Giants-Diamondbacks Preview

The Associated Press

Although he doesn't have many wins to show for it, Barry Zito is off to one of his best starts in his six seasons with the San Francisco Giants.

His next outing, though, will come at a park where he hasn't had much success recently.

Zito seeks his first victory in more than a month Sunday when he faces the Arizona Diamondbacks and fellow left-hander Joe Saunders, who will attempt to bounce back from his worst outing of the season.

Zito (1-1, 2.21 ERA) has posted a lower ERA through his first six starts only one other time since crossing the bay from Oakland before the 2007 season, going 5-0 with a 1.49 ERA in 2010. He faded badly thereafter, finishing 9-14 with a 4.15 ERA.

Nine total runs of support over his last five outings is one reason why Zito's record isn't as gaudy this time around. He got one run from his teammates in a 9-1 loss Monday to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Zito allowed three runs over six innings, matching the most he's given up in his six outings.

"There's going to be rough stretches defensively, offensively and pitching-wise. It's just part of the game, so you can't let that come into your head," said Zito, whose lone win came in his April 9 season debut at Colorado. "You've just got to come out there and make your pitch and be aggressive."

Zito's last start in Arizona is likely one he wishes he could forget. He gave up two runs in 1 2-3 innings April 16, 2011, before leaving the game with a sprained right foot that caused him to miss the next 2 1/2 months.

Zito, who is 1-4 with a 6.45 ERA in his last eight starts at Arizona (15-19), might have trouble earning another win there if Saunders (2-2, 2.50) can regain his recent form.

Saunders was 2-1 with a 1.24 ERA through his first five starts, before getting tagged for seven runs over 3 1-3 innings of Monday's 9-6 home loss to St. Louis.

"Some nights you have it, some nights you don't, and I didn't have it," he told the Diamondbacks' official website. "Left some balls up and paid for it. It's a bad start, turn the page. I had five good starts before this one."

Saunders is 0-3 with a 4.15 ERA in four career starts against the Giants (16-17). He turned in a strong performance the last time he faced them, Sept. 23 at home, giving up one run and scattering nine hits over seven innings. He failed to get a decision, though, as the Diamondbacks didn't pull ahead to earn the go-ahead runs in a 3-1 victory until after he exited the game.

That win was one of nine in a row for Arizona over San Francisco, but the Giants finally snapped that skid with a 5-2 victory Saturday. Melky Cabrera went 3 for 5 with a pair of RBI doubles to extend his hit streak to 10 games, and Angel Pagan was 3 for 3 for the Giants.

"We felt like we've played good enough to beat these guys," San Francisco starter Matt Cain said. "We need to really focus down and play better. I think that's something we really need to carry over to tomorrow."