Barry Zito and the San Francisco Giants hope his stellar season debut is the beginning of good things to come for the former Cy Young Award winner.
Following a dominant performance from his teammate, Zito looks to build on his first shutout in nine years when he tries to help the Giants to a third consecutive victory Saturday night against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
A foot injury limited Zito to 13 appearances - nine starts - in 2011, and he went 3-4 with a 5.87 ERA. After tweaking his delivery in spring training to achieve a lower center of gravity, Zito was hoping for better results this year.
Looking like the pitcher who won the Cy Young with Oakland in 2002, the 33-year-old left-hander allowed three singles, a double and struck out four without a walk to help San Francisco avoid an 0-4 start with a 7-0 win at Colorado on Monday.
It was Zito's first shutout since April 18, 2003, against Texas.
"I couldn't be happier for Barry," teammate Aubrey Huff said. "It's no secret he gets buried by the fans, the media and all. To see him go out there and put up a complete-game shutout, all the haters out there - that's for them."
Zito is just happy that his hard work during spring training has paid off for the moment.
"It was really satisfying," said Zito, who threw 114 pitches. "I had a tough spring and made the adjustment I had to make."
Zito, 1-3 with a 3.41 ERA in five starts against Pittsburgh, has a tough act to follow after Matt Cain tossed a one-hitter in a 5-0 win over the Pirates in Friday's home opener.
Cain, who struck out 11, allowed his only hit to opposing pitcher James McDonald with two outs in the sixth inning. Huff homered and drove in three runs while catcher Buster Posey had an RBI double as San Francisco (3-4) continues to play well after taking two of three at Colorado.
"The pitcher gets the hit off Cain, of all people," said Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen, batting .200 in 19 games against the Giants. "Guess that's the one positive we can get out of that."
The Pirates (2-5) have been held to two or fewer runs in all but one game this season and totaled four during their current four-game skid.
While Pittsburgh hopes to find a way to jump-start its offense, it also hopes the expected season debut of Charlie Morton will help get the team on track Saturday.
Morton, 10-10 with a 3.83 ERA in 29 starts during a career season in 2011, began this year on the disabled list while recovering from hip surgery.
"I've been ready," Morton told the Pirates' official website. "I'm really eager to get back out there."
The right-hander is 2-3 in six starts against the Giants, but he has posted a 2.77 ERA while receiving an average of 2.31 runs of support in those games. Morton went eight innings during a 5-0 win at San Francisco on Aug. 8.
San Francisco's Melky Cabrera is 2 for 3 with a home run versus Morton. He recorded his fourth straight two-hit game Friday, raising his average to .414. Cabrera is batting .387 (12 for 31) in his last eight against the Pirates.