Pitching is the most important part of baseball and often the most unpredictable, as the Giants have learned in their first six games on the road. But now, they’re returning to AT&T Park and their drive for the NL West title should get a jump start.
AT&T is known as a pitcher’s park. Hitters can hit the ball out, as Barry Bonds proved many times, but there are no fluke hits that go out, as there often are in Coors Field in Denver, and sometimes at Chase Field in Phoenix, too.
I’m sure his home park was a big consideration for Matt Cain in his negotiations with the Giants. While writers speculated that Cain might want to go to a team with better hitting, he realized the importance of his comfort level in his home park.
Cain got roughed up in his first start in Phoenix, though he didn’t take the loss. He’ll be much more comfortable taking the mound today in the Giants’ home opener against Pittsburgh, and he’ll be much more successful, as well.
I’m not nearly so confident about Barry Zito’s future, though Zito threw a remarkable shutout in Denver, his first since 2003.
The attempts to explain Zito’s success have ignored the simplest one: The Rockies saw a much different pitching style than they expected.
In his Giant years, Zito had adopted a pattern of nibbling, nibbling, nibbling, trying to get strikes on the corners. He was walking far too many hitters and then he’d have to come in with a fat pitch that got hammered, often over the fence.
That’s the pitcher the Rockies hitters were expecting to see. Instead, Zito came out throwing strikes, and the Rockies were often in 0-2 or 1-2 holes and had to swing at the pitches Zito wanted them to try to hit.
Hitters now will be looking for a Zito throwing strikes, so they’ll be swinging early. His success will not be repeated, and he’ll once again be struggling simply to be the No. 5 starter.
Tim Lincecum will soon reverse his early season pattern of bad performances, too. He’s a much more complicated pitcher than Cain, with an unorthodox delivery and an assortment of pitches. If he gets a little bit off on his delivery, he can be in trouble. That’s happened to him as recently as late last season. But it doesn’t usually last long, and when he’s on his form — which could happen as soon as his next start — nobody’s better.
Cain’s problems in his first start are more difficult to explain. He’s primarily a power pitcher, though he’s acquired better control and more pitches as he’s matured, with an easy, natural motion, and he started strongly against the D’backs before running into trouble. I think you just have to write that one off, knowing he’ll be much more consistent, starting today.
The Giants should score more runs this season, especially if somebody can take the lineup card away from manager Bruce Bochy and write in Brandon Belt’s name instead of Aubrey Huff’s.
But it is still pitching that will carry the Giants to an NL West title, and the good news should start today.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Giants vs. Pirates
WHEN: Today, 1:35 p.m.
WHERE: AT&T Park
TV: CSN Bay Area
RADIO: KNBR (680 AM)
STARTERS: Giants’ Matt Cain (0-0, 7.50 ERA) vs. Pirates’ James McDonald (0-0, 3.00 ERA)