The Dodgers had to feel confident coming into Monday night's game. Barry Zito was touched up for eight earned runs against the Los Angeles Angels in his last start and had given up 17 earned runs in his last three starts.
Zito turned it around Monday.
Zito, who lost to the Dodgers in Los Angeles on May 7, dominated last night. In seven innings pitched, Zito yielded just three hits, while amassing four strikeouts.
The key to Zito's success?
Zito simply pounded the strike zone, mixing and matching his devastating curveball with his mid-80s fastball. An 85-mph pitcher can be effective as long as he mixes location, speeds, and constantly gets ahead of the count.
Zito did just that against Los Angeles. He threw soft stuff away, and then, he came inside with his fastball.
Hitters were fooled. When a pitcher throws a 75 mph curveball and backs it up with an 85 mph fastball, the latter pitch looks so much faster.
Overall, Zito has pitched well. The $126 million pitcher is now a fifth starter for the Giants, but he has pitched well.
Zito is 6-5, with a 4.00 ERA, including a complete-game shutout on April 10 against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. Zito may not be a Cy-Young pitcher anymore, but he is serviceable and can keep the Giants competitive on the games he starts.
Zito's stellar performance may have been helped by the current Dodger woes. Los Angeles has lost six of their last seven games, including getting swept by the Oakland Athletics.
In those seven games, the Dodgers have scored just 13 runs.
Could this Dodger slump be attributed to Matt Kemp's injury?
I think so. Many of the Dodger hits were bloop hits, line drives that made it through, or ground balls that found holes.
A team can have success this way for a short time, but ultimately, it will fall short without at least some power. Sooner or later, those balls will find gloves.
The Dodgers are second-to-last in the National League in home runs with 45. They are also 13th in the league in doubles, but are in the middle of the pack in RBIs and hits.
Prolonged slumps are bound to happen when your best player is on the disabled list, especially one with power and speed. It is just part of the game.
Through it all, the Dodgers are still in first place in the National League West by two games over the Giants. They have done a great job working with what they have but with little power.
A team that relies on pitching and defense and not much offense can work, but it puts lots of pressure on your defense and pitching. The Dodgers, however, are far from perfect on defense, as they are ninth in the NL in errors with 48.
The Giants do not have much extra-base power either, which is why they are still behind the Dodgers in the NL West and have been up-and-down all year.
The Giants struggled in the more hitter-friendly American League, going 4-5 on their three-city interleague road trip.
Both teams figure to address this issue at the trade deadline. MLBTradeRumors.com reported the Dodgers had some interest in former Red Sox third baseman Kevin Youkolis, but he was traded to the Chicago White Sox instead.
The Giants' offense seems to be clicking these last few games. The Giants scored eight runs last night and 24 runs in their last four games.
Hector Sanchez has been a potent offensive force for San Francisco. He usually catches on days Buster Posey rests.
Sanchez is hitting .282, with two home runs and 21 RBIs in 103 at-bats. In 2011, Giants' catchers combined to hit .224, with 11 home runs and 48 RBIs.
The combined on-base percentage for Giants' catchers last year was .298. Regular catcher Posey was injured for almost all 2011.
Sanchez, who played in place of Posey Monday night, went 2-for-4 with two RBIs. The Giants are 7-2 when Posey has a day off.
Other notable offensive contributions Monday:
- Gregor Blanco sparked the Giants' offense, going 2-for-4 with a walk.
- Melky Cabrera continued his great season with a 2-for-5 night, increasing his batting average for the year to a major-league best .351 average.
- Pablo Sandoval is stinging the ball again, almost hitting one out off the left field wall. He went 3-for-3, including a 2-RBI double. He had three RBIs for the game.
- The Giants were 7-for-14 with runners in scoring position. The Dodgers were 0-for-8.
His line: 5.0 IP, 10 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 1 BB, 1 SO.
Eovaldi's ERA went up to 4.04 from 2.35. Despite pitching well in 2012, the Doders' rookie is 0-4.
This is good to see if you're a Giants fan. The Giants usually are overaggressive against pitchers they have not seen, but the 2012 Giants' offense is more patient.
San Francisco's team OBP is .320 in 2012. Their 2011 OBP was just .303, worst in the National League.
Ryan Vogelsong (6-3, 2.41 ERA) will take on Clayton Kershaw (5-3, 2.73 ERA). Although name recognition would lead you to believe Kershaw has an advantage over Vogelsong, the Giants' right-hander has more wins and a lower ERA than Kershaw.
Vogelsong also beat Kershaw back in early May.
RHP Brad Penny, who the Giants signed to a minor league contract May 18, is almost ready to help the big club. Giants' manager Bruce Bochy said he intends to use Penny as either a spot starter or in long relief soon.
No definite timetable has been set for his call-up.
Penny has a 7.11 ERA with the AAA Fresno Grizzlies in 6.1 innings pitched. However, he pitched two scoreless innings, giving up just one hit, in a relief stint on June 24.
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Information from ESPN.com contributed to this article.
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