Zito took a shutout into the eighth inning and the Giants beat their rivals 7-1 on Friday night, slowing the Dodgers’ drive toward a division title.
Molina homered for the second consecutive game, had three hits and drove in four runs to help the Giants snap a four-game skid—along with a seven-game home winning streak by the Dodgers.
“I hate the word spoiler. That means we’re out of it. We’re just trying to win games,” said Giants manager Bruce Bochy, whose team was coming off a four-game sweep by the Diamondbacks.
“Sure, there’s some history here between these two clubs, and we’re going to do all we can to win ballgames. With the fans and the players, there’s added incentive to play well here.”
Despite their fourth loss in 19 games, the Dodgers’ magic number for clinching the division crown was reduced to six because of Arizona’s 3-2 loss at Colorado. Los Angeles leads the Diamondbacks by 3 1/2 games with eight to play. And if the Dodgers don’t close the deal on this six-game homestand, they will have to sweat it out during a three-game set at San Francisco that ends the regular season.
“I’m not that type of player, I’m sorry,” Molina said when asked how much he would like to spoil the Dodgers’ party. “I just go out there and try to win every game I can—not for any reason like that. I’m being honest. I don’t get caught up in that stuff.”
Winding down the worst full season of his nine-year career, Zito (10-16) threw 119 pitches over 7 2-3 innings, allowing a run and six hits while striking out six.
The 2002 AL Cy Young Award winner retired 13 of 14 batters during one stretch before Pablo Ozuna homered with one out in the eighth. The utility second baseman ended a drought of 80 games since his previous homer on Aