During his 2012 transformation back to reliable starter, the 33-year-old Zito never wanted the focus to be on him or how he has accomplished it all, but rather what he could add to make the Giants a winner and playoff contender again. And, possibly, win another World Series ring in the process.
Nobody is questioning Zito’s talents now. His line of one run on six hits, three strikeouts and a walk in 5 2-3 innings was hardly spectacular _ but it rarely is for Zito. He is doing just what manager Bruce Bochy asks of him: giving the Giants a chance to win.
“Especially in the down times, he could not have been more of a high-class, respectful, dignified professional,” Giants CEO Larry Baer said. “I think the reason 43,000 are cheering Barry are the reasons that all of us in the front office and clubhouse are so ecstatic about, is good things happen to good people. The temptation in sports is to blame somebody else when things go down _ the pitching coach or the manager, the ballpark, the league, the this, the that _ he never once (did). He always said, `It’s on me, and I’m going to own it and figure it out.’ And here we are.”
This is the ultimate win for Zito, years in the making. Not that he will say it quite that way. That’s not how he operates.
When a struggling Zito was told he wasn’t going to be on the postseason roster in 2010, in one of Bochy’s toughest conversations with a player, the pitcher immediately went to work. He threw a bullpen session, he kept himself ready if needed _ but never got the chance. It hurt to the core, even if he never said it.
He tried different deliveries and pitching motions, he added a cutter to his repertoire to give him four solid pitches to keep hitters guessing.
Zito first pitched to chants of “Barry! Barry!” and later to hollers of “Zito! Zito!” Who could have seen this memorable World Series moment coming for him, only two years after all the boos, from every direction, in his home ballpark?
The Giants have won Zito’s last 14 starts, and he hasn’t lost since Aug. 2 against the Mets. Zito went 15-8 this season for his most victories since joining the Giants on a seven-year contract before the 2007 season.
“He’s kind of been our lucky charm,” Bochy said. “Fourteen games now we’ve found a way to win his ballgames. He’s just had great focus out there.”
With the Giants, Zito has never been the dominant pitcher he had been across the bay as a member of Oakland’s Big Three with Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder. Fans quickly gave up hope of Zito turning things around when he went 43-61 over his first five seasons with the Giants.
In a strange turn of roles, it was Lincecum _ who pitched the Game 5 World Series clincher against the Rangers in 2010 _ who came in for Zito. Lincecum credits the veteran pitcher for showing him how to better handle the struggles, like this season when The Freak fell into a long funk.
“It was great. Obviously he’s riding the highs right now,” Lincecum said. “He did great his last outing and once again did a great job for us today. He’s got to go against Verlander and that’s a tough guy to match up against, but he did his job. He just focused on what he had to do.”
Lincecum came through, too. He pitched 2 1-3 perfect innings of relief, striking out five.View Entire Story
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