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03/31/08 11:13 PM ET
Zito's fastball lacking in opening loss
Giants accomplish little at bat, on basepaths, in field
By Chris Haft / MLB.com
LOS ANGELES -- The Giants weren't up to speed Monday, in more ways than one. Continuing to lack sufficient velocity on his fastball, Barry Zito put the Giants at an immediate disadvantage by yielding Jeff Kent's two-run, first-inning homer. That fueled a three-run uprising that carried the Los Angeles Dodgers to a 5-0 Opening Day triumph. Other aspects of the Giants' performance were just as slipshod. They mustered five hits while moving only three runners into scoring position. On two of the rare occasions they put runners on base, Dave Roberts was caught stealing and Brian Bocock was picked off. San Francisco was officially charged with no errors, yet received subpar defense from second baseman Ray Durham, who's prone to such lapses, and center fielder Aaron Rowand, who isn't. The Giants tried to shrug off their second season-opening shutout defeat in a row and third consecutive Opening Day loss by citing the context of the 162-game schedule. "This season's too long to stew over one game or one day," Rowand said. "We're not going to dwell on this," manager Bruce Bochy said. "We've got too much baseball left." That's an encouraging prospect, providing the Giants can rebound. If they follow the pattern of this game, when they never recovered from their quick knockdown, the weeks and months ahead could be daunting. The Dodgers staged an elaborate and inspiring pregame ceremony to launch the celebration of their 50th anniversary in Los Angeles, paralleling the festivities the Giants have planned in San Francisco. While this event was so many years in the making, the outcome of this game was essentially distilled into one inning. Roberts singled on Brad Penny's second pitch of the afternoon but was thrown out at second base moments later. The Giants were trying to execute a hit-and-run, but Penny fired a high fastball that Rich Aurilia had no choice but to flail at in a fruitless attempt to protect Roberts. "It was a tough pitch for Richie to handle and a great pitch to throw on [for catcher Russell Martin]," Roberts said. "We're trying to be aggressive early and set the tone, but unfortunately it was probably the worst [Penny] missed all day with a pitch." Zito's first inning began ominously with Rafael Furcal's ground-rule double. One out later, Matt Kemp singled home Furcal. Up came Kent, who fell behind 1-2. He fouled off three pitches, including a foul tip that squirted out of catcher Bengie Molina's glove, and took a ball with a checked swing that Zito thought wasn't checked enough. "That could have been the difference right there," Zito said. The real difference came when Zito threw an 86-mph fastball that Kent knocked into the left-field bleachers. "The pitch started out where it should have been, but it cut back over the middle," Zito said. Zito's fastball clearly lacked steam in Spring Training, when he faced 72 batters before recording a strikeout. After allowing the Dodgers four runs and eight hits in five innings, even he acknowledged that he needs more zip. Without that, he can't disrupt the hitters' timing with his curveball and changeup. "Right now it's 84, 85 [mph] at the high end, which obviously is frustrating for me," said Zito, 0-4 with an 8.83 ERA in Opening Day assignments. "Usually when things like this happen, it's either an injury, which it's not, or something mechanical. ... I want to get that 88, 89, 90 back. I'm sure it's just a small tweak away." Although the answer to Zito's problems remains elusive, he indicated that his pitching mechanics might not be completely synchronized. "It has to be something in the delivery that's just not clicking on all cylinders," he said. Earlier in March, Zito changed his delivery, no longer bringing his hands over his head from the windup, to help impart more force on his pitches. He also has studied videotapes of his delivery in previous games to search for clues. "It was encouraging to see how he regrouped," Bochy said, referring to Zito's three concluding shutout innings. The rest of the Giants remained disjointed as they began their first season since 1992 without home run king Barry Bonds. Third baseman Jose Castillo, who joined the Giants on a waiver claim March 22, twice batted with two runners aboard; he grounded into an inning-ending double play in the second inning and popped up in the seventh. Rowand went 2-for-3 in his Giants debut, but the reigning Gold Glove winner twice overthrew the cutoff man, giving runners an extra base. Durham fumbled Penny's sixth-inning bloop near the back of the infield dirt, enabling the Dodgers' final run to score. "These are things we can't let happen," Bochy said. Starting at shortstop in his Major League debut, Bocock played slick defense, making an outstanding play on Andruw Jones' fifth-inning grounder into the hole. But he looked dumbfounded after drawing an eighth-inning walk when Dodgers left-hander Joe Beimel trapped him off first base. "I wasn't even going anywhere," said Bocock, who didn't see pickoff moves like Beimel's while playing at Class A last year. The Giants hope this kind of freeze is only temporary.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.