But with Lincecum's DIS start, Zito's story becomes that much more magnified because the Giants are on the brink of elimination - again - and our 2012 fates rests on the last starting pitcher that most Giants fans would least like to see starting in this elimination game. Will he finally give us the big dividend we were hoping to get when we first signed him. Will it be like how the Renteria story went in 2010? Will he be able to heed Reverend Hunter's exhortations to see each other tomorrow, to play again together tomorrow? Because, you know, together we're Giants.
That's the $126M question.
Game 3: Zito vs. Lynn
Barry Zito: The Giants have won each of the last 11 games Zito has started in the season, and the left-hander was 7-0 in that stretch with a 3.92 ERA. He did not do well in Cincinnati and will need to rebound from that poor outing here in St. Louis, where he is 1-3 with an 8.20 ERA in 4 starts there.
Lance Lynn: Lynn is out for redemption after lasting 3 2/3 innings in his NLCS Game 1 start. But this time, Lynn could prepare without also worrying about making relief appearances. If there's a concern, it's that Lynn's in uncharted territory with his workload.Zito has a career 8.20 ERA in the new Busch Stadium, but he has pitched well there before. Earlier this year he pitched 6.2 IP, giving up 8 hits and 0 walks, striking out 4, a 3 PQS start (only one K away from DOM start). But he was blasted pretty good in 2007, 2009, and 2010. Odd for a low BABIP guy like him, but his BABIP has been horrible in St. Louis, having given up 28 hits in only 18.2 IP, and he struck out a lot too, 17 for a very good 8.2 K/9. His one good game there was his lowest K/9 start there.
But it could be a tough game, many of the hitters have hit Zito well in the past, and that reflects his truly bad games he has had here: Molina (.375/.474/.375/.849 in 19 PA), Schumaker (.438/.438/.625/1.063 in 16 PA), Craig (.400/.455/.1.400/1.855 in 11 PA, with 3 HR), and Freese (.375/.444/.500/.944 in 9 PA). Only Schumaker is probably not starting, and those hitters are their 4-5-6 hitters. Hitters he has done well are Beltran, who might not start (.227/.261/.318/.579 in 46 PA; for that I would give Beltran another day of rest) and Holliday (.226/.314/.419/.734 in 35 PA, but with 2 HR).
Other hitters with less exposure: Jay (3 for 5 with a walk, no K), Robinson (0 for 1). Carpenter and Descalso are LHB, Kozma RHB. Carpenter hits well enough against LHP: .265/.305/.480/.784. His only good defensive position is 3B, which is all he played in the minors, for the most part, except for a handful of games at other spots. Looks like they got a tough choice to make, whether to move off Freese or Carpenter off 3B, or to trade one for a position of need. Descalso isn't that good a hitter but he hits LHB like he is a RHB (he's a righty thrower): .270/.348/.365/.713 vs. LHP, .238/.309/.329/.638 vs. RHP. Kozma has limited AB, and has hit RHP and LHP equally well, high 800 OPS in limited play. During the playoffs, he's only hitting .200/.351/.367/.718.
Zito has been better against LHB since becoming a Giant, and really did well against them this season: .209/.259/.299/.559 with a K/BB of 5.14 (36 vs. 7). Career: .240/.328/.372/.701 with K/BB of 1.90. However he has been bad against RHB since coming to the Giants, he used to dominate them with the A's, and his best seasons with the Giants only matched the worse of his A's years. RHB hit .281/.355/.468/.823 against him this season. Lefties on the Cards: Descalso, Jay, Carpenter, Schumaker; Righties: Molina, Craig, Freese, Holliday, Robinson, Kozma; Beltran is only SH.
Now Lynn looks like a good match for us against Zito. Here is the stuff from his first start that is pertinent:
Lance had a nice first season in the majors in 2011, good toe-tipper, and this season he did very well, 3.78 ERA in 35 appearances, including 29 starts. 9.2 K/9 and 2.81 K/BB means that this was no fluke. Given he's just had his first full MLB season, not much history, though 2 starts, 7.15 ERA in 11.1 IP, but BABIP gods were mad at him as otherwise he was good, 11 K's for 8.7 K/9, only 3 walks for 3.67 K/BB, but 2 HRs and 12 hits in total led to 9 runs. Both starts were in St. Louis so how will he perform in SF?
