The Juice: Barry Zito rolls as Giants draw closer to Dodgers, Strasburg’s bid for seven comes up short

Kevin Kaduk
Big League Stew

The Juice is back for its fifth season of fun! Stop by each weekday for an ample serving of news from the action, plus great photos, stats and video highlights.

How Zito got his groove back?: Barry Zito hadn't been very good coming into Monday's series opener against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Giants left-hander had tanked his previous three starts, giving up a total of 17 runs over 14 1/3 innings. He hadn't "beat L.A." since May 2008 either.

Both droughts, however, came to an end as Zito allowed only three hits over seven scoreless innings in an 8-0 win for the Giants at AT&T Park. He also contributed at the plate, scoring only the seventh run of his career after a leadoff walk in the second.

The victory cut the Dodgers' lead in the NL West to just two games; they led the division by 7 1/2 games as recently as May 27 and it's the closest the Giants have been to first since April 7.

''It's big,'' Zito told reporters. "It's the biggest rivalry in baseball, and we're going to be playing them down the stretch and into September, no doubt."

We're looking ahead by a lot, but this is a race that has the potential to be a pretty good one. Fourteen games between the Giants and Dodgers remain this season with the final series of the season being played at Dodger Stadium. Things are likely to get even hotter as Andre Ethier didn't take kindly to being plunked by Zito in the sixth.

Nats fall in Colorado: Stephen Strasburg hit a tie-breaking double in the fifth that allowed him to increase his season OPS to 1.027, but the end result at Coors Field was unfortunately not as satisfying for the Washington Nationals and their ace.  The Rockies' 4-2 victory stopped Strasburg's winning streak at six straight starts. He had been vying to become the first Nats/Expos pitcher to win seven straight starts since Pedro Martinez did it in 1997.

'Plain and simple, this loss is on me': It's hard to argue with that assessment from Miami closer Heath Bell after he gave up four ninth-inning runs to the Cardinals to blow a save in what would end up being an 8-7 St. Louis win in 10 innings.  The Marlins have lost 16 of their last 19 games to fall eight games behind first-place Washington.

Great grab: It may have come during a matchup of two of the worst teams in baseball but Padres shortstop Andy Parrino turned in an elite-level highlight with this great diving catch in the seventh inning of San Diego's 8-7 win over Houston.

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Quote of the Day

"It's an amazing feeling to finally do something good after the trade."

— Cincinnati's Mat Latos after striking out 13 batters in a 3-1 win over Milwaukee. It was the right-hander's second complete game of his career and first since being traded from the Padres to the Reds for four players last winter.

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Photo of the Day:The man in black

It may not be on par with Michael Jordan in a Wizards jersey or Brett Favre as a member of the  New York Jets, but the sight of Kevin Youkilis in something other than a Red Sox uniform was a tad arresting. The White Sox's new third baseman made his debut in a 4-1 loss in Minnesota, going 1 for 4 from the second spot in the lineup.

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Three facts for the water cooler

Luke Hochevar threw a complete-game shutout for the Royals in an 8-0 win over the Rays, as did the game's losing  pitcher, Alex Cobb. The Tampa Bay pitcher became the first starter to throw an eight-inning complete game while giving up eight or more earned runs since Randy Johnson did the deed in 1998. Only 19 other pitchers since 1960 have stayed in the game under similar circumstances.

• Citizens Bank Park has been a house of horrors for the Pirates lately. They're 2-15 over their last 17 games there after an 8-3 loss to Joe Blanton and the Phillies on Monday night.

• Yankee Stadium's Bleacher Creatures chanted Johnny Damon's name Roll Call-style as he took his position for Cleveland on Monday, then cheered as the Indians were handed a 7-1 loss by Hiroki Kuroda. Cleveland has scored one run in each of their last three games.

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