Two years ago during the Giants’ championship run Barry Zito wasn’t even on the playoff roster, but now he’s starting Game 5 of the NLCS tonight with their season on the line.
The good news is that the Giants have won 12 straight Zito starts dating back to August 7.
The bad news is that win streak included Zito failing to make it out of the third inning against the Reds in the NLDS and his overall ERA in those 12 starts is 4.04. In other words, he hasn’t exactly been the driving force behind the dozen consecutive victories.
It will be Zito’s ninth career playoff start, but he hasn’t thrown more than four innings in a postseason outing since the ALDS in 2006, when he tossed eight innings of one-run ball versus Minnesota. To get a sense of how long ago that was, Frank Thomas was the A’s cleanup hitter and Johan Santana started for the Twins.
If the Giants can win tonight they’ll have Ryan Vogelsong and Matt Cain lined up for Games 6 and 7, but first they’ll need Zito to earn a big chunk of his much-maligned $127 million contract.
With his Astros trailing the Tigers 2-1, catcher Robinson Chirinos began his at-bat in the bottom of the ninth a triple shy of the cycle. He doubled in the second inning, singled in the fourth, and hit a solo homer in the seventh. Yordan Álvarez and Yuli Gurriel both struck out, leaving the Astros’ fate in the hands of Chirinos against Joe Jiménez. After working the count to 2-1, Chirinos slapped an 85 MPH slider to the gap in right-center field. A diving Travis Demeritte could not come up with the ball, but center fielder Harold Castro fired the ball back in to Gordon Beckham, who then made a perfect throw to Dawel Lugo at third base. Chirinos was tagged out for the final out of the game. No triple, no cycle. The Astros lost 2-1.
Chirinos was attempting to become the first Astro to hit for the cycle since Brandon Barnes on July 19, 2013 against the Mariners.
The Astros entered Wednesday’s game as the largest favorite in 15 seasons, according to ESPN’s David Purdum. The Astros were -500 per Caesars Sportsbook. Other sportsbooks had them at -550. So the Tigers’ win was quite the upset.
Justin Verlander went the distance in the loss. The only blemishes on his line were solo homers to Ronny Rodríguez in the fifth and John Hicks in the ninth. They were the only hits he allowed while walking none and striking out 11.