Barry Zito is pitching a lot like his old self and the San Francisco Giants are finally backing him with plenty of runs.
And they’re right back in the playoff chase.
Zito struck out a season-high nine in his biggest win yet as a Giant, Juan Uribe drove in three runs and San Francisco shaved another game off Colorado’s hold on the NL wild card with a 10-2 victory over the Rockies on Tuesday night.
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“We’re just clicking right now,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “Hopefully this is something we can continue and keep the momentum going. … We still have some ground to make up.”
San Francisco won its third straight after a four-game skid and pulled within 2 1/2 games of the wild-card leading Rockies, who dropped their fourth straight following an eight-game winning streak.
Zito, the 2002 AL Cy Young Award winner, is finally performing more like the standout pitcher San Francisco awarded with a $126 million, seven-year contract before the 2007 season. The Giants swept the Rockies from Aug. 28-30 to move even in the wild card, and could really benefit by doing so again this time. All-Star Matt Cain takes the mound in the series finale Wednesday night for the Giants.
Randy Johnson is back, too, though the 303-game winner will work out of the bullpen following a two-month shoulder injury.
“It’s black and white,” Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. “There is no middle ground. We have the opportunity to win a game in this series and move ahead with a 3 1/2-game lead, or we’ll have a 1 1/2-game lead. That is what is up for grabs. It’s a big cushion versus giving it back is what is on the table tomorrow. It doesn’t come easy.”
In San Francisco’s three straight wins, the Giants have outscored the Dodgers and Rockies 26-5 after being outscored 19-4 in the previous two with first-place Los Angeles. Travis Ishikawa singled in a run and added a sacrifice fly.
Troy Tulowitzki hit a solo home run in the sixth and Carlos Gonzalez singled in the Rockies‘ first run in the third, but Colorado did little else against Zito (10-12). Fans chanted “Barry! Barry!” for his second straight impressive home outing against Colorado.
The left-hander allowed five hits and two runs in seven efficient innings, walking only one in a 93-pitch effort.
He also aided in a big double play to end the seventh. He fielded a comebacker by leadoff man Eric Young, threw to Uribe at second and then fired to first to get Young. The ball hit Zito on the forearm and he clenched his teeth in pain and let out a big sigh as he walked off the mound as the crowd roared. X-rays afterward were negative.
“I definitely think it’s one of the better ones I’ve had as a Giants. It’s nice to go out there and have success,” Zito said. “Our backs have been against the wall. This team, for not having much experience in playoff races, has been fighting and having fun.”
The Giants jumped on Colorado starter Ubaldo Jimenez (13-11) right away and he was done after 2 2-3 innings, ending his stretch of 25 straight starts going six innings or more.
San Francisco loaded the bases in the first with no outs as Jimenez walked Eugenio Velez, gave up Freddy Sanchez‘s single then issued another free pass to Randy Winn. After Pablo Sandoval struck out, the Giants took the lead when Bengie Molina drove in a run on third baseman Garrett Atkins‘ fielding error.
Jimenez needed 38 pitches to get through the inning.
Zito plunked Gonzalez with a fastball on the right hand on his sixth pitch of the game. Gonzalez grabbed his hand and rolled to the ground. Tracy raced out and Gonzalez eventually took first base.
Jimenez hasn’t allowed a home run in 51 consecutive outings dating to June 11, 2008, the longest such streak in franchise history.
Yorvit Torrealba had his 10-game hitting streak against the Giants snapped.
The Rockies need two more wins away from Coors Field to match their highest total for road wins in club history: 39-42 in 2007. … The Giants activated Johnson after he’d been on the 60-day DL since early July with a shoulder injury. He came out fine from his simulated game Monday. He will pitch out of the bullpen. San Francisco placed RHP reliever Justin Miller on the 60-day DL with inflammation in his right elbow, ending his season. Miller went 3-3 with a 3.18 ERA in 44 outings. “It’s tough. It’s disappointing,” he said. “I’ll root these guys on. For me, it was the last thing I wanted to hear.” … San Francisco SS Edgar Renteria had an MRI on his left shoulder that showed a mild strain. He is nursing biceps tendinitis in his left arm and a sore right shoulder. Bochy expects him to start Wednesday.