The Giants managed to avoid what would have been the first season sweep at the hands of their cross-Bay rivals by beating the A’s 5-2 at AT&T Park on Thursday behind what manager Bruce Bochy called a Houdini-like start from lefty Barry Zito.
The former A’s pitcher allowed one run in six innings, scattering six walks to go with three hits as he danced in and out of trouble. It was just the third quality start by a Giants pitcher in the past 16 games, a stat Zito said the staff doesn’t need anyone to remind them of.
“We’re all professionals here,” he said. “We know we’ve got to go out there and be better on the starting side. We’re just kind of in a little funk here as a staff. We’ve got the tools and the talent, so we’ve just got to trust ourselves.”
For the fourth time in four games against the A’s, the Giants fell behind early when a Coco Crisp single drove in a run in the second inning, though Zito settled down afterward long enough to give his offense a chance to fight back.
A’s starter A.J. Griffin kept the fight out of the Giants’ bats early, allowing just two baserunners through the first five innings, but his third time through the lineup, the Giants broke through.
With one out in the sixth, San Francisco took its first lead of the series on a two-run single by Pablo Sandoval that made it 2-1. Following a single by Hunter Pence, Brandon Belt knocked a line drive into the gap in left center that scored Sandoval and Pence, giving the Giants the padding they needed.
“Sometimes things just aren’t going to go your way,” Belt said. “But you’ve got to keep grinding it out until it does. That’s what we did today. We did just enough to win the ballgame.”
The Giants have now gone 7-0 in Zito’s starts at AT&T Park this season, and gained an important positive step as they now enter a stretch with 12 of their next 14 games on the road, including visits to the current first-place teams in each of the National League’s three divisions in the St. Louis Cardinals, Arizona Diamondbacks and Atlanta Braves.
Bochy said there was some pride on the line against the A’s as well.
“The last thing you want to do is get swept in here in this Bay series,” he said. “We haven’t played very well. We needed something to get us going, get the confidence going, hopefully some swagger going too.”