For years Barry Zito’s big contract has been the primary reason for his remaining in San Francisco’s rotation, but with just six weeks to go until he can be cut loose the Giants sound ready to end the relationship early.
Zito lasted just 3.2 innings against the Red Sox yesterday and afterward manager Bruce Bochy hinted at changes in the rotation, telling Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com: “I don’t want to go into the choices, but I’ll talk to the staff before we talk about that.”
Baggarly notes that the Giants “do not lightly discard players who have set a good example and gone about their business the right way.” In other words, Zito might be hurting the team and might have zero chance of playing for the Giants beyond this season, but he’s been a nice guy on good teams. He’s also been paid $120 million and will get a $7 million buyout of his 2014 option.
Zito’s next scheduled start is Monday at Coors Field, which would seem almost cruel at this point. He has a 5.63 ERA in 120 innings overall and is 0-8 with a 9.50 ERA on the road, including 0-2 with a 7.36 ERA in two starts at Coors Field.
The Dodgers are NL West champions for the fifth time in a row. They clinched with a 4-2 win over the Giants on Friday night, taking their first and only lead on a mammoth record-breaking home run from Cody Bellinger in the third inning.
Rich Hill turned in another quality start, going six innings with five hits, a run and nine strikeouts to keep the Giants at bay. He tacked on an RBI hit of his own, too, lashing a double to left field for his first extra-base hit since 2007.
The Giants, meanwhile, deployed Jeff Samardzija and his 4.42 ERA for 4 1/3 innings. Samardzija was on the hook for the Dodgers’ four-run spread in the third and took his 15th loss of the season. Pablo Sandoval came through with a solo home run in the ninth, but the rest of San Francisco’s offense wasn’t so lucky against Kenley Jansen, who struck out the side to clinch the game — and the division.
After Friday’s showstopper, the Dodgers are just two wins away from their first 100-win season since 1974. If they win the remaining eight games of the season, they’ll beat out the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers for the most wins in franchise history.
Cody Bellinger helped the Dodgers to their first lead on Friday night, going deep for his 39th home run of the season and setting a new National League rookie home run record in the process. With two on and two out in the third inning, the Dodgers’ slugger launched a 2-1 pitch from the Giants’ Jeff Samardzija, skimming the right field fence to give the team a three-run cushion:
The three-run bomb was Bellinger’s sixth of the season. In what is undoubtedly a Rookie of the Year award-worthy campaign, he’s logged 21 solo shots, 11 two-run blasts and a single grand slam. His historic home run topped former NL rookie leaders Frank Robinson and Wally Berger, at 38 homers apiece.
The Dodgers need to stay on top of the Giants to clinch the NL West or, barring that, have the Marlins pull off a win over the Diamondbacks. They currently lead the Giants 4-1 in the bottom of the fifth inning. The Marlins, meanwhile, are staying just ahead of the D-backs with a 9-7 lead in the top of the sixth.