Now that he’s stopped worrying so much about it, San Francisco starter Barry Zito is starting to live up to the hefty contract he signed in January.
Zito will look to build on a pair of strong starts when the streaking Giants open a three-game series with the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field.
Zito (2-2, 3.70 ERA) signed a seven-year, $126 million contract with the Giants as a free agent in the offseason after spending the first seven seasons of his career across the bay with Oakland. He lost both of his first two starts with San Francisco, including a 10-4 defeat against the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 8 in which he allowed eight runs in six innings.
Since then, however, Zito has not allowed a run, throwing six innings in an 8-0 win in Colorado on April 16, and 7 1-3 in Saturday’s 1-0 win over the Diamondbacks. They were the first consecutive scoreless starts for the left-hander since September 2002, when he blanked Minnesota and Seattle en route to that season’s AL Cy Young award.
“I think I was getting caught up in everything,” Zito said of his poor start to 2007. “It started to seem like more than baseball. There was a whole lot of stuff going on.
“These last couple of games it’s been go out and have fun like when you’re a kid. Put everything outside your head and let your stuff work for you.”
Zito has always struggled early in the season, as he is 13-17 with a 4.89 lifetime ERA in April - more than a full run higher than in any other month. Still, the Giants are glad to see him pitching back to form.
“This is the Barry Zito that we’ve seen in the American League,” catcher Bengie Molina said Saturday. “He hit his spots very well today. He hit inside to open up the changeup and curveball. He did great today.”
Zito struck out a season-high five batters Saturday, improving to 2-1 in three career starts against Arizona. He has allowed just two earned runs in 22.0 total innings against the Diamondbacks for a 0.82 ERA.
The Giants (12-8) swept Arizona in three games at AT&T Park last weekend, part of their current eight-game winning streak. The run is the longest for San Francisco, which opened the season 1-6, since it won 10 straight May 20-31, 2004.
“That’s big,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “When you get off to a rough start, the important thing is to handle it. We’re on a good roll right now with contributions from everybody.”
The Giants are coming off a three-game sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers, including Thursday’s 5-4 victory. Ray Durham doubled home the go-ahead run in the eighth inning for San Francisco, which swept its third straight series.
Barry Bonds went 1-for-3 with an intentional walk one game after hitting his 741st home run to move within 14 of Hank Aaron’s all-time mark. Bonds is 59-for-188 (.314) with 18 homers in 60 career games at Chase Field, and 5-for-10 with one home run against Doug Davis, who starts the series opener for Arizona.
Davis (1-2, 3.27) allowed four runs - two earned - in six innings of last Friday’s 4-2 loss at San Francisco. He is 2-3 with a 4.63 ERA in eight career appearances, including seven starts, against the Giants, but the defeat was his first against them since 2004.
The Diamondbacks (12-11) beat San Diego 7-4 on Thursday for their second straight win following a five-game losing streak. Tony Clark hit two homers for his second multi-homer game of the season, and Stephen Drew went 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI single one night after hitting a game-winning two-run homer off Padres closer Trevor Hoffman.
Manager Bob Melvin said the dramatic win in the previous game gave the Padres some momentum for Thursday.
“I think there probably was a little bit of carryover,” he said.