Can you trust him?
Barry Zito takes the mound today for the San Francisco Giants, who will try to avoid elimination in Game 4 of their best-of-5 series against the Cincinnati Reds.
Since the Division Series began in 1995, only four teams (out of 42) have managed to erase a 2-0 series deficit, and no National League team has ever completed the comeback. Zito won’t be asked to win the series but merely has to help prolong it.
Before you say “No way!”, consider the following: The Giants have won Zito’s last 11 starts, and the veteran left-hander has been impressive over the last couple months. He went 4-0 with a 3.03 ERA in September and allowed just two runs in his lone October start.
Here’s a look at how Zito has performed during the win streak:
Seven of Zito’s last 11 starts have been quality outings, and he has allowed two earned runs or less six times. The encouraging stretch is what ultimately prompted Giants skipper Bruce Bochy to go with the inconsistent lefty instead of Tim Lincecum.
“I think you have to look at what Barry’s done, how we have played the last 11 games that he pitched. He’s really done a terrific job for us,” Bochy told SFGate.com. ”He’s been on top of his game and I think he’s earned this. We all do. I was glad to be able to tell Barry that he’s getting the start. When you win your last 11 games that a pitcher starts, it’s a pretty good thing.”
Here’s the problem: The Reds have been swinging hot bats for much of the last few weeks, and Great American Ball Park is a homer-happy venue. Zito, who records more fly ball than ground ball outs, tends to give up the long ball when he’s missing his spots.
Who to take? We lean to Cincinnati -145 in this one. We don’t have much confidence in Reds starter Mike Leake, but he should be more effective than Zito considering the lineup he’s up against has struggled mightily. In the last two games, San Francisco’s offense has generated just two hits against Bronson Arroyo and Homer Bailey, and the top of the order has struggled throughout the series.