The left-hander registered his most dominant outing of the season, allowing just one hit over seven scoreless innings as the Giants cooked the Marlins, 3-0, in the opener of a four-game series.
"What a job he did," San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy said. "Good stuff."
Zito's only blemish was a one-out double by Cody Ross in the fifth. It was Zito's first win in four starts, his fourth scoreless outing of the season and his first untarnished game since May 30.
He did it with a full mix of pitches, as evidenced by the variety of ways by which his eight strikeouts came. Mike Jacobs flailed at a low breaking ball to end the fourth. Scott Olsen couldn't check up on high heat to end the fifth. Alejandro De Aza watched a fastball buzz the inside corner for strike three in the sixth.
"When you're going out there and trying to pitch to a result too much, you lose your process," Zito said. "You need to stay in it and not have the results affect you, and then usually the results will start to happen."
Zito said he was so wrapped up in ignoring the results that he didn't realize until after the game he had only surrendered one hit.
"I knew I was in the windup most of the time," he said. "But it's been a year where I can't be going out there trying to throw no-hitters. For me, it's just about going pitch to pitch, inning to inning. And at the end of the day, you look up and see what happens."
The only thing that hampered Zito was his pitch count -- by the time he got through six innings, he had thrown 103 pitches and gone to a three-ball count seven times. But Zito, whose substandard numbers in the first year of his record contract have been a constant talking point, returned for the seventh and retired the side in order to cap his most scintillating outing as a Giants starter.
"It's got to be tough being in his position with the expectations," Bochy said. "He's had to deal with lot of adversity and questions, but he's handled it great and went out there and just pitched a great ballgame.
"He's been frustrated at times, but he takes the ball every fifth day, goes out there and competes. That's all we can ask."
A little run support helps, too, and Zito got enough to outduel fellow southpaw Scott Olsen. Pedro Feliz's RBI double in the fourth proved to be all the offense the Giants needed.
Barry Bonds didn't homer -- his only ball out of the infield was a line-drive single to right in the fourth -- but he did receive a standing ovation when he stepped in for his first at-bat. Bonds, who sits atop baseball's all-time home run list with 759 career long balls.
The power display instead came from Rajai Davis, whose hot start as a Giants outfielder continued when he went scooped an Olsen breaking ball over the left-field wall in the seventh for his first Major League home run and a 3-0 lead.
"He hit a pretty good pitch, too," Bochy said. "It was down. It was a good adjustment on his part."
Davis' last homer came at Triple-A on June 3, the day before he was called up by the Pirates.
"I'm not going to treat it like it's going to be the only one," Davis said. "I'll treat it like that was the first of many."
And just to add a little flair, Randy Winn made a brilliant diving catch in the right-center-field gap to strand a runner at second in the ninth and preserve the Giants' eighth shutout of the season. That wrapped up consecutive San Francisco victories for the first time this month.
"That's two games that we've played better," Bochy said. "Hopefully, we're building on this and getting on a roll here."
Tom Keller is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.