The buzz running through the crowd at AT&T Park on Saturday was not the confident chatter of fans about to watch the Giants cruise into the National League baseball playoffs.
That buzzing was the grumbling on everyone’s lips over the Giants highest-paid player, Barry Zito.
The $18.5 million-a-year pitcher gave up two runs in the first inning to groans throughout the crowd. After the early struggles, fans like Cory Zimmerman didn’t give up on him quite yet.
“It was a bit of a rough start, but I think he’s going to come back strong,” said the 23-year-old Giants fan from San Mateo.
Shouts of “Come on, Z!” permeated from the sea of orange.
But Giants manager Bruce Bochy yanked Zito in the fourth inning to cascade of boos. Zito gave up all four runs scored by the San Diego Padres, one unearned.
The substitution sparked a gentleman’s debate between Pete Levy, 53, and his 16-year-old son, Noah.
“My son thinks they should pull Zito for the playoffs, but I say they should hang in there with him,” said Pete Levy.
Noah, who was wearing a Zito jersey, put it simply, “He just hasn’t done much lately.”
Bochy fired up the crowd — and the team — when a dubious call from the home plate umpire ended the sixth inning with two Giants on base. The home team followed with a 1-2-3 inning and a Juan Uribe home run in the 7th.
Despite the nervousness, fans kept faith, a word spoken a lot Saturday, that the team would eke out one win against the San Diego Padres and make into the playoffs atop the National League West. If the Giants win today, they will clinch first place.
Excitement rippled throughout the stadium. All eyes were on the game, except for the eyes of Tessa Lam. It was the 3-month-old’s first baseball game, and she was fast asleep in a baby carrier with a Giants bib soaking up her drool.
Her mother, Jeannie Lam, had hoped today would be memorable for more than just her daughter’s first game. She wanted it to be the Giants first playoff berth since 2003.
But that was not meant to be for the Lam family, nor for the thousands of fans who came to the stadium with a lot of faith and left with some uncertainty. Dave Franco, who became a fan after moving to The City three years ago, kept it positive.
“The Giants have come too far and fought too hard to go out in a three-game series,” Franco said.
Giants vs. Padres
WHEN: 1:05 p.m. today
WHERE: AT&T Park
TV: Comcast SportsNet Bay Area
RADIO: KNBR (680 AM)