In the fourth inning of a scoreless game, the Giants had runners at the corners with one out. Pence bounced a ball back to Lynn, who turned to throw to second. His intention: Start an inning-ending play.
But when Lynn turned to fire, shortstop Pete Kozma wasn’t yet near the bag. Lynn threw anyway. The ball hit the unoccupied base and skipped into center.
“He gets an out at first base,” Matheny said, “you’re sitting there with two outs, second and third, and he gets a popup on the next guy.”
Instead, a run scored, and the inning was set up. Lynn issued a two-out walk, then Crawford’s two-run single. When Zito cleverly dropped a bunt down the third base line for an RBI single, the Giants went up 4-0, and Lynn’s night was over.
Zito’s, though, was just beginning. After the second, when he deftly worked out of a second-and-third, no-out jam, he didn’t allow more than one runner in an inning. His slow curveball had bite, and it set up that fastball, a juicy steak just hanging there.
“That high fastball of his, I know it’s not fast,” pitching coach Dave Righetti said. “But he has a way of making guys pop it up or miss it.”
When Bochy finally came to take the ball in the eighth, Zito jogged off the mound to the dugout, where a swarm of grateful, admiring teammates met him.
“We thought he could provide that leadership, and also be the sort of focus of the team, the pitching staff,” said Peter Magowan, the former managing partner of the Giants, who helped sign Zito. “It didn’t work out as anybody had hoped, I’m sure as he had hoped, as we had hoped.”
For one night, it worked out just fine. In the visiting clubhouse afterward, music thumped through the speakers. Grown men made their way to Zito’s locker for emphatic embraces. How does this fit in with the journey?
“It’s hard to sum it up in one answer,” Zito said. “It’s just a plethora of things that I’ve done and gone through here with the Giants.”
Barry Zito’s baseball life might not be perfect. But Friday night, it was pretty darn good.