Wednesday night I looked forward to scoring the Giants/Marlins game for a couple of reasons.
The first was I simply liked the match-up for sentimental reasons as Giants starter Barry Zito and Marlins hurler Carlos Zambrano have long been favorites of mine.
I have spoken with Zito from time-to-time since his Oakland debut on July 22, 2000, when the then 22-year old took the pill for the first time, and Zambrano was my #1 on my top prospect list in both 2000 and 2001, being just 19 the first time he topped that list (The Big Z, as he is known, had his first game a little more than a year after Zito, on August 20, 2001).
It does seem funny now that both guys were--or at least seemed--so young back then, for when I think about it, I was more than twice the age of each pitcher when they made their first major league appearance (scary that I am getting that old), but since they were both favorites back when I have always had a fondness for them (you know how we get those mancrushes on prospects we champion and follow).
So, on Wednesday Zito brought his then 1-0, 1.63 ERA to ATT and Zambrano his 0-2, 3.24 mark in what, according to "Beyond the Boxscore" author Bill Arnold the fifth time pitchers whose surnames begin with the letter "Z" have squared against one another. In fact Zito and Zambrano have not only had one of those starts against one another, but Zambrano even faced Zito once as a pinch hitter!
Surely there has been attention to both pitchers early this season. Zito has received press because of his hot start, including thoughts on our site by Greg Morgan on the Masters of the NFBC last Tuesday. Of course I have my Zito fears, largely based upon his history. I mean, remember in 2010 he was 4-0, 1.53 for the month of April and finished the year 9-14. 4.15 and was not even on the post-season roster.
As for Carlos, his melt-downs are well documented, although now that both hurlers are in their early 30's, ideally some maturity has set in.
So, we did we get on Wednesday?
Well, to say Zito was all over the place, he threw 33 pitches over the first inning, 27 more in the second, and though just 12 in the third another 19 when pulled in the fourth, meaning 91 pitches, with just 50 for strikes, is an understatement. Zambrano was actually better controlled, though he basically tossed 18 pitches per inning over the first three, although when pulled after seven innings, had thrown 108 (61 for strikes) though Heath Bell let Carlos and a potential win down.
In essence that was 125 pitches through the first three innings, and that is an ungodly amount and largely why the game--though it did go ten innings--took three hours and twenty seven minutes.
Zito and his lack of control walked seven hitters, while Zambrano three more, and the Marlins prevailed despite just five hits, one of which was Giancarlo Stanton's homer in the tenth that basically was the game winner.
The Giants, on the other hand, collected ten hits--five in the ninth inning when they tied things up--but both teams left 11 runners stranded with the Marlins going 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.
So, the deceiving box score suggests strong pitching and really, the end result was a frustrating game that presented some pretty bad hitting.
I can say that I think Zambrano will be ok in Miami, while Zito continues to be an enigma.
I have, however, written so many times before that if any pitcher ever should be able to become the new Jamie Moyer, it should be Zito. He has four pitches, and though his fastball is 88 MPH at best, with a good curve and change and slider, that should be plenty fast enough (just ask Moyer). Furthermore, he is a smart guy.
So, while I hold little hope that Zito will ever return to his Cy Young form, I have every hope that he can be 9-14, 4.15 for another 15 years or so.