San Francisco Giants' Barry Zito and Bruce Bochy Keep Confidence High in 2010
The San Francisco Giants sure aren't making it easy on a guy thus far in 2010.
With Ultimate Fighting Championship 113 erupting this weekend in Montreal, I've been meaning to take a look at what is sure to be an epic rematch between Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida and Mauricio "Shogun" Rua for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship.
In addition, there's a crackerjack bout between Paul "Semtex" Daley and Josh "Kos" Koscheck with the winner rumored to get a shot at UFC Welterweight Champion Georges "Rush" St. Pierre. GSP is arguably the best pound-for-pound mixed martial artist in the world.
Suffice it to say there's sure to be quite a bit of seismic MMA coming out of the Bell Centre. That means there's a ton to discuss and I really want to oblige.
The problem is that my beloved Giants keep winning. Not only that, they keep doing so in impressive fashion that demands comment.
We could use Tuesday's gem from Tim Lincecum, subsequent arson by Sergio Romo, and resilient effort from the offense to finally secure the win as an example. It would make a good one, especially because it included a two-out, game-tying bomb from Aaron Rowand in the top of the ninth.
However, Wednesday's twinkler from Barry Zito and a second straight defeat of the young Florida Marlins makes for a better offering.
At this point, Baked Zito's brilliance is almost yawn worthy. Almost.
Although he's been exceptional in the early going, the crafty southpaw's turn in the Sunshine State pushed him over the hump in my mind. I'm no longer waiting for the wheels to fall off when this little run ends.
It will certainly end and Barry will get shelled like every other pitcher in Major League Baseball eventually does.
But no way he regresses back to the whisper of a Cy Young winner he was until the middle of 2009. The elder statesman of the rotation has strung together too many confidence-enhancing trips to the bump for the mirage to dissolve completely.
Any eventual hiccup will be simply that, a hiccup.
As proof, take a look at his Wednesday work.
Zito had all of his pitches working and turned the ferocious Fish into the flailing variety just as Lincecum had the previous night. Granted, he only registered a fraction of the Freak's whiffs (four vs. 13), but he effectively removed the sting from the lumber and thusly only surrendered a fraction of the runs as well (one vs. three).
If not for a couple nickle-and-dimers in the eighth inning, he wouldn't have suffered a blemish in the run department.
The confidence Zito's been showing of late—in his demeanor, his pitch selection, and pitch execution—was on full display in Sun Life Stadium. It doesn't come easily and, happily, it's not lost easily either.
Barry obviously missed it for a few years, there, but he's got it back. I bet he holds onto it for dear life now that he's seen rock bottom and emerged from the valley.
Of course, the good news doesn't stop there.
After the Baseball Gods put Zito's goodies in the eighth inning ringer, the pseudo-goat from Tuesday entered a bases-loaded nightmare with nobody out and Hanley Ramirez gliding to the plate. The tying run jittered off second base and Romo had to record all three outs, beginning with arguably the Bigs' hottest hitter.
I'm sure all the Giant "fans" who love to hate Bruce Bochy had their pitchforks out and were whetting the second-guessing tips as Romo tooks his warm-ups.
Sadly for that courageous group, Sergio broke off three wicked sliders and retired Hanley on three pitches. Three swings, actually, that weren't even close. For good measure, the righty set-up ace used another three pitches to induce an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play.
Ahem, that's the No. 3 and No. 4 hitters dispatched using a mere six-shooter despite the sacks drunk with Marlins and essentially no room for error.
Crisis averted, reliever redeemed, weapon in place, and we have Boch to thank for it.
Must've just been luck.
I guess I could spell out the finer points of Bochy's managerial acumen, but why bother? Romo did an infinitely better job with emotion than I could ever do with words when asked by Duane Kuiper how he felt about his manager's willingness to run him right back out into a zero-margin situation:
"Huge, HUGE, [chuckle], thank you, Bochy [another chuckle]...that's all I could ask for, an opportunity to prove myself once again."
Baseball is a game of faith above all else—if you believe you can perform as necessary, you will and vice versa.
Bruce Bochy knows this and he also knows a well-timed, external vote of confidence can inspire exponentially more of the internal kind.
If you don't believe me, go ask Sergio Romo.
Or Hanley Ramirez...