Originally posted on SF Giants Nirvana  |  Last updated 4/10/12

Barry Zito threw 53.2 innings last year; and he was terrible. From racking up strikeouts (5.4 K/9) to avoiding walks (4.0 BB/9) to keeping the ball in the park (1.7 HR/9), he did nothing well. The results, accordingly, were ugly: a 5.87 ERA, a 5.60 FIP, and a 4.65 xFIP. In a month, he’ll turn 34. And he looked awful this spring (16 hits allowed in his last 5.1 innings!).

My expectations for him this season are quite low. But, needless to say, he surpassed them today.

Against a lineup with some pretty talented hitters (Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, and Michael Cuddyer, to name a few), he twirled nine shutout innings. Just four hits — a double and three singles — and not one walk. He wasn’t overpowering (four strikeouts, seven swinging strikes in total), but he was very efficient — it took him only 114 pitches to complete the shutout.

This was, by all means, tremendous stuff: he had but one no-walk start in the previous two seasons; the last time he pitched a shutout was back in 2003, when Juan Gonzalez and Rafael Palmeiro were still in baseball and Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira manned the left side of the Rangers’ infield; and the last time any Giants pitcher tossed a shutout at Coors Field? It’d actually never happened before…

Not only that, but he also worked the at-bat of a lifetime.

The Giants’ offense, meanwhile, did their job again today: seven runs scored, bringing their season total to 21 runs (or roughly five runs per game). They seemed to have caught Jhoulys Chacin on an off day (he clearly wasn’t himself), but that’s not to take away from their performance (Brandon Crawford worked a solid at-bat against Matt Reynolds before driving in three of those runs). Even Aubrey Huff and Angel Pagan, who have been struggling in the extremely-early going, had good days at the plate.

The most intriguing thing about today, however, was Hector Sanchez, who seems to have developed a rapport with Zito. I’m still not completely sold on whether he’s ready, but he sure had a strong showing today — both defensively and offensively. I do think that the fact that the Giants went with Hector as their lone backup catcher to begin the season says a lot about how advanced Hector is. How great would that be if he could give Posey some rest, hold his own at the plate, and coax a quality outing from Barry Zito every fifth day?

Anyway, the Giants finally won one. They’re off to a slow start (1-3), but they’ve looked good.

Well, except for Ryan Theriot.

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