With the Giants trying to keep pressure on the stumbling NL West leaders, Zito goes for his first victory in seven weeks Friday when he faces the slumping Los Angeles Dodgers.
After San Francisco’s starters posted a 6.08 ERA during a 10-14 stretch from Aug. 4-29, Jonathan Sanchez(notes), Madison Bumgarner(notes) and Tim Lincecum(notes) had a combined 1.23 ERA as the Giants (74-60) won two of three from Colorado in a series that ended with Wednesday’s 2-1 victory.
A 5-4 homestand was good enough to pull San Francisco within three games of division-leading San Diego, which has lost a season-high seven straight. The Giants, second in the wild-card race to Philadelphia, finish this road swing with a four-game series against the Padres beginning Sept. 9.
“You never lose sight of winning your division. The wild card’s great, but we haven’t lost sight of that,” manager Bruce Bochy told the Giants’ official website. “Anything can happen, and it’s up to us to go out there and win ballgames. Sure, the team ahead of us has lost some games and that’s helped things out, but we have to take care of business.”
Zito (8-10, 4.07 ERA) would like to open the Giants’ trip on a positive note, but the 2002 AL Cy Young Award winner has lost his last six decisions and has lasted a season-low 3 2-3 innings in each of his last two starts.
Zito dropped his third straight start Saturday, walking five and allowing a season-high nine runs in an 11-3 loss to Arizona.
“The pitches just aren’t crisp right now,” said Zito, winless since July 16. “It requires working hard between starts…. I just have to do better.”
Facing the Dodgers (68-66) could help Zito get back on track. He is 0-1 with a 1.95 ERA in four starts against them this season, with the Giants totaling just five runs in those games.
San Francisco has held Los Angeles to 15 runs in six meetings since the All-Star break, winning five.
The Dodgers, who have lost four of five and trail the Padres by nine games, could use a solid start from Chad Billingsley(notes) (10-8, 3.73) as they try to improve their sixth-place standing in the wild-card race.
“I still believe this ballclub has a six or seven-game winning streak,” manager Joe Torre told the team’s official website. “We just have to do it now, as opposed to later when it doesn’t matter.”
Billingsley, who will pitch opposite Zito for the fourth straight time, is 1-0 with a 0.83 ERA versus San Francisco this season. The last time Billingsley faced the Giants at Dodger Stadium, the right-hander threw a five-hitter - his second career shutout and third complete game - in a 2-0 victory July 21.
Billingsley wasn’t nearly as good in his most recent outing, walking a season-high five and giving up three runs in six innings of Saturday’s 5-3 loss at Colorado.
“I didn’t have very good fastball location tonight and the off-speed wasn’t there,” said Billingsley, who has not allowed more than three runs in eight straight starts.