Zito aims to extend roll in series finale

Zito aims to extend roll in series finale

SAN FRANCISCO -- Ask a Major League manager, and he'll probably tell you the No. 1 thing he wants his starting pitchers to do is give his team a chance to win.

Did somebody say Barry Zito?

Zito's record is just 1-2 overall, but the Giants have won each of his past four starts entering Wednesday's series finale vs. the Nationals. During that span he's been next to untouchable, posting a 1.37 ERA. He's coming off his first win of the year, a 3-1 victory over the Dodgers. He gave up one run on eight hits over five innings, striking out five and walking two.

"It's huge," Zito said of being a part of those four wins. "Personal accolades are great, but it's about the team, it's about giving the team a chance to win. Two of those ballgames we won 1-0 in extra innings. That's huge.

"That sometimes almost feels better to be part of when you know that you're the guy that went out there for seven and held them down and then we eventually got the momentum in our favor and got a run. For team morale, that feels better than blowing a team out."

Zito said his confidence is soaring but that that's nothing new.

"Confidence always precedes success," Zito said. "I've been feeling pretty confident ever since Spring Training. My first two games statistically weren't great, but I felt really good out on the mound.

"I told people that after those two games. They probably thought it was lip service, but I said results will show themselves because I know how I felt. I feel good. I just want to keep attacking."

Zito hasn't recorded wins in back-to-back starts since Aug. 18 and 23 last season. That's the only time he accomplished that last season. During his Cy Young season in 2002 with the A's, he had one stretch where he won six consecutive starts. Not a loss or even a no-decision marred that stretch.

Does Zito feel another streak coming on?

"I don't know how games are going to play out," Zito said. "Getting caught up in results is what led to last year's scuffles. I just know that I'm going to stay as focused as possible and stay with my approach, and if I do that consistently, it will probably end up with good results."

Pitching matchup
SF: LHP Barry Zito (1-2, 3.57 ERA)
Not long ago, a strong outing from Zito would be regarded as an aberration. Now it's considered almost routine. Zito has thrived in his last four starts, posting a 1.37 ERA in that span. More importantly, the Giants have won each of those games, though Zito earned the decision just once. Zito's resurgence bodes well for him and the Giants, since he's typically a second-half pitcher. Entering this year he was 53-57 with a 4.14 ERA lifetime before the All-Star break and 70-36, 3.47 afterward.

WSH: RHP Shairon Martis (4-0, 4.67 ERA)
Six days after pitching the first complete game of his career, Martis lasted only 5 1/3 innings Friday, but it was good enough to help the Nationals defeat the Diamondbacks, 5-4, at Chase Field. Martis allowed three of the four runs on nine hits, while striking out six batters and walking two. What made this start impressive was that Martis was able to get out of jams. For example, after Chris Young tripled home Felipe Lopez to cut the lead to 4-2 with no outs in the fifth inning, Young was left stranded at third. Martis struck out Justin Upton and Mark Reynolds and got Josh Whitesell to fly out to right fielder Austin Kearns. The entire season has been good for Martis, 22. He now leads the Nationals with four wins, which ranks second in the National League.

Left fielder Fred Lewis was out of the starting lineup Tuesday night because of a sore big left toe. Randy Winn moved from right to left, and Nate Schierholtz started in right. According to Giants manager Bruce Bochy, Lewis injured the toe while catching a fly ball in foul territory Monday night. "He told me last night it was pretty sore," Bochy said Tuesday. "And so we checked him early before we did the lineup. That's why he's getting the night off." Bochy said he expects Lewis to return to the starting lineup Wednesday. Last season, Lewis was slowed by a painful bunion on his right big toe. The bunion was surgically removed on Sept. 12. This was his first day off of the season. ... Bengie Molina walked for the first time this season Tuesday, with two outs and one on in the first inning. ... The Giants improved to 14-0 when scoring first. ... The Giants extended their winning streak against the Nationals to nine games. ... Winn continued his hot streak Tuesday, going 2-for-4, and has nine hits in has past 14 at-bats.

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Up next
• Thursday: Giants (Jonathan Sanchez, 1-3, 4.78) vs. Mets (John Maine, 3-2, 4.54), 7:15 p.m. PT
• Friday: Giants (Tim Lincecum, 3-1, 3.25) vs. Mets (Livan Hernandez, 3-1, 5.08), 7:15 p.m. PT
• Saturday: Giants (Randy Johnson, 3-3, 5.89) vs. Mets (Johan Santana, 4-2, 0.78), 1:10 p.m. PT

Eric Gilmore is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.