The San Francisco Giants season was off to a terrible start. They had been swept by division rivals the Arizona Diamondbacks and were headed into the site of some of their most infuriating and vomit-inducing losses of all time, Coors Field. The Giants were facing a chance of starting a season 0-4 for the first time since 1950, when they were still the New York Giants. To make matters worse, Barry Zito would be starting the game. In Coors Field. Never mind Zito's seemingly-inexplicable better-than-average record in Coors Field; you were terrified. We all were. Then something truly bizarre happened.
Prior to the game, the MLB Network noted that Troy Tulowitzki held a .135 career average against Zito in 37 at-bats. I made note of this on Twitter, because that is super-weird. Tulo is one of the best-hitting shortstops of this generation, while Barry Zito is Barry Zito.
My confusion would turn to befuddlement when Zito set down the Rockies in order in the bottom of the first inning, finishing by striking out Carlos Gonzalez on three pitches. Things only got better from there. Zito didn't get in serious trouble once and finished with a complete-game shutout, allowing four hits and no walks. In Coors Field. While the Giants scored seven runs. None of this is normal. I'm not quite sure how to process it.
I'm exceedingly happy for Zito, of course. There hasn't been a bigger whipping boy to wear a Giants uniform since Johnny LeMaster took to the field with the name on the back of his jersey reading simply, "BOO." Not that the whippingness of said boy is entirely undeserved, as Zito was never going to be able to live up to the laughably astronomical seven-year contract that brought him here, but has fallen on his face time and again while being an aloof weirdo for the entire time he's been in San Francisco.
This is just the first start of the season, of course. Zito hasn't necessarily turned some corner or flipped some magic switch that will suddenly make him work all the dump-truck-loads of cash that he's been given while putting up losing season after losing season. The odds are overwhelmingly good that Barry Zito is going to keep being Barry Zito, although he has his first shutout in nine years under his belt now, so that's always nice.
The magic switch that Zito HAS flipped, however, is the one that makes every Giants fan forget about taking three hard-luck losses to start the season. The losses that left Giants fans feeling like nothing will ever be good again. One shutout in enemy territory is all it took to turn the feelings of despair and hopelessness into warm-and-fuzzies and smiles. We have Zito to thank for that. This was easily his best game as a Giant and easily his best moment as a member of the team. It was exactly what the faithful needed, exactly when they needed it.
For today, if on no other day ever, let's give Zito credit for being our hero.
For all news and information regarding the San Francisco Giants, please visit the unparalleled McCovey Chronicles.