San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Barry Zito finally won over the fans this year, earning his orange and black stripes, enjoying his best season since signing with the team in 2006.
Zito had been a huge disappoint the last five years after signing his seven-year contract worth $126 million prior to the 2007 season. He reached rock bottom in 2010 after being left off the postseason roster watching the team capture the World Series. Zito vowed to himself to be a huge contributor the next time the team reached the postseason hoping to make a difference.
He showed everyone that 2012 would be a different season beginning with his first start on Monday April 9 against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. The Arizona Diamondbacks had just swept the Giants and most Giants fans assumed the team would be 0-4 with Zito on the mound. Zito surprised everyone dominating the Rockies throwing his first shutout since 2003 and first with the Giants tossing a complete game helping the Giants garner their first win of the season. He allowed just four hits and struck out four. A shutout and complete game is very impressive at Coors Field considering how the ball travels and numbers displayed at that ballpark.
Zito used that start to catapult himself the rest of the season winning 15 games, the most he won since 2006 and most with the Giants. He lost eight games producing a 4.15 ERA allowing 186 hits, 91 runs, 20 homers and 114 strikeouts in 184.1 innings. He started 32 games throwing one complete game, one shutout and opponents batted .263 against him.
He excelled the best during night games going 9-3 with a 3.82 ERA in 18 games surrendering 103 hits, 58 strikeouts, 45 runs and the opposition was .264 off him in 101.1 innings. Offensively, Zito smacked four hits, drove in two RBI's and evened walked six times during the regular season.
Zito was on the postseason roster this time around and his defining moment with the Giants came in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. With the Giants trailing 3-1 in the series, Zito threw a masterpiece blanketing the Cardinals through 7.2 innings yielding six hits and striking out six. He even recorded an RBI hit in the victory helping the Giants stave off elimination.
He had the honor of starting Game 1 of the World Series facing the Detroit Tigers and it's ace Justin Verlander. He earned the win in Game 1 going 2-0 in the postseason showcasing a 1.69 ERA in three games allowing 16 hits, three runs and 13 strikeouts in 16 innings as opponents batted .258.
The Giants won Zito's last 14 starts as he went 9-0 in those games and during the season including the postseason the team went 24-11 in his outings. When the Giants scored four runs or more this season for Zito the team went 15-1.
Zito's resurgence reminds everyone of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith who finally won the fans over with his great season in 2011 after years of being criticized. Smith had his shining moment in the playoffs throwing the game-winning touchdown over the New Orleans Saints helping the Niners win that game.
When the Giants receive their championship rings next April at AT&T Park, you can bet Zito will receive the loudest ovation because he saved the Giants season carving his place in team history.
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