04/11/09 3:08 AM ET
Zito's rough first too much for Giants
San Francisco can't cash in on prime chance in sixth
By Chris Haft / MLB.com
"That's what really bugs me," Zito said.Though Zito may always bear the expectations created by the seven-year, $126 million deal he signed with the Giants before the 2007 campaign, this season conceivably shapes up as a less pressurized one for him. As part of a rotation that includes Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum, future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson and the budding Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez, Zito won't be regarded as the Giants' savior. Simply avoiding last season's 0-6 start would represent improvement. "I've come a long way since last year," Zito said. "Obviously the result [Friday] is not good. ... But I'm eager to go out there next Thursday and be in control of myself." Bochy maintained confidence in the left-hander.
"Really, he's been throwing the ball well and he did after that [first] inning," Bochy said. "But that inning counts."The focus of the Giants' frustration shifted to the offense after Zito departed. Trailing, 4-1, the Giants initiated the kind of rally in the sixth inning that they sustained on multiple occasions in the season-opening series against Milwaukee. Their first four batters hit safely as Edgar Renteria doubled, Fred Lewis singled, Bengie Molina blooped an RBI single and Pablo Sandoval singled to load the bases and finish Padres starter Shawn Hill. But San Diego reliever Luke Gregerson subdued the Giants by forcing Travis Ishikawa's grounder to first baseman Gonzalez, the 2008 Gold Glove Award winner who started a quick 3-2-3 double ply. Aaron Rowand, the Giants' most all-around productive hitter in the Milwaukee series, marooned Molina and Sandoval in scoring position by striking out. "That was the turning point in the game," Bochy said of Ishikawa's at-bat. "We had them on the ropes. Ishi looked like he had a good pitch to hit. He just hit it to the wrong guy." After a one-year sabbatical, Hairston resumed tormenting the Giants. With Lewis on first base and nobody out in the eighth, Molina launched a drive toward the left-center-field seats. But Hairston robbed Molina of a hit and possibly a game-tying home run by leaping to the top of the wall to make the catch. "If that ball goes off the wall or goes out, you're looking good," Bochy said. Hairston, who hit seven of his 11 homers in 2007 against the Giants, settled matters by clobbering a three-run homer off Merkin Valdez in the eighth. "It happens," Hairston said. "I really can't say. I don't prepare any differently when we play the Giants."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.