SAN FRANCISCO Barry Zito's final start as a Giant ended up being as unfulfilling for the home fans as his infamous $126 million contract.
Twice pulled from the rotation this season, the struggling left-hander was given a surprise start Wednesday after 23 days of inactivity in the bullpen, ostensibly to allow Giants fans to say goodbye after seven up-and-down years. That never truly happened.
Zito cruised through the fifth, giving up two runs only one of them earned as the Giants beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 6-4. But when Zito returned to the dugout after the top of the fifth, manager Bruce Bochy pulled him for a pinch hitter. Zito and Bochy had a short discussion, and Zito could be seen hitting a cooler as he walked toward the dugout stairs.
Barring a relief appearance in the season's final four games, Zito's last moment as a Giant will be a light ovation from several hundred fans behind the home dugout who were unaware that Zito's night was done.
For three innings, Zito had done his best to write a fairy-tale ending to a Giants career that never lived up to expectations. He was at his baffling best, mixing speeds, going in and out, up and down, never afraid to fall behind in the count.
Zito didn't allow a runner or even a hard-hit ball through three and was given a 3-0 lead on Tony Abreu's bases-loaded triple in the second. The Dodgers stormed back in the fourth, coming a couple of feet from tying the score when Matt Kemp lined a shot off the top of the left-field wall with two runners on. The Dodgers scored twice in the inning, but Pablo Sandoval's two-run homer in the bottom of the inning gave Zito breathing room.
Zito, who had lost eight straight decisions since beating the A's on May 30, improved to 5-11 with a 5.75 ERA this year. The Giants will not pick up the $18 million option on his seven-year deal, paying a $7 million buyout. He entered Wednesday 62-80 with a 4.63 ERA with the Giants.