The veteran looks to avoid a career-high ninth straight loss and career high-tying seventh consecutive lost start when the Giants open a three-game home series against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night.
San Francisco (81-63) trails San Diego by one-half game for the West lead. The Giants tightened the standings by taking three of four from the Padres over the weekend to complete a 7-3 road trip.
“This thing looks like it’s going to the wire,” manager Bruce Bochy said after a 6-1 win Sunday. “Right now, we just have to worry about what we can control.”
Bochy hopes he won’t have to worry about Zito (8-12, 4.14 ERA) much longer. The left-hander went 7-4 with a 3.76 ERA prior to the All-Star break but is 1-8 with a 4.82 ERA since.
Zito lost seven starts in a row from March 31-May 5, 2008, and went 0-8 in nine games from March 31-May 17 of that year.
The 2002 AL Cy Young Award winner had not lasted more than four innings in his previous four starts, but turned in an encouraging performance Wednesday. He limited Arizona to two runs in six innings while striking out seven in a 3-1 defeat.
“I felt loose out there and let the ball go; it was a lot better,” Zito told the Giants’ official website.
Zito has gone 6-7 with a 4.01 ERA in 18 starts against Los Angeles. In five starts versus the Dodgers this year, he is 0-2 with a 2.84 ERA, receiving only five runs of support.
The Giants have held their last eight opponents to three runs or fewer, posting three shutouts in that span while winning six times. They are 8-7 against the Dodgers (71-73), taking two of three at Los Angeles last week after sweeping a three-game home set July 30-Aug. 1.
The left-hander has posted a 2.27 ERA in his last six starts and allowed three earned runs or fewer in nine of his previous 10 outings. He yielded two runs and struck out six in seven innings last Tuesday but lost his third straight decision, 2-1 to San Diego.
While manager Joe Torre has tinkered with his lineup in recent weeks, he announced his usual starters will play in the upcoming series.
“In all fairness to the teams that are competing, we line up our best guys against the teams that are in contention,” Torre told MLB.com. “When you are dealing (with) where we are at and the teams that are still alive, when you are talking about San Diego, San Francisco and Colorado, I think for the good of the game you have to do that.”