Okay, so, raise your hand if you were surprised by how this game went. Is your hand up? Good. Now I know who all the liars are.
Matt Cain went out and made history last night, with stoic, ruthless efficiency. I’d love to talk about that (literally for hours), but that’s not the game I’m recapping; I mention it because if I was going to draw a linear graph of pitching experiences, “Matt Cain throws a perfect game” would be exactly diametrically opposite of “Barry Zito walks the bases loaded and gives up a grand slam.” So really, maybe I am a little surprised by just how fitting it was.
Anyway, Zito’s still got a lot of goodwill to burn through this season, after that startling season debut and quite a few quality starts since then. When your standards are as low as “please be an acceptable fifth starter,” pitching some legitimately really good games can do a lot to make friends. But after today, Zeets has a 4.92 FIP, the third worst in the National League. His 3.61 ERA is pretty middle of the pack, which is nice; the problem is that it has been a long time since Barry Zito routinely outperformed his FIP and other peripherals. That was when he was good, and an Athletic. Since becoming a Giant, his actual performance and predicted performance have basically gone hand in hand.
Essentially, I think Barry Zito still looks like Barry Zito. When he has his curveball working, it’s a thing of unexpected beauty, but that’s always been the case in his Giants career, and he’s never had it working for long. If he stays healthy, he’s probably going to manage to be an okay fifth starter this year. The problem is that he is, at present, the Giants fourth starter, because Tim Lincecum
I’m not gonna finish that paragraph.
Let’s talk about the good things. Brandon Belt! Brandon Belt hit a home run – crushed it, actually, the second splash hit of his career and his third home run in three days. All of them have come off of left-handed pitchers, and if you’ve been following the Giants this year you know that Belt has been kept away from lefties like they are all Gorgons and the mirror-shield of Athena can only be held right-handed. So hey, how about that? Brett Pill is probably coming back up to replace Aubrey Huff* soon, so this is pretty good timing for Belt to establish in his manager’s mind the idea that traditional platoon splits may not need to be applied with dogmatic constancy. Also, the fact that he’s hitting dingers at all is pretty neat.
(*Aubrey Huff hurt himself celebrating Cain’s perfect game. Aubrey Huff is having the kind of year where if he was James Hetfield he would be laying down vocal tracks for St. Anger.)
All around, it wasn’t a super inspiring game, but it wasn’t disappointing. The offense got some stuff going, they failed a few times, and they hit into some dreadful luck at the end of the game, a scorched Hector Sanchez line drive that might have resulted in 1st & 3rd with nobody out for Belt, but was instead a double play. There were also like 16 Angel Pagan would-be doubles that landed just foul, and Buster sat today, so really, I’m chalking this one up as another standard showing for the New-Look Giants Offense. Wandy Rodriguez is pretty good. They made him work, and just couldn’t quite cash it in. It happens, and with a different Zito those three runs might have been enough. No biggie. Everything still smells like Cain and perfection.
The Giants have yet to sweep a three-game series this year. I don’t think that means anything, but it’s interesting. They will try to do so in Seattle, and I will be at all three of those games, so here’s hoping for good things.