SAN FRANCISCO – The Giants decided that Barry Zito deserved one last start. And Madison Bumgarner more than deserved a break.
So Zito will take Bumgarner’s start on Wednesday against Yasiel Puig and the Los Angeles Dodgers – a final chance to end his expensive seven-year tenure with a last little uptick in the stock price.
“I wanted to give him one more start,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “Looking at it, we thought (Wednesday) would be the best time to give him that start. He’s been through a lot. He’s done everything we’ve asked of him. I don’t want to go into all the things we’ve asked, but he’s been great about it. He’s been working hard.”
You can start with telling Zito he wouldn’t be on the playoff roster in 2010. Of course, he was two years later, and pitched perhaps the most important game of the entire postseason when he beat the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium in Game 5 to bring the NLCS back to AT&T Park.
But the Giants have had trouble getting Zito out on a good note. He tanked several chances to stay in the rotation down the stretch. His .323 opponent’s average this season is the highest by any pitcher (minimum 100 innings) in Giants franchise history, and by a wide margin. Terry Mulholland held the previous mark with a .313 OBA.
Now Zito gets one more chance.
“We feel (Wednesday) is the best time to give him that start,” Bochy said.
The Dodgers certainly have more weapons in their lineup than the San Diego Padres, who arrive for the final weekend. But the coaching staff was motivated to ease up on Bumgarner, who is just 24 but has thrown 200 innings for a third consecutive season.
He’s 13-9 with a 2.77 ERA that ranks fifth in the NL. His .203 opponent’s average ranks third, behind Jose Fernandez and Clayton Kershaw, and is the fourth lowest by a starter in Giants history (again, minimum 100 innings). Juan Marichal and Jason Schmidt (twice) are the only pitchers in Giants history to post a lower opponent’s average.
So that’s right: The Giants are replacing a pitcher who posted the fourth lowest OBA in their history with a pitcher who is posting the highest all-time.
And Bumgarner will end the season stuck on 199 strikeouts, too. He’ll miss a chance to become just the fourth left-hander in Giants history to strike out 200 in a season.
The way the Giants see it, they want to make sure he has plenty of chances to do that in the future.
“We talked about it and we just feel it’s been enough for him and he’s had a great year,” Bochy said. “If we were in a different situation, he’d be out there. He’s young and he’s logged 200 innings. It’s a good time not just to give him a rest but to give Zito a start.”
As for Matt Cain, he’s still scheduled to pitch the regular-season finale on Sunday. It’ll be discussed further but Cain, after allowing two home runs in Tuesday night’s 2-1 loss to the Dodgers, said he wants the ball.
Because of the time he missed on the disabled list, he won’t reach 200 innings for the seventh consecutive season. But he did register his eighth straight season with 30 starts, something that only Hall of Famer Carl Hubbell has done in Giants history. Hubbell had nine in a row.
Maybe Bumgarner will have a shot at matching or exceeding that record down the road, too.