Oct 20, 2012 at 11:56 AM

    Not sure how many starts Zito has against STL. I do remember a game in 2010 at home on a Saturday where he held them to 0-1 runs late into the game, even had a complete game opportunity but I believe it was closed by Wilson. The crowd was totally behind him and gave him a standing O back into the dugout, which he acknowledged with his usual class.

    The next week was spent talking about the resurgence of Zito. He ended up getting rocked the rest of the season and left off the 2010 playoff roster, as most know already.

    I can’t remember a Giants player who disappoints so steadily, while at the same time the fans want to succeed so bad. Pence is becoming a close second. Couldn’t be happier for the guy, but if they make it to the WS I’d be shocked if he could repeat half of last night.

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