Today’s start by Barry Zito may have given the Giants the wakeup call they needed.
Today Zito went five innings, giving up two runs, five hits and two walks. He struck out five, a season high. Not quite a quality start, but for Zito it marked his best performance of 2008.
It also marked his seventh loss in as many appearances, as the Giants fell 3-1 to Pittsburgh. That the Giants offense always seems to do just well enough to lose shouldn’t surprise anybody. Before the season started it was common knowledge that the Giants would struggle to hit for power and had perhaps the weakest lineup in the game.
But a lot of things have clouded that view since the season started. Tim Lincecum has become the most entertaining Giants pitcher since Rod Beck, the bullpen is exponentially better than last year’s edition (although Brian Sabean probably still checks out Steve Kline’s minor league stats and sheds a tear while listening to “Stay” by Lisa Loeb and Nine Stories from time to time), and they’ve gotten some fun contributions here and there from Eugenio Velez, Aaron Rowand, John Bowker and especially Bengie Molina and Fred Lewis. Then Aurilia got hot and threw everybody’s perspective into the garbage disposal.
We haven’t been seeing as much Ray Durham (maybe he’s still at Momo’s) lately, but there are still far too many days when Aurilia’s starting at first base, especially now that he’s been hot enough to bring his average up over .280. The Giants are hoping Aurilia hits well enough in the next two months to cause some contending team to give up a prospect or two. Of course what will probably end up happening is Aurilia’s average will come back down to the .245 area, where it will hover all season. Meanwhile, Dan Ortmeier is in danger of becoming the Giants’ latest Todd Linden, ready to go into next year’s spring training as an unproven commodity, again. That Ortmeier’s had less than half the at-bats of Aurilia is a shame.
The Giants haven’t given any run support to Zito or Matt Cain over the past two years. Cain still has a 95 mph fastball to fall back on whenever he’s down in the dumps. The poor run support Zito has gotten has gone from annoying to code red. The Giants have scored a ghastly nine runs in the seven games Zito’s started. His won/loss record is in danger of breaking records if this keeps up, and it almost seems like a career is in danger of being ruined. Sure, he’s lost his fastball and his curve is inconsistent at best, but one has to wonder what a few extra runs along the way might have done for Zito’s confidence. For a guy many have labeled as introspective and over-analytical, feeling not only the expectations of a contract but the knowledge that you can barely even give up one run has got to be tremendously difficult.
However, the Giants have no starting pitching, relievers or offense to trade. So they’re pretty much left hoping some young players turn it on, or wait until free agency. They better hope Fred Lewis keeps hitting and that at least two other non-Randy/Ray/Richie players follow suit. Because unless the Giants find some way to improve their offense soon, it almost seems like they’re in danger of losing a productive Zito forever.