Zito beats Dodgers, leaves game to polite applause

He was 10-10 lifetime against the Dodgers, you know. - Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Because he didn't get a chance for the raucous stuff.

That moment when you realize that, no matter what happens, Barry Zito will start the next Giants game you attend, even if it's 40 years from now …

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This is the way the Zito era ends
This is the way the Zito era ends
This is the way the Zito era ends
Not with a bang but a whimper
And a win against the Dodgers
Which is pretty danged cool

It was a pretty good greatest-hits album. He trolled the world with three perfect innings, then reminded the world just how hittable he was. Then he trolled the world by flirting with a daring escape, then he gave up another run. He was all things to all people. He was Barry Zito, for better or for worse, often -- say it with me -- for worse. Tonight, he was for better. And good for him.

But the story isn't Zito, somehow. It's Bruce Bochy. Not sure how that happened. Bobby Valentine managing? Sure, you expect that sort of thing. But Bochy's pretty reserved. He's usually likely to let his player hog the spotlight on his day. Instead, we're talking about why Zito didn't get to come off the mound to an ovation from a crowd that knew he wouldn't be back. It would have been a nice moment for a guy with an up-and-down career and reputation in San Francisco.

Here's what happened: Zito got hit in the leg with a comebacker in the top of the fifth, but he stayed in the game. The Giants were up 5-2; Zito gave up the two runs, but only one of them was earned. He'd thrown 77 pitches. Zito usually calls that "the first inning," so you know it wasn't the arm that was tired. And it wasn't Zito who wanted out of the game. Why, he was just a little perturbed at the decision.

And in the bottom of the fifth, with Zito due to lead off, Roger Kieschnick pinch-hit.

It was bizarre. Beyond bizarre. It was like Zito took Charles Johnson's parking spot five years ago, and Johnson sent instructions to Bochy before this game. Bochy loves keeping his starting pitchers in games. For shutouts, for wins, to avoid a tough loss, because there's a full moon, because there isn't a full moon ... he loves it.

Even if Bochy had a bad feeling about the next inning, he could have let Zito warm up before pulling him. He comes out, the crowd stands up, Zito tips his cap. It's what everyone was expecting. Bochy threw that all away to chase after the magic of a Roger Kieschnick at-bat. With a lead. And it's not like Zito's spot came up with the bases loaded. He was supposed to be the first batter of the inning.

Here's the thing: By starting Zito, you've already said, "Nuts to the results of this game. I'm choosing sentiment over strategy." Zito was not the Giants' best chance to win the baseball game; that's why he was pulled from the rotation in the first place. The decision to go with sentiment over strategy was the right call, and it was already made.

Why change that in the fifth? Why play the game as if it's a must-win? If Zito says he's okay and throws two pitches to the backstop during warm-ups, go get him.

It was weird. People on Twitter were getting angry. I don't know if I'm angry as much I'm perplexed. Zito had a bobblehead day, and he was an intimate part of a championship, parade, and ring ceremony, so he's not going to think of this slight when he closes his eyes at night.

In a way, it was the perfect send-off for the inscrutable Zito. He doesn't deserve a statue; he doesn't deserve to be vilified. He kinda deserved to pitch a good game in front of a rapt audience before quietly disappearing, I guess. Maybe Bochy is more of a performance artist than we thought ...

I've seen Bochy make great moves and horrible moves. But this might be the strangest.

It was. It most certainly was. It, like, was the biggest looking-for-a-curtain-call situation since Barry Bonds retired.

You are a weird man sometimes, Mr. Bochy. A weird man.

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Did you hear the poor people trying to start a "ZI-TO! ZI-TO!" chant in the sixth inning? In a best-case scenario, the rest of the crowd would have picked up on it, and the chant would have continued until Zito was forced to come out of the dugout and tip his cap.

But it's Zito, man. He gets the 4.50 ERA of curtain-call requests. It's a good effort, nice showing, kind of meaningful, but ultimately the chant wasn't that special. The crowd was unconvinced.

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Two starts against Ricky Nolasco, two drubbings. That's good news for the Giants in September, but it's also good news for them and December. They don't want any part of Nolasco at #2 or #3 money.

It's not like those two starts brought Masahiro Tanaka closer to the team. But if they pushed Nolasco further out of the Giants' consciousness ...

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That was Pablo Sandoval's first home run at home since the walk-off homer against the Nationals on May 21. That was also McCovey Chronicles night at the yard, if you're keeping score at home. It prompted posts like this back when we were a happier lot.

Still not buying his complete lack of power. This is his second season with a dip in power, and third out of the last four. Still not buying it. It's buried in there. You'll see. You'll all see.

(Five years, $85 million, and I wouldn't look back.)

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