The Giants have to hope his overall improvement is the precursor for a similar turnaround against the Oakland Athletics.
Zito’s 9.22 ERA when facing his former team is his worst against any opponent, and he’ll look to avoid a fourth loss in as many tries against the A’s as the Bay Area rivals collide for the first of three Friday night in Oakland.
Zito (6-1, 2.15 ERA) was a three-time All-Star and Cy Young Award winner in Oakland, but his 31-43 record and 4.56 ERA in his first three years across the bay hardly seemed to justify the seven-year, $126 million contract San Francisco handed him.
The Giants are just now starting to see the Zito they thought they were getting all along. Opponents are hitting .203 off the left-hander, and he hadn’t allowed a homer over 47 1-3 innings heading into his previous outing.
Carlos Lee(notes) snapped that streak Sunday with a fourth-inning homer, but Zito still turned in his seventh quality start in eight tries. He gave up three runs over seven innings in a 4-3 victory over Houston.
“That was one of his gutsier outings,” manager Bruce Bochy told the Giants’ official website. “He got the job done.”
Zito has only pitched once in Oakland since leaving, and none of his three outings against the A’s (20-22) have been worth remembering. He’s 0-3 and has walked 12 in 13 2-3 innings as the Giants have been outscored 26-4.
While Zito is 2-0 with a 0.89 ERA in three starts away from AT&T Park this season, he’s 2-8 with a 7.61 ERA in 10 interleague road outings since joining the Giants.
Oakland’s offense, however, isn’t causing opponents many issues. The A’s have been held to two runs or fewer in six of nine games.
Four singles were all Oakland could muster in a 5-1 loss to Detroit on Wednesday, and it was held to five hits in a 5-2 loss Thursday afternoon.
Oakland fell to 1-21 when it scores three runs or fewer.
On most nights, seven runs would seem to be more than enough to support Tim Lincecum(notes), but it wasn’t Thursday. Lincecum still had a 7-5 lead when he left, but San Francisco’s bullpen couldn’t hold it in an 8-7 loss as Bochy was ejected in the ninth for arguing balls and strikes.
“Every borderline call it seems like we couldn’t get,” he said.
Oakland lost five of six to the Giants last season and tied for the majors’ worst interleague record - 5-13. The A’s only victory came with Trevor Cahill(notes) (1-2, 4.37) on the mound, as the rookie lasted seven innings and allowed one run in a 5-1 home win June 22.
The right-hander began the season on the disabled list with a stress reaction in his left shoulder, and didn’t last through six innings in any of his first three starts. He made it through seven Sunday against the Angels, allowing three runs and five hits but losing 4-0.
“He threw well,” manager Bob Geren said. “He got a lot of ground balls. No walks. It was a good outing for him. There was just no run support.”