Giants notch Majors-best 16th shutout

Giants notch Majors-best 16th shutout

CINCINNATI -- Barry Zito has collected an admirable number of victories since the All-Star break. He just hasn't kept all of them for himself.

Wednesday night resulted in another Giants triumph that Zito set up but didn't secure. He allowed a mere two hits in six innings before disappearing for a pinch-hitter as manager Bruce Bochy attempted to generate offense. It finally came in the eighth inning, when Nate Schierholtz doubled home Edgar Renteria to lift the Giants past the Cincinnati Reds, 1-0.

Sergio Romo (4-2) pitched 1 2/3 perfect innings to receive the decision and Brian Wilson's 30th save sealed the Giants' third victory in a row and fourth in their last five games. But it was Zito, the much-maligned millionaire, who did the most to fashion San Francisco's Major League-high 16th shutout.

"We won the game because of him and the effort he gave us," Bochy said.

Zito has recorded a 2.36 ERA in seven starts since the All-Star break, best among Giants starters. Tim Lincecum owns a 2.49 ERA in this stretch, followed by Matt Cain (2.78) and Jonathan Sanchez (4.04). More importantly for the Giants, they're 5-2 in Zito's starts since the break. He's 3-2 personally.

It goes without saying that the Giants just might achieve their goal of reaching the postseason should they keep winning behind Zito at this rate.

Asked about leaving Great American Ball Park without the "W" by his name in the box score, Zito said, "It doesn't matter. These games are like playoff games, in a sense, where it's not about individual achievement anymore. We're in a race. It's about the team getting a win every day, no matter how it happens."

The Giants needed this win to remain one game behind Colorado in the National League Wild Card standings.

Skeptics could say that Zito preyed upon a weak Reds batting order. Second baseman Brandon Phillips was the only member of Cincinnati's Opening Day lineup he faced. First baseman Joey Votto, the Reds' best hitter, left the game after a half-inning with blurry vision.

"It was big not having him in there. That was a surprise," Zito said.

Then again, confronting unknown hitters left Zito unable to set them up.

"You don't really know a guy's tendencies," he said, "so you just go to your strengths."

Every pitch in Zito's repertoire qualified as an asset. After rain delayed the game's start for 40 minutes, Zito no-hit Cincinnati for 4 2/3 innings until Adam Rosales punched a check-swing single to right field. The only other hit off Zito was Drew Stubbs' bloop double with one out in the sixth.

All Zito derived from his excellence was a tie. Reds starter Bronson Arroyo, coming off a two-hit shutout of Washington, blanked the Giants through seven innings. This was nothing new for Zito, who has received the lowest run support in the Major Leagues. It was the ninth time San Francisco has been blanked this season with Zito on the mound.

If Zito was bothered by the continuation of this trend, he didn't show it.

"I don't think there's any rhyme or reason," he said. "I think it's coincidence."

The Giants' at-bat in the seventh finished Zito, as Aaron Rowand singled and Juan Uribe doubled with two outs. With a pair of runners in scoring position, Bochy had no choice but to summon a pinch-hitter for Zito. That turned out to be Fred Lewis, who flied out.

Zito returned to the dugout from the on-deck circle without complaint.

"I even told Boch going out, 'I understand the situation,'" he said.

The situation improved for the Giants one inning later against Arroyo (11-12). Renteria singled with one out and raced home as Schierholtz lined a 1-2 pitch toward the left-center-field gap.

"I thought it might have a chance to be caught," Schierholtz said.

Reds left fielder Wladimir Balentien indeed appeared to have a play on the ball, but missed it as he dove for it. The ball proceeded to the wall, enabling Renteria to score easily.

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