What Bruce Bochy remembers about Barry Zito's shutout at Coors Field

What Bruce Bochy remembers about Barry Zito's shutout at Coors Field

On the final day of spring training in 2012, Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti stood a few feet from Scottsdale Stadium's bullpen mound in nice slacks, a blazer and dress shoes. He watched silently as Barry Zito went through a bullpen session in a stadium that was otherwise nearly completely cleaned out.

Zito was lost, stuck in a desperate search to find a fix. A few months earlier, he had contemplated walking away from one of the richest deals in MLB history. A few days earlier, he had been sent to pitch in a minor league game because that was the only place the staff could guarantee that Zito would get his pitch count up without getting hit so hard he had to get pulled from a game. 

Had young lefty Eric Surkamp stayed healthy that spring, perhaps the Giants would have gone in a different direction entirely. But they had no choice but to slide Zito back into their rotation, and he got the ball for the fourth game of the season. The Giants had lost their first three and were playing at Coors Field. They started a pitcher who had given up 32 hits and 17 runs in 19 1/3 innings that spring. 

It was a recipe for disaster -- and then Zito went out and threw a shutout.

"Don't think anybody saw the complete game shutout coming so early in the season, especially in Colorado," manager Bruce Bochy said via text Thursday. "The manager got to sleep that night."

The win was an early pivot point for a team that would go on to win the World Series in part because of Zito's postseason heroics. A losing streak to start a year can put any group of talented players in a funk, and Bochy knew how important that game was. In the years that followed, he often talked about it as being a key day for that 2012 group. 

"You hate to start the season 0-3 as it's magnified so much," he said Thursday. "I'm thinking we need to win a game for the squad coming off three straight tough losses for their psyche. Now I have a fly ball pitcher going in Colorado so I'm expecting a high scoring game and the bullpen getting usage after a lot of work the first three games. His game stopped our tough streak, saved our pen and brought sanity in the early go. His nice mix of high fastballs and curveballs out of the same slot was a thing of beauty."

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NBC Sports Bay Area will air the Zito shutout at 8 p.m. on Thursday night. Zito talked about that performance while appearing on the Giants Insider Podcast last year, and he noted that it's a game he almost didn't pitch for reasons nobody knew about at the time. 

After being left off the postseason roster in 2010 and struggling with injuries in 2011, Zito almost retired before the 2012 season. 

"I was very close to walking away," he said. "Thank God I didn't. That was such a special year."

Former Giant Randy Winn describes feeling of month-long hot streak

Former Giant Randy Winn describes feeling of month-long hot streak

A starting pitcher can take control of a game and singlehandedly lead his team to a win, but in general, it's hard for baseball players to will their team to victory day after day.

Starters pitch once every five days and position players know that even on a five-hit night, you're dependent on your own pitchers standing tall, and every time you reach base, you have to wait a couple innings for another chance to impact the game.

But every once in a while, a hitter gets so hot that it seems he's carrying his team for weeks at a time. The Giants last truly experienced this in 2018, when Brandon Crawford briefly thrust himself into the MVP race and earned an All-Star selection with an absurd stretch in May and June.

Buster Posey won the MVP award with his second half of 2012, and Melky Cabrera dragged the Giants to plenty of wins earlier that year before failing a PED test. In the first half of this century, Barry Bonds could carry the lineup for weeks, even seasons, at a time. 

Randy Winn experienced that after being traded to the Giants from the Mariners in 2005, and that year he had his own hot streak that to this day is one of the most impressive in franchise history. Over the final 30 games of that season, Winn had 54 hits in 123 at-bats, good for a .439 batting average. He hit 11 homers, 13 doubles and three triples, with a slugging percentage of .862 and OPS of 1.331. 

On this week's Giants Insider Podcast, Winn recalled what it felt like to get that hot for such a long period of time. 

"Nothing felt different -- everything just felt really, really easy and really slow," Winn said. "Whenever I felt like I wanted to take a pitch, the pitcher would throw a ball. If in my mind I was thinking, you know what, he might throw me a changeup, and he would throw me a changeup and it was very hittable. When anybody describes 'the zone' or being on fire, what they say is always the same: Everything was really slow, I was really relaxed, and my mind was really clear.

"When I think back on that time or other times when I was hitting really well, those are always the things that I remember. I didn't feel different, I wasn't really doing anything different. It just feels like you're in control of everything."

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Winn was having a solid season to that point, with a .273 average and .742 OPS. He opened September with eight hits in a three-game sweep of the Diamondbacks and never looked back, finishing the year with a .306 average. Winn had 17 multi-hit games in September, including three four-hit games. His 51 hits that month set a San Francisco Giants record that Cabrera tied in May of 2012. 

"It was a great situation for me," Winn said of the midseason trade that brought him to San Francisco. "Coming home, still live in the Bay Area, grew up in the Bay Area, my wife is from the Bay Area, our parents at that time lived in the Bay Area, so for us it was a homecoming and it was just great to be back home."

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On the podcast, Winn also talks about how he would handle this layoff, what it was like playing college basketball with Steve Nash, what made Bonds and Albert Pujols so great, and much more. 

Giants fans vote 'Champ' Tim Lincecum as best version of former ace


Giants fans vote 'Champ' Tim Lincecum as best version of former ace

You the fans have spoken.

We asked you to designate your favorite version of former Giants ace Tim Lincecum, and the social media response was overwhelming.

Lincecum was a part of all three World Series-winning teams in 2010, 2012, and 2014 in San Francisco.

During his first postseason run in 2010, Lincecum put together an impressive stretch of performances, solidifying himself as a franchise icon.

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He kicked off the 2010 MLB Playoffs by throwing a 119-pitch shutout with 14 strikeouts against the Atlanta Braves in Game 1, propping up an offense that only mustered one run of support to give the Giants a leg up in the five-game division series.

He followed that effort up by striking out eight Phillies in a Game 1 road win in Philadelphia, when Cody Ross’ two home runs led the Giants to a 4-3 win.

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Lincecum wrapped up the postseason by earning two World Series wins, including the series clincher in Game 5, striking out 10 Texas Rangers over eight innings as the Giants won their first Fall Classic since the franchise relocated to the west coast in 1958.

Although Lincecum earned plenty of nicknames during his legendary career in San Francisco, “Champ” definitely has a nice ring to it.