Before I get into the game, I want to relate a little story. During my usual interaction with fans at the game I met a man who was a Marine Officer from Camp Pendleton. During the course of our conversation he said that Barry Zito had paid for 28 Marines (most of them recovering from injuries in Iraq) to come out to Arizona for a couple of days. About half of them were seated in the section next to mine and the rest were in the next section over. They went to Don & Charlies for dinner last night, the game today and were going to Frasher's for dinner tonight. Zito paid for the dinners and also paid for their transportation and hotel costs. The dinner tonight was supposed to be attended by Zito and several other baseball players and MLB officials. The young men were all very appreciative of Zito and MLB and cheered Zito enthusiastically for his 5 2/3 innings. Several of them had quite visible scars, but that did not temper their enthusiasm for the game. As it turned out Zito had his best game of the spring (by far). After seeing some of these guys and hearing of their appreciation, I will have a hard time getting on Zito for poor performance in the future. I don't want to get political here, but I couldn't help being choked up by the sacrifices made by these men and being grateful to Barry Zito and MLB for caring.
Now as for the game, Zito was exceptional. His worst inning as far as pitches thrown was the 1st, though it was through no fault of his own. The first batter popped out to Fred Lewis in LF, although it was an adventure, as Fred lost the ball in the sun before recovering and making a last second catch. The second batter got a double on a ball to the wall that Fred should have caught, but again he appeared to lose the ball in the sun and the ball hit about 2 feet up the wall as Fred ducked out of the way to keep the ball from hitting him in the head. Zito got the last 2 batters of the inning on groundballs, after a 21 pitch inning. After the 1st, Zito cut down the pitch count and lasted 5 2/3 innings. I was surprised that the Giants let him throw 92 pitches on the day (52 strikes). I was even more surprised that he tallied 4 K's on the day after having none all spring. He ended up allowing only 2 hits and 3 walks with one of the walks being erased by a 5-4-3 DP. The key today was that Zito's curveball was really on. He had that good 12 to 6 job and he was throwing it for strikes as 2 of his strikeouts were swinging and 2 of them on called strike 3. Although he had a very good day, Zito had 8 batters take him to 3 ball counts. He really does not have much margin for error. A couple of strike calls one way or the other has a big effect on his game.
Keiichi Yabu replaced Zito with 2 out in the 6th and got out of the inning rather quickly. In fact, Yabu pitched the 7th inning and had another extremely fast inning. It took him all of 9 pitches (7 strikes) to dispatch all 4 batters he faced. I really don't want a 39 year old reliever on the team........but Yabu is pitching really well. Tyler Walker pitched the 8th and after 2 quick outs gave up a single and a wild pitch, which allowed the runner to advance to 2B. Tyler ended the inning with a 7 pitch strikeout.
Brian Wilson had a disappointing inning in the 9th as he started the inning with a single, triple and double allowing the White Sox to tie the game. Wilson then got the next 3 batters in a row but allowed a SAC fly to one of them to allow the Sox to take the lead 3-2. Once again Wilson showed that it is possible to be wild WITHIN the strike zone as he threw 18 pitches with all but 4 of them being strikes. You get the ball up in the zone......you get hit. I was a little surprised both Walker and Wilson were used in back-to-back games the last 2 days.......but it appears the Giants are working their pitchers a little harder in the spring than we are used to seeing.
As far as offense goes, the Giants had a bunch of hits (10 to be exact), but were only able to score 2 runs in the 1st inning and 2 runs in the last inning. Dan Ortmeier and Fred Lewis were the only Giants to have 2 hits. Lewis and Stephen Holm had the only extra base hits (a triple and a double). Ortmeier stole another base and Eugenio Velez stole his 12th of the spring. Velez also committed another error when he appeared to call Aaron Rowand off and then dropped a popup on the last batter that Zito faced. The winning run of the game was knocked in on a two out pinch hit single by Eliezer Alfonzo, of all people. Alfonzo got his 4th hit of the spring and raised his average to .098.
I was disappointed in Wilson's performance, but it was a very good performance by Zito and a nice comeback in the bottom of the 9th when honestly, I thought the game was over. I don't expect the Giants to have a good season, but if by some stretch of luck they do decently, it will be because they have a bunch of games like this. Good starting pitching and timely hitting does a lot to help win games........not to mention to improve the fans' attitude (at least THIS fan's attitude).