Zito rocked by Mets in rout

The Giants finished a dismal homestand with a 9-1 loss to the New York Mets on Thursday, and, strange as it may sound, will look to getting away from AT&T Park to spark a team that has lost seven of its past eight games.

Despite the recent slide, the Giants remain a half-game ahead of the rival Los Angeles Dodgers, who were idle Thursday. Giants manager Bruce Bochy said it’s time the team started acting like it.

“We’re fortunate we’re in first place,” he said. “We’ve got to start carrying ourselves like it and pick it up here. It’s going to take a couple hits in a row to get this thing going again.”

The Mets struck early against Giants starter Barry Zito, who retired the first two hitters of the game before walking the next two, hitting the next and giving up a single and double to allow four runs in the first frame.

“You’ve got to bear down and put them away,” Zito said. “I don’t think it was mental. I was fighting myself mechanically a little bit with my timing, so that was the difference in the command today.”

The rough start escalated as the Mets scored another two-out run in the second when former Giant Andres Torres doubled and third baseman David Wright singled to drive him in. Zito settled down for the next two innings, but was pulled with one out in the fifth after a walk and two hits. He allowed seven earned runs.

The outing could be seen as a microcosm of the team’s recent struggles.

“A lot of times when you think you’re going into a rut you try to press and do too much,” Zito said. “That’s when you can go farther in it. As a team, we just need to trust ourselves and know that we’re here for a reason. We’ve been on top most of the year and we just have to be ourselves.”

Melky Cabrera was the lone offensive bright spot for the Giants, as he fell a home run short of hitting for the cycle and scored San Francisco’s lone run on a sacrifice fly by Hunter Pence after leading off the fourth inning with a triple.

Pence recorded his first RBI since joining the Giants, but remains hitless in his first two games wearing orange and black.

Sandoval on track to return from DL

While the addition of right fielder Hunter Pence has added some punch to the Giants lineup — though he’s hitless in his first two games — the offense won’t be at full strength until third baseman Pablo Sandoval fully recovers from his strained hamstring.

Manager Bruce Bochy said he expects the “Kung Fu Panda” to be back when he is eligible to come off the disabled list on Wednesday.

“He’s coming around,” Bochy said. “I’m more and more encouraged with Pablo and optimistic that he can possibly be ready when his time is up.”

He said Sandoval hasn’t started running yet, and that when he does, it will be up to trainer Dave Groechner.

Sandoval was hurt stretching to catch a ball while playing first base on July 24, a position he had only played three times this season and 63 times in his five seasons. Bochy said his lack of experience at the position may have led to the injury.

“Usually, going back to little league, you put the fat guy over there and you don’t worry about injuries,” he said.

“But he did a pretty good split there. I guess any time you make any kind of change there with a player there’s a slight risk there, but it’s not something I thought about.”


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