As Lincecum endured his own struggles this season, he learned from how Zito handled himself and couldn’t be happier for his teammate.
“I’ve been really close with him, and he’s been here since I’ve been here,” Lincecum said. “It’s been great to watch him grow, on and off the field. Obviously he hasn’t seen things go the way he wanted them to the last few years but this year has been a big year for him. What more can you say about a guy who has gone about the way he has professionally and still find a way to be positive about it?”
When Zito won Game 5 last week, he said how special it was to deliver in the most important start yet of his 13-year big league career.
“I tried Twitter a couple of years ago and it was a pretty devastating experience for me,” Zito said the other day with a laugh. “I learned to not check the inbox. So I got off Twitter. I’m excited that the fans are fired up.”
That support sure has meant a lot to Zito, who has always said the right thing even through the down times. Bochy praised his class in handling the 2010 situation. All those boos that came from every which way for so long have turned to cheers and thunderous standing ovations.
“For me personally, to look at the whole story and everything else doesn’t really help me because I have a routine I have to stick to,” Zito said. “I’m excited to pitch every time I get on the mound. This is a more exciting opportunity than most.”
Bochy will go with back-to-back lefties as Madison Bumgarner is set to start Game 2 on Thursday, followed by right-handers Ryan Vogelsong and Matt Cain. That puts Vogelsong in line to pitch a possible Game 7.
Zito won his last five regular-season starts and seven decisions of the regular season since a loss Aug. 2 to the Mets.
He has tweaked his delivery, added a cut fastball and learned to make adjustments right away when things go wrong. Working tirelessly with Righetti has helped, too.
Detroit’s Delmon Young knows just how much this means to Zito. They worked out together in the offseason following San Francisco’s 2010 title run.
“He was still happy to be a Giant,” Young said. “He was happy that he won a World Series and everything but he wanted to make sure that he was going to actually contribute. He worked his butt off. Now he’s earned what he wanted.”