Zito picks up Giants three days after his father's death

Published: Sunday, Jun. 23, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013 - 10:00 pm

SAN FRANCISCO – Barry Zito was away from the Giants last Wednesday, the day his father, Joseph Zito, died in Van Nuys. Three days later, he took the mound on a sunny afternoon at AT&T Park for his normal turn in the rotation and held the Miami Marlins to one run in seven innings in a game the Giants won 2-1 in the 11th – long after Zito had departed, but with his impact still being felt.

"Barry was adamant, 'I'm not going to change my routine,' " manager Bruce Bochy said before the game. "He's been pretty strong through all this. There's nothing harder than having to deal with it, but he was adamant he didn't want to change anything."

So Zito threw a bullpen session on his normal day before his start Saturday. And on the day of his start, catcher Buster Posey said: "He seemed like he always seems."

When the game began, Zito gave up a one-out homer in the first inning on a two-strike curveball to the Marlins' Ed Lucas. He then faced 24 more batters without allowing a run, and when he walked off the mound at the end of the seventh inning he did so to a standing ovation.

"Obviously baseball's extremely important, but there's perspective," said right fielder Hunter Pence. "And for him to come out and pitch the way he did and be there for us – we're a family too, playing as a team – he went out and pitched outstanding, and it was amazing."

It was a fairly characteristic Zito start – the left-hander grinded through the first several innings, needing 69 pitches to record his first 10 outs. But on a day Bochy admittedly hoped to rest a taxed bullpen, Zito had the stamina to throw 112 pitches in seven innings, leaving the game with the score tied 1-1.

He also scored the Giants' first run, ruled to have been on his way home from first base in the fifth inning when a fan reached over the wall in right-center field and interfered with Gregor Blanco's double.

Zito's ERA at home this season is now 1.98. The Giants improved to 8-2 in the 10 games he has started at AT&T Park when Hector Sanchez singled home Blanco in the bottom of the 11th.

Afterward, Zito said he did not feel like discussing the loss of his father, who was 84, at length. He allowed that he "just wanted to stay on turn and help the ballclub best I can, so it was good to be able to go out there and throw.

"I just try to minimize distractions, take the mound regardless of what it is," Zito said. "Some things are a little heavier than others. But today I was able to go out there and stay focused and give the team a chance to win."

It had been nearly three years since the Giants had beaten the Marlins at home, a stretch of nine games in which Miami's starting pitchers had played a starring role with a combined 1.22 ERA. Zito's counterpart Saturday, right-hander Jacob Turner, did his best to continue the trend, allowing one run in seven innings before both teams turned to their bullpens in the eighth.

Bochy ultimately needed four innings from his, including five outs each from Sergio Romo and Sandy Rosario, who earned the win. Rosario struck out back-to-back hitters with two on in the 10th.

In the 11th, again with men on first and second, he struck out Adeiny Hechavarria before Placido Polanco hit a sinking liner to right field that Hunter Pence snared on a headfirst dive to preserve the tie.

Blanco beat out an infield hit leading off the bottom of the inning, and, after the Giants loaded the bases with one out, Sanchez blooped a pinch-hit single into left. It gave the Giants their eighth walk-off win of the season and first win of this series against the Marlins, owners of the worst record in baseball.

Bochy was asked afterward if it was a win the Giants needed. "Yeah, right up there at the top," he said. "You try and get on track. Their guy pitched a great ballgame. We weren't able to do a lot against him. It started with Zito."

Call The Bee's Matt Kawahara, (916) 321-1015. Read his Bay Area Baseball blog at blogs.sacbee.com/bay-area-baseball/. Follow him on Twitter @matthewkawahara.

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Read more articles by Matt Kawahara



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