But the Giants have scored only 11 runs in Zito's nine starts while he has been on the mound. This lack of support continued against White Sox starter Mark Buehrle (2-6), who broke a personal five-decision losing streak, and three relievers.
Hitting coach Carney Lansford called a pregame meeting with position players to review various basics and emphasize the importance of situational hitting. The Giants responded by mustering a sixth-inning run off Buehrle, ending a stretch of 18 consecutive scoreless innings, but that was it for the offense. The Giants again sagged with runners in scoring position, going 1-for-7 in those instances. They're hitting .114 (5-for-44) with runners in scoring position during their four-game losing streak. San Francisco hit into three double plays and left the bases loaded in the seventh inning.
Manager Bruce Bochy, whose team has lost 10 of its last 13 games to fall a season-high 10 games under .500 (17-27), admitted that his hitters are "probably pressing a little bit. You get in this rut we're in right now with these last couple of games and there is a little tendency to try a little too hard."
Infielder Rich Aurilia pointed out that to upgrade their situational hitting, players must adopt the proper mind-set, since batting practice is relatively unchallenging. "Those situations are hard to work on, unless you get in a game," he said.
And once the game ends -- especially one like this -- leave it behind. Aurilia didn't cite any specific teammates, but the 13-year veteran indicated that younger Giants such as Fred Lewis, Daniel Ortmeier, John Bowker and Eugenio Velez can't let a bad at-bat, a bad day or a bad week gnaw at them.
"The thing we need to do, especially with the amount of experience at this level that a lot of our guys have, is not to let this snowball into something bigger," Aurilia said. "They need to realize that they need to go home and forget about what happened today. Because no matter what you do, you're not going to be able to change it. So go home, come back tomorrow and do the job."
Zito did his job, albeit awkwardly. Half of the 28 batters he faced reach base safely. Yet he somehow allowed two runs in five innings despite yielding eight hits and walking six.
"Luckily none of the walks scored, but that's what got me deep into pitches (116) and that's why I had to come out after five innings," Zito said.
Zito stranded 11 runners in his abbreviated performance and earned praise for his stubbornness.
"It was a pretty gutty outing, really," Bochy said.
"That's the ugliest two-run game I've ever seen in my life," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. "Zito was all over the place, but when he had to make a big pitch, he did."
Often that pitch was a curveball. Zito threw several that prompted flashbacks to his 2002 American League Cy Young Award season. Relying on the curve was necessary for Zito, who acknowledged that he had "poor" command of his fastball.
Zito has compiled a 3.94 ERA in his three starts since rejoining the rotation from his bullpen hiatus. Before his demotion, his ERA was 7.53. His improvement has helped ease the sting of his won-loss record.
"I think I got over that a few starts ago," he said. "For me, I want to give the team a chance to win, compete and be aggressive. My last three starts, I'm not satisfied with the results. They're losses [actually, one no-decision]. But I think they're steps in the right direction and I'm feeling better every day."