PITTSBURGH – Giants manager Bruce Bochy took his medicine from the Commissioner’s office Wednesday night. He served his one game suspension – and had to watch Barry Zito pitch on the road.
Cruel and unusual punishment, don’t you think?
Zito was simply dreadful away from AT&T Park once again, and it’s gotten so acutely painful that the Giants will have to mull their options the next time the left-hander’s turn will come up on the road.
The Giants took an early lead, they rallied back from a three-run deficit -- and still, Zito was powerless to stop the Pittsburgh Pirates in a 12-8 loss at PNC Park.
The splits are cavernous. Zito is now 0-4 with an 11.28 ERA in five road starts. He is 4-1 with a 1.94 ERA in eight home assignments.
He all but had to pluck buckshot out of his high black socks after the Pirates peppered him for 11 hits while scoring eight runs in 4 2/3 innings. (The last two were inherited runners that Jose Mijares allowed to score.)
The Giants dropped to 4-12 in road games against non-NL West opponents. They’ll need Matt Cain to be firm to prevent getting swept here at the confluence of the Allegheny, Ohio and Monongahela.
Starting pitching report
Zito was just too hittable.
He somehow held the Pirates to one run in the first inning even though four of the first five batters hit singles and the Giants committed an error when third baseman Joaquin Arias skipped a throw.
But the top of the order instigated more trouble in the third. The first four batters hit safely, with Andrew McCutchen’s two-run double giving the Pirates a 3-1 lead.
Through four innings, the Pirates’ Nos. 1-5 hitters were 8 for 10 and the Nos. 6-9 hitters were 0 for 8.
Zito’s key inning was yet to come. The Giants had just rallied back to tie on Arias’ two-run single, but Zito could not come up with an answer for leadoff man Starling Marte or No.2 hitter Jordy Mercer. They both singled (they combined to go 6-for-6 against Zito) to start another rally.
A one-out walk loaded the bases and Zito had a chance to escape when Russell Martin hit a shot to the right side that first baseman Brandon Belt speared. Belt threw to shortstop for one out and the Giants could’ve turned two to get out of the inning. But Zito, assuming the ball would be a hit, moved to back up home plate instead of covering first base.
Marte scored the tiebreaking run and Pedro Alvarez followed with a run-scoring double to drive Zito from the game.
Zito has made five road starts and this was the third time in which he’s allowed at least 11 hits. (Also at Colorado and Toronto.) Opponents are batting .432 against him away from AT&T Park.
The good news: His next two starts are forecasted to come on the shores of McCovey Cove.
One more, courtesy of Bay Area News Group’s Alex Pavlovic: The Giants have given up at least 10 runs an NL-most seven times this season. They did it just six times all of last year.
The Giants still have a formidable setup staff and closer. But those aren’t the relievers who are getting used lately.
Mijares couldn’t save Zito’s two runs and it didn’t get better after that. Ramon Ramirez got lit for three runs as his second stint with the Giants continues to show no resemblance to his first. Alex Presley hit a solo home run off Ramirez in the sixth and Neil Walker added another leading off the seventh after umpires reviewed his double and determined that it hit a seat beyond the right field fence.
New arrival Sandy Rosario, who replaced George Kontos so he could serve as a long man, gave up a run as well as the Pirates scored in each of their last four innings.
So … how long can the Giants keep Heath Hembree at Fresno now?
At the plate
There isn’t a Giant on the roster who played with A.J. Pierzynski. And it’s been almost 10 years since GM Brian Sabean made the worst trade of his career, parting with Joe Nathan and Francisco Liriano along with Boof Bonser to get the prickly catcher whose tenure with the club lasted one year.
So there wasn’t much significance in the fact that Liriano, now a veteran, was facing the Giants for the first time in his career.
The bigger issue was that the lineup was missing Marco Scutaro, Angel Pagan and Pablo Sandoval.
Yet the offense wasn’t the problem.
Hunter Pence swept a pitch almost off the dirt for a two-out, RBI double in the first inning. Pence doubled and scored on Juan Perez’s sacrifice fly in the fourth. And the Giants tied it in the fifth when Arias hit a bases-loaded single.
Zito was bad, and the bullpen was worse. Still, the Giants kept challenging. They scored two in the seventh and two more in the eighth on Buster Posey’s two-run single.
Tony Abreu, the second baseman in Marco Scutaro’s absence, had three hits in his first start as a Giant and set a career high by scoring three runs.
Marte was the star of the game. He became the first Giants opponent to collect four hits and score four runs since … another Pirate, Neal Walker, on July 8 of last season – also at PNC Park. Marte stole a pair of bases, too.
Center fielder Juan Perez can track them down. He showed that in his first big league inning, when he crashed into the fence at Arizona’s Chase Field.
Turns out Perez has a plus arm, too. He helped out Zito by catching Gaby Sanchez’s fly ball in medium to deep center field, then throwing a one-hop strike to third base to catch Mercer trying to tag up.
The Pirates announced 19,966 paid, and lucky for all, those rain ponchos remained useful only as seat cushions.
If weather cooperates, the Giants and Pirates will conclude their three-game series at PNC Park on Thursday. Matt Cain (4-3, 5.09 ERA) will take the mound on the one-year anniversary of his perfect game against the Houston Astros. The Pirates are scheduled to start right-hander Charlie Morton (2-6, 4.65). First pitch is scheduled for 4:05 p.m. PDT.