Let's take a look at his splits. He dominates RHB, .228/.265/.338/.603 but is totally crushed by LHB, .266/.377/.448/.825. And that shows in his K/BB for each too: 8.93 for RHB, 1.43 for LHB. Luckily for the Giants, we have a lot of lefties, Belt, Crawford, Sandoval, Blanco, plus SH Pagan, and Pence hits both LHP and RHP pretty equally. And though Posey's splits vs. RHP is not great - .298/.368/.446/.814 is good not great - he clearly had a split season, and if he's hitting as well as he was in the second half, I have no doubts that he would be the 7th hitter who should be able to hit a RHP well. Scutaro, well, what he has done for the Giants is immeasurable (or nearly so), but he's been hitting way better than we can hope he can continue to hit. Or can we?
He has faced a number of Giants who came from elsewhere, as well as in the games against us. Too few PA (6 max) so I'll just list some names and OPS: Pence .667; Scutaro .333; Crawford .600; Pagan 1.100; Arias 1.667; Belt 1.333; Posey 1.667; Huff 2.500.Lynn was beat up by the Giants pretty good in Game 1, but unfortunately Bumgarner was beat up even more, and the Cards won that game, a coin-toss, from a PQS perspective. As I pointed out in one of my comments, I thought that Bochy stayed with Madison too long, particularly given how quick he was to pull starters during the pennant stretch to win the title. He probably should have been pulled after Kozma's double, that was three solid hits in a row, may as well let the relief pitcher get the easy assignment of getting Lynn out, then Jay hopefully, but Bochy was probably thinking that Bumgarner being a lefty should be able to get Jay. But it wasn't like he was dominant or anything, up to that point, he seemed pretty lost and had given up 6 hits in 3.1 IP already at that point.
The Giants have beat Lynn up now in three starts, two in St. Lou and one in SF, so we should be able to hit him well again, he really doesn't seem to have an answer for our offense. As I pointed out in my Game 1 comments, the Cards were forced to put their arguably worse of their best starting four up first, meaning he gets to start two games, and that weakness could end up helping us, much like the Reds having to bring in Leake, much like the Phillies having to pitch Blanton. And if the Giants offense can spurt for some runs, that should help Zito settle down a bit and just go at it, and hopefully he can give us 5-6 good innings and hold the lead.
And that might be possible. He has been horribly BABIPed by St. Louis, even in the well pitched game he had here earlier this season. He has risen to the occasion occasionally, like at the start of the season when we were 0-3, looking at 0-4 because Zito is starting for us in Coloardo. And he shocked and awed us by throwing a complete game shutout. When he had a career 4.42 ERA there, and just in 2010, he had a 9.31 ERA there in two starts. Then he throws that beautiful shutout. Plus, while the team's streak of 11 wins on days he starts is partly randomness, he did pitch well for us down the stretch, until sputtering in his first playoff start for us. Maybe that was just butterflies and he's calmed down for this start.
And he's been known as a playoff pitcher. He had a 3.25 ERA for the A's in 7 starts during his time there and he was even better before, as his last start for the A's in the playoffs involved giving up 5 runs in 3.2 IP. Here are his PQS: 3, 5, 5, 5, 4, 3, 0. And, of course, his 0 PQS for us. But that was when he was young and still striking out a lot of batters, his good years covered 2000-2003. He was bad in 2006 and just bad for us in the Reds series. But we don't need good, particularly with Lynn pitching, we just need good enough.
I think he has it within him to do it, but he's frankly has shown up small most of his Giants career, until that Colorado start. And I recall him having gutsy starts during the season as well, though none stuck out like that one did. Still, we really needed to win that Reds start, and he didn't deliver. It should be a nail-biting game where no lead is safe until the game goes into the bullpen.
Can the Giants be EPIC once again? Because if Zito and the bullpen can do it, plus the offense takes care of Lynn again, then they come home and we got Vogelsong and Cain starting for us, the two we most would want to be in that position. We might be able to do the nearly impossible again. But it all starts with Zito rising to the occasion enough to save the day for us.