Baseball experts? There are none. Not anymore. Not after what Barry Zito did Monday.
Nobody is expert enough to have imagined that.
After Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain stunk it up in three consecutive losses in Arizona, Zito took the mound in Colorado and not only pitched better than the top three, but he pitched downright amazingly.
Zito earned his first shutout since 2003 -- four years before he signed the $126 million contract that the Giants and their fans regretted. The Giants won 7-0, and who could have possible picked Zito throwing the Giants’ first shutout in the office pool?
He fired a four-hitter, striking out four without walking a batter. How fulfilling was that for a guy who has taken a lot of abuse for failing so often and getting paid so much?
“It was really satisfying -- it was a tough spring,” said Zito, who tried a new delivery and then scrapped it. He gave up 10 runs in his final two Cactus League starts, covering 5 1/3 innings.
In Zito’s previous shutout, his catcher was Ramon Hernandez, who caught for the Rockies on Monday. Hernandez’s double was the only extra-base hit off Zito.
MLB Team Report - San Francisco Giants - NOTES, QUOTES
--1B Brandon Belt will return to the lineup Wednesday, manager Bruce Bochy said. Belt played in the first three games, all losses, and was bumped Monday in favor of 1B Aubrey Huff, who played left field the first three games. Belt was 1-for-10 with five strikeouts and admitted he was pressing. Aside from the offensive funk, Bochy said one reason Belt rested was to get Huff out of the outfield for the opener at vast Coors Field.
--C Hector Sanchez got his first start of the year, giving Buster Posey a rest, and he not only seemed comfortable at the plate, but he called every pitch in LHP Barry Zito’s four-hit shutout. Zito worked with Sanchez in the minors last summer during a rehab assignment and spoke glowingly of the 22-year-old during spring training.
--3B Pablo Sandoval remains hot. He had five hits in the season-opening series in Arizona and hit a first-inning, two-run homer Monday in Colorado. Sandoval is a .478 hitter (11-for-23) against the Rockies, and he has five homers in his last five games at Coors Field.
--SS Brandon Crawford got a lot of attention for getting just one hit and making two errors in the first three games, but nobody was complaining Monday after he ripped a three-run double to pad the Giants’ lead in the third inning. Crawford has been known as an all-field, no-hit shortstop, but he made big strides Monday. He’s second on the Giants in RBI with five.
--RHP Ryan Vogelsong is on target to make his 2012 Giants debut Sunday in San Francisco after getting a slow start to spring training because of a back ailment. The Giants have gone through their four-man rotation once. They’re off Tuesday, and the Giants-Rockies series will resume Wednesday with RHP Tim Lincecum starting. Vogelsong threw four shutout innings April 5 in a rehab start for Class AAA Fresno.
BY THE NUMBERS: 5 -- Career shutouts for LHP Barry Zito. Before Monday, his previous shutout was April 18, 2003, when he pitched for the A’s against Texas.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “To see him go out there and throw a complete-game shutout, in Colorado, that was just fun to watch. I never wanted to scoop a ball at the end right there for the last out harder in my life. He’s been going through some times this spring, and to go out here and do what he did in Colorado after the 0-3 start, it’s just amazing. Just when you think you’ve seen it all in baseball.” -- 1B Aubrey Huff, on LHP Barry Zito’s gem.
MLB Team Report - San Francisco Giants - ROSTER REPORT
--RHP Ryan Vogelsong (lower back strain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 26. He made a rehab start for Class AAA Fresno on April 5, and he is expected to start for San Francisco on April 15.
--2B Freddy Sanchez (right shoulder surgery in August 2011) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 26. He was still struggling with his throwing late in spring training.
--LHP Eric Surkamp (strained flexor tendon in left elbow) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 26.
--LHP Dan Runzler (strained lat muscle) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 26.
RHP Tim Lincecum
LHP Madison Bumgarner
RHP Matt Cain
LHP Barry Zito
RHP Brian Wilson (closer)
RHP Sergio Romo
RHP Santiago Casilla
LHP Jeremy Affeldt
LHP Javier Lopez
RHP Guillermo Mota
RHP Clay Hensley
RHP Dan Otero
1B Brandon Belt
2B Emmanuel Burriss
SS Brandon Crawford
3B Pablo Sandoval
INF Ryan Theriot
INF Brett Pill
LF Aubrey Huff
CF Angel Pagan
RF Melky Cabrera
OF Gregor Blanco
OF Nate Schierholtz