Barry Zito entered tonight's game with a 4-1 record and 2.03 career record against the Braves in six starts. Then he threw eight innings and allowed only two runs. Two of those previous games came when Zito was on the A's, so it's not like they're bunched that closely together. But that's enough of a ledger to be considered a nemesis. The Braves probably have a lot of nemeses. But it's especially amusing that Zito is one of them.
Here's the point where it's tempting to point and laugh at the Braves for having Barry Zito as a nemesis. Except Zito is only under contract for about 13 more months. Maybe there's a chance he comes back for a 43rd year -- you don't know what the needs will be for the 2014 Giants -- but the odds are decent that he'll be on another team.
And he'll be around for a while. He'll be one of those Doug Davis dudes, and he'll have the shelf-life of an irradiated Twinkie. Barry Zito will retire in 2020. Watch.
As such, let's not make fun of another team for having Zito as a nemesis. It could be the Giants. Oh, lordy, it could be the Giants.
Instead, just appreciate that Zito pitched an outstanding game. I'm not sure if he threw an outstanding game, if that makes any sense. It was a pretty standard Zito game. He had three walks and five strikeouts, which is pretty close to his BB/9 and K/9 for the season. He walked the first hitter of the game -- one of the best base stealers in baseball -- on four pitches. Don't delude yourself into thinking this was some sort of magic Zito. It was Zito, and that worked out quite well tonight.
He's a Möbius strip of pitching; the games where the runners score run into the games where the runners don't score run into the games where the runners score, and it just keeps going around. Tonight, it was good Zito. Which is the same as bad Zito. It's just Zito. He has a 4.31 ERA now. That's so Zito. It was pretty awesome tonight.
And for the fourth straight game, the Giants gained ground on the Los Angeles Dodgers without Buster Posey and that other guy from the All-Star Game. Aaaaaaaaah. Feels good.
Hunter Pence's push bunt was one of my favorite plays of the year. There aren't that many plays that make me chortle out loud. Not a spiritual chortle, not a mind chortle, but an honest bwahahaha the second it became clear that he was going to reach and get an RBI.
It was a perfect bunt and a crazy-smart play. Dan Uggla was practically on top of second base before the pitch, so all Pence needed to do was get it by Tommy Hanson, which he did with aplomb. Pence went down the line as you'd expect, like a dryer filled with wrenches aboard a shuttle launch. And it was amazing.
It was even better because it followed Pablo Sandoval swinging at a pitch that bounced on the rosin bag. When the Giants are averaging a run per game during their bad homestands, those are the kinds of innings that flare up like a venereal disease. First and third, no outs, and bad at-bat after bad at-bat dooms them to a scoreless inning.
Instead, Pence had the bunt of the year. Someone in the comments will bring up that other bunt that was also awesome. Okay, it's a tie. But the only one I can remember is Pence, and it was pretty swell.
There will be another stretch where Angel Pagan isn't this good. That will not be as fun as this stretch, where Angel Pagan is Kenny Lofton with the Konami code. I'm appreciating the heck out of this.
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In the ninth, Bruce Bochy had a choice. Both Zito and Jeremy Affeldt allowed the two hitters they each faced to reach. With two on and no outs, up by three, Bochy had to choose between Javier Lopez vs. David Ross, or Sergio Romo vs. Jason Heyward.
That's a pretty heavy decision. I can't stand when Lopez is left in to face right-handers in high-leverage situations. But David Ross is David Ross. Jason Heyward is a special talent. When you have a chance to keep Heyward out of the game, you usually take it.
But Sergio Romo is kind of a badass. Ye shall not doubt. I think I would have made the same decision. But it was close, and I resolved not to second-guess Bochy if everything melted down. Instead, everything worked out. And rather quickly, too. I figured it was going to work out, but it was going to take 14 minutes and 25 pitches. It was over in a few seconds.
For that, Romo gets one of these: