Giants out to rebound behind Zito

Giants out to rebound behind Zito

Recent baseball history offers many examples of pitchers developing symbiotic relationships with specific catchers, most notably the Greg Maddux-Eddie Perez pairing in Atlanta and Randy Johnson-John Flaherty with the 2005 Yankees.

However, Barry Zito may be the first pitcher who prefers being caught by a third baseman.

Pablo Sandoval, the Giants' regular third baseman and (very) occasional catcher, could be behind the plate on Monday night as the left-hander's batterymate in a key early-season start.

Zito leads off as the Giants host the first of three against the Dodgers, looking for payback after being swept in Los Angeles earlier this month.

Sandoval's only catching assignment this season came last Wednesday -- when he caught Zito's seven shutout innings against San Diego. Zito was also 3-0 last season with Sandoval behind the plate (and 7-17 with someone else); whatever the explanation, manager Bruce Bochy may not want to disrupt that karma.

The fact that Bengie Molina caught all 12 innings of Sunday's loss in Arizona only strengthens the likelihood of a Zito-Sandoval reunion.

Despite the sting of Sunday's loss, in which they surrendered a 4-1 ninth-inning lead, the Giants are in good shape to dent the Dodgers' early-season superiority. San Francisco's muted offense sprang to life against the Diamondbacks, with 34 hits in the three games. And Giants pitchers are still riding a long stretch of excellence, notwithstanding closer Brian Wilson's woes on Sunday.

Though it is only April, putting a few dents in the Dodgers now could affect the National League West race later. Thus far there have been no counter-arguments to the generally held belief that the Dodgers should run away with the division title.

"Dodgers, by 10 games," said one scout who has already seen every team in the division. "I'll be surprised if it goes any other way."

Pitching matchup
SF: LHP Barry Zito (0-2, 5.63 ERA)
Zito is coming off one of his best outings as a Giant, holding the Padres scoreless through seven in Wednesday's 2-0 win. That marked only the sixth time he'd gone at least seven shutout innings in 69 starts for San Francisco. His last win, in his penultimate 2008 start, came in Dodger Stadium. Manny Ramirez, who feeds on lefties, brings out the best in Zito, who has held Ramirez to a lifetime .222 average, though three of his eight hits off Zito have left the park.

LAD: LHP Randy Wolf (1-1, 4.26 ERA)
Wolf had a so-so outing against the Astros his last time out, giving up four runs and eight hits in seven innings, ending up with a no-decision. He will be making his first appearance of the season against the Giants. In 13 games vs. San Francisco, he has gone 6-4 with a 3.70 ERA. He has 67 strikeouts over that span and has issued 32 walks.

Tidbits
Emmanuel Burriss' fifth-inning single off Jon Garland snapped the switch-hitter's 0-for-28 drought batting from the left side. ... Molina (2-for-5) stretched his hitting streak to eight games (13-for-31, .419). ... Reliever Sergio Romo (sprained elbow ligament) threw about 30 pitches off the mound at the Giants' Minor League camp in Scottsdale, and he will continue his rehab either with a bullpen session or in an intrasquad game. ... Look for Rich Aurilia, who has hit safely in his last three starts, to make perhaps two starts in the Dodgers series, with Los Angeles set to throw lefties Wolf and Eric Stults in two of the games.

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Up next
• Tuesday: Giants (Jonathan Sanchez, 1-1, 3.65) vs. Dodgers (Chad Billingsley, 4-0, 2.05), 7:15 p.m. PT
• Wednesday: Giants (Tim Lincecum, 1-1, 2.96) vs. Dodgers (Eric Stults, 2-0, 3.52), 7:15 p.m. PT
• Thursday: Off-day

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