On this night in Phoenix, Barry Zito pitched well, but unfortunately, he did not pitch well enough.
Zito (8-12) gave a valiant effort, but it was wasted as the Giants could only muster one run, a first-inning home run that was hooked down the left-field line by Freddy Sanchez. Although the losing pitcher Zito went 6 innings, on 4 hits, gave up 2 runs, while walking 2 and striking out 7 for his first quality start in his last 6, his counterpart Daniel Hudson was just a bit better. His 7 inning effort of 5-hit ball was rewarded with a victory as he improved to 5-1 and lowered his ERA to 1.91 for the year. Although Hudson only struck out 3, he yielded 1 run and 2 walks.
The DBacks began their scoring in the bottom of the second on a lead-off walk to Chris Young (lead-off walks are always a sign of trouble). Zito then walked Adam Laroche, but coaxed a double play off the bat of the next batter Mark Reynolds. With 2 outs and a runner at third, things looked good for Zito until Miguel Montero doubled to deep center, scoring Chris Young from third and tying the game at 1. The Diamondbacks would go on to tack another run in the third on a RBI single by Kelley Johnson after Stephen Drew's leadoff triple. They capped their scoring in the 7th when Stephen Drew drove in Miguel Montero, giving them a 3-1 lead at the time.
The Giants had plenty of chances to score in this one, but just could not capitalize. One that really stands out was the top of the 7th. With 1 out, Pablo Sandoval singled and was pinch ran for by Darren Ford, who stole second while Juan Uribe was at the plate. Uribe hit a swinging bunt that the catcher Montero threw on to first for the out. Cody Ross walked, leaving runners at first and third with 2 outs for Travis Ishikawa, but all he could do was hit a weak ground ball to first, stranding the runners and ending the inning. Hard to disagree with Bochy here. Ishikawa is one of the best pinch hitters in baseball, and with the way Hudson was throwing, I don't think there was a better option for Bochy. Everybody was struggling against the DBacks righty, and I would have much rather seen Burrell against a Diamondbacks reliever where he could do some serious damage. Why Bochy did not pinch hit Burrell for Cody Ross in the ninth is beyond me. Ross just looks uncomfortable at the plate, especially in the clutch (although he did get that big base hit in LA before Uribe's clutch shot). Although he would hit bombs against the Giants as a Marlin, he doesn't seem to have the same magic playing on the Giants' side. Go figure, but baseball can be a funny game.
If you're a Giants fan, I wouldn't be too worried about this loss. It's not so much that the Giants offense was bad, it was more like they were just victim of good pitching. Daniel Hudson was nasty, and he should be given credit for his work tonight. He simply beat Barry Zito and the Giants' offense, rather than the Giants' offense beat themselves. It's not like last year when Doug Davis would somehow spit out gems against the Giants due to their horrible plate approach. Hudson just pitched a very good game and is a good pitcher. His 1.91 ERA backs it up. The Giants still took 2/3 from a team who has been playing well recently (with good up-and-coming pitchers), no matter what their record is. Boy, if the Diamondbacks get a healthy Brandon Webb back, this team will be a force to reckon with in 2011.
The Giants now will gear up for their biggest series of the year. Tomorrow night, Matt Cain (10-10, 3.18 ERA) will take on Jon Garland (13-10, 3.31 ERA) at 7:05. The Giants' recent resurgence was huge because it takes some of the pressure off of the them. If they can just hold their own and at least split, they will have to feel good considering their recent struggles against the Padres. If the Giants were say 4 or 5 out, they would certainly have to sweep, but only being 2 out, a split would suffice. Nevertheless, first place is at stake this series, and the Giants need to put pressure on the Padres.
Arizona RHP Brandon Webb threw between 50 and 60 pitches in a batting cage, and came way feeling good and encouraged. He's coming back from shoulder surgery and hopes to pitch at least once in a game before the season ends. The Giants ended their 4-game winning streak tonight, but are 4-2 on the road trip. The Padres are 9-2 against the Giants.
One more thing. Baseball historian/writer/Giants' weekend post-game host Marty Lurie looked at my blog and gave me feedback via Twitter. Here's what he had to say.
baseballmarty @vintalkingiants Vin read the blog terriifc work good recaps of the team...very colorful site easy to read...good luck..MDL
Hearing positive feedback from him really meant a lot. He is a really knowledgeable baseball man, so praise coming from him is an honor. Those words of encouragement give me all the more reason to write (I just wish I got more comments. I would love to hear everyone's opinion on the team). Maybe this can launch my career covering the Giants.