Giants take positives from loss

Giants take positives from loss

PHOENIX -- At another time, in another year, Wednesday night's 6-4 loss to the Diamondbacks might have frustrated the Giants considerably.

Now, it was just another dent in an already pockmarked season.

The Giants might have preferred to dwell on the positive aspects of their season finale against the National League West leaders -- which actually outnumbered the negatives. It was a promising evening for some younger players, a welcome opportunity for a veteran starved for Major League exposure and a redemptive outing for two embattled relievers.

But Barry Zito's subpar performance offset those highlights. Zito had thrived recently, recording a 1.98 ERA and a .144 opponents' batting average in his previous six starts. His surge ended as he was unable to retire any of the four D-backs he faced in the fifth inning. He departed, having allowed five runs and nine hits.

"I didn't have much out there," Zito said. "Instead of being loose, I was trying to be too fine."

Zito (9-13) doomed himself to his first career sub-.500 finish in his first season with the Giants, although he insisted that this particular distinction won't ruin his offseason.

"There's things that are going to bother me, but not something so specific like that," said Zito, who has admitted that his transition to a new team and the attention generated by his seven-year, $126 million contract affected his approach earlier in the season. "I just pick things from this year and build on them."

In one sense, it was a singular loss for Zito, who fell to 90-5 when he receives at least four runs of support. The Giants scored twice in the first inning and jumped ahead with two more runs in the fifth, but Zito squandered both advantages.

"It's terrible," he said. "You can't go out there and basically give up momentum."

Momentum was in scant supply for the Giants during this 1-5 trip that pitted them against the Padres and D-backs, the NL West's pacesetters.

Despite the loss, it was a promising night for the Giants' youth brigade. Occupying the top two spots in the batting order, Rajai Davis and Kevin Frandsen went a combined 6-for-9 with three runs scored.

It also was a rewarding night for Scott McClain, the 35-year-old rookie who has appeared in only 25 Major League games in 17 professional seasons. McClain went 2-for-4, recording his first multihit game while making only his eighth start in the Majors.

"It's just nice to get in there and get some consistent at-bats," said McClain, who was promoted to the Giants after Triple-A Fresno's season ended.

"He's coming off a great year in Fresno and worked his tail off to this point," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "When you think of Scott, you think of perseverance."

It was McClain's first start since Sept. 10, 2005, while playing for the Cubs -- against the Giants. McClain went 0-for-5 that afternoon and was robbed of a hit by shortstop Omar Vizquel.

"It's funny how things come around like that, especially when you play as long as I have," McClain said.

McClain, who has 262 home runs in 1,636 career Minor League games, nearly hit his first Major League round-tripper as a pinch-hitter Tuesday night by flying out to the right-field wall.

"I thought I had a chance to get it out -- especially here -- the way the ball jumps," McClain said. "The guys told me afterward that when the roof's open, the ball doesn't carry as well."

McClain launched another drive in his first at-bat Wednesday that was caught a few paces in front of the 413-foot marker in right-center field.

Brad Hennessey, who lost his closer role during the trip, appeared to reclaim his form with a perfect eighth inning. Bochy said Hennessey tweaked his mechanics while working with pitching coach Dave Righetti a couple of days ago.

Right-hander Randy Messenger, who retired none of the eight batters he faced in his first two appearances after leaving the disabled list, rescued Zito from a worse fate by stranding D-backs on second and third in the fifth inning.

"He had to feel good about that outing," Bochy said.

At this point, that's sufficient consolation for the Giants.

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.