Zito hurt by homers to close first half

Zito hurt by homers to close first half

SAN FRANCISCO -- Giants fans were spoiled for the first nine games of their team's final 10 before the All-Star break. They saw Ryan Sadowski's home debut, two more gems from Tim Lincecum and Jonathan Sanchez's no-hitter, and their team won seven times.

That explains why many of the 41,913 at China Basin let Barry Zito have it Sunday, three batters into his 4 1/3-inning start. The third of those Padres to reach base rounded it and kept going, but Kevin Kouzmanoff's three-run home run was just the beginning. San Diego extended its lead to six after former Giant Eliezer Alfonzo also went deep in San Francisco's 10-4 loss.

Zito and his catcher said he missed location on the changeup geared to Kouzmanoff but credited Alfonzo for turning on a first-pitch fastball.

"With great hitters, they don't miss those ones," Bengie Molina said.

Zito (5-9) did not pitch past the sixth inning in six of his last eight starts despite coming off his finest, an 8 1/3-inning performance Tuesday against the Florida Marlins. Asked about his yo-yo-like first half, which he ended with a 5.01 ERA, he used one word, then, in pure Zito fashion, added a few more.

"Inconsistent," he said. "Had some good games. Had some bad games. The goal is consistency."

"It is what it is. I'm not going to keep reliving the past."

The Padres scored four total runs in their three series-opening losses to the Giants this week against Lincecum, Sanchez and Matt Cain -- who were a large part of the starters' 1.47 ERA during the homestand entering Sunday -- before collecting a season-high 10 against Zito.

Manager Bruce Bochy called it an off-day for the lefty, his No. 2 starting pitcher after the four-day break. The skipper kept his postgame comments short, and everyone from his players to his coaches on down to the bat boys were already packing their bags for various places minutes after Sunday's game. But with their first-half success, they may not want to venture too far.

With the loss, the Giants missed grabbing victory No. 50 before the layoff. They did, however, get to 49 at their fastest rate in five years.

"Obviously you want to win for Zito, you want to win for the team and finish strong," said Molina, often the clubhouse's voice of reason. "But now that we lost ... the only thing to do right now is focus on we had a great homestand."

Zito's start ended it. The lefty's final batter, Chase Headley, drove in San Diego's seventh run with a single in the fifth, leaving plenty of work for the bullpen, the day after it logged 7 1/3 innings in Cain's injury-shortened start. Brandon Medders walked a batter and allowed a two-run single, adding on to Zito's finishing line: nine earned runs on 10 hits.

The crowd at AT&T Park got positive after John Bowker hit a solo home run in the fifth against another former Giant, Kevin Correia. Following Edgar Renteria's two-out RBI single in the sixth, Bowker plated his team's third run with a bloop single to center field, kicking Correia (6-7) from the game after 5 2/3 innings.

Bowker, who provided two of few final-game bright spots by notching his first two Major League hits of the season since being recalled Thursday, said he was "anxious" early in his return. Facing big league pitching can do that to a hitter.

"They make those adjustments on you pretty quick," he said. "I got one good pitch to hit and put a good swing on it."

Bowker, alongside in-game additions Kevin Frandsen (single) and Fred Lewis (RBI double), represented a bottom-of-the-order contingent taking good swings into the break. Before leaving for his brief vacation to Lake Tahoe, Bochy remarked how much of a challenge it would be to get them all in the lineup.

Andrew Pentis is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.