Barry Zito earns first win in nearly four months
Barry Zito begged and pleaded to stay in the game, wanting this moment to last a little bit longer, and manager Bruce Bochy almost obliged the pitcher.
Bochy stuck with his plan to pull Zito, who still won in what likely was his final hurrah for San Francisco, and Pablo Sandoval backed him with a two-run homer as the Giants beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 6-4 on Wednesday night.
''I just let him know, `This is my game, I'm going to go out there and shut them down, I feel good,''' Zito said. ''I was frustrated.''
Zito's up-and-down tenure on this side of San Francisco Bay is likely through after seven years, following seven with the Oakland Athletics on the other side of the water.
Tony Abreu hit a bases-loaded triple to stake Zito to a quick 3-0 lead in the second, then added an RBI double in the sixth as last year's World Series champions put themselves in position for a rare home series victory if they can win Thursday night's rubber game with the NL West champion Dodgers.
Zito departed with little fanfare and nary one last standing ovation from the sellout crowd of 41,377 because he was replaced between innings. Fans cheered him after the game, and Zito stuck around to sign autographs.
''Definitely there's not a lot of closure in sports,'' he said.
He outpitched Ricky Nolasco (13-11), whose late-September struggles have the Dodgers a bit concerned with the playoffs looming.
The right-hander is 0-2 over his last three outings since getting victories in four consecutive starts and seven straight decisions.
''Ricky's shown us he can throw the ball really well and he can make good pitches,'' manager Don Mattingly said. ''I don't think Ricky has done anything that's going to change our mind.''
Zito (5-11), making his first start since Sept. 2 at San Diego, snapped a 13-start winless stretch and eight-game losing streak - including his previous four starts - since beating Oakland on May 30.
The 2002 AL Cy Young Award winner across the bay with the Athletics, Zito signed a $126 million, seven-year contract before the 2007 season.
''I still remember where I was when the contract was finalized and I knew it was going to be a heck of a ride, on the field and off, and it's certainly been that for me,'' said Zito, who lost both of his parents in recent years.
Left off the roster for all three postseason rounds during the club's run to the 2010 World Series title, Zito bounced back to win Game 5 of the NLCS last fall in St. Louis while facing elimination, then Game 1 of a surprising World Series sweep of Detroit.
Zito took a comebacker to the left thigh in the fifth but stayed in to finish the inning and be in line for the win. But that was it, and catcher Buster Posey offered him a handshake in the dugout.
The Giants aren't expected to pick up his $18 million option for 2014, but rather pay him a $7 million buyout. Zito hasn't been told anything formally, but he is prepared to move on and, he hopes, continue pitching in 2014.
Zito allowed four hits and one earned run in five innings, with a strikeout and no walks. The 35-year-old pitcher lowered his ERA while with the Giants by a point to 4.62, finishing with a seven-year record of 63-80 while facing harsh criticism for most of his largely disappointing stint.
''I was little worried there for a while, I didn't think I was ever going to be able to show my face in San Francisco again,'' Zito said. ''I was like, `Oh, man, they have such great spots here and restaurants, I'd love to enjoy them later in my career, later in life, but I didn't think I'd be able to. I think now I'll come back and at least have people have smiles on their faces.''
Bochy let Zito know Tuesday he would get one final start in front of the home fans.
''It's been a joy to be with Barry,'' Bochy said. ''I couldn't be happier for him right now to win tonight.''
Zito surrendered consecutive singles then Matt Kemp's RBI double in the fourth to prompt a mound visit from pitching coach Dave Righetti, then got through the inning still holding a lead.
Kemp pulled the Dodgers within two runs with an RBI single in the eighth. Then Sergio Romo finished for his 37th save in 42 opportunities leaving a runner at second.
The Giants' six runs were as many as they had total over their previous 49 innings - and Nolasco matched the six he had given up in five career starts at AT&T Park before Wednesday.
Following Posey's leadoff double in the second, Nolasco plunked Hunter Pence in the left leg a day after Matt Cain hit Yasiel Puig with a pitch during Tuesday's 2-1 Dodgers win.
Pablo Sandoval singled to load the bases and Abreu tripled two batters later. Sandoval hit his 14th homer in the fourth.
Notes: The Giants clinched the season series with a 10-8 lead, doing so in back-to-back years for the first time since 2002-03. ... Giants 2B Marco Scutaro, last season's NLCS MVP, will have surgery Friday to repair a tendon problem in his left pinkie and have a pin inserted to help him heal. Shut down for the season Tuesday, Scutaro batted .297 with two homers and 31 RBIs in 127 games. ''I tried to do whatever I can to help the team win games,'' he said.