After the San Francisco offense stepped up to snap a losing streak, the Giants turn to their ace to try and keep the winning going.
The Giants (18-17) overcame a three-run seventh-inning deficit to win 8-3 Friday. The eight runs surpassed their total output from the previous three games - all losses.
The offense might not need to score that much with Zito (3-3, 3.65 ERA) making his fourth career start against the Rockies (15-21). The left-hander is 1-0 with a 1.35 ERA against Colorado, including a 0.69 ERA in two starts at hitter-friendly Coors Field.
Zito held the Rockies to three hits in six shutout innings in Denver on April 16, earning his first win in a Giants uniform as San Francisco cruised 8-0.
“Great effort by him,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said of Zito after that contest. “It’s not an easy park to pitch in.”
The Colorado pitching staff is well aware of the dangers of pitching at Coors, where Saturday’s starter Jeff Francis (1-4, 5.61) is winless with a 7.66 ERA in four starts this year, including the April 16 loss to Zito and the Giants.
Francis is seeking his first win since April 9. The left-hander had lost four straight outings before Monday, when he failed to earn a decision in Colorado’s 3-2 win over St. Louis, despite limiting the Cardinals to two runs and four hits in seven innings.
Francis is 0-2 with an 8.03 ERA in two starts against the Giants this year, including the loss against Zito.
Barry Bonds, 10 home runs away from Hank Aaron’s record of 755, is 5-for-13 with two homers in his career against Francis. He has also hit 25 homers at Coors Field, where he owns a .343 lifetime batting average.
Friday’s loss was the third in four games for the Rockies, who are six games behind Los Angeles for the NL West lead and 3 1/2 games back of fourth-place San Francisco.
They have been outscored 24-11 in the last four games as their offense continues to struggle. The lone victory in that span was Thursday night’s series-opening 5-3 win over the Giants.
Colorado ranks 20th in the majors with 150 runs scored, and is tied for 26th with only 19 home runs.
The lineup could get a boost with the return of leadoff hitter and center fielder Willy Taveras. Taveras has missed the last five games with a groin injury, but is expected to play Saturday. He had been batting .436 (17-for-39) in his last nine games before getting hurt, and his nine stolen bases lead the team.
“Willy’s play was very encouraging before he pulled his groin out there,” manager Clint Hurdle told the Rockies’ official Web site. “He was getting on a nice roll. So to get that dynamic back will be welcomed.”
Veteran first baseman Todd Helton is one Rockies hitter who has remained consistent. He went 2-for-4 with a solo home run Friday, is batting .429 (15-for-35) in May and leads the majors with a .397 average this season.
Helton is 4-for-7 with three walks in his career against Zito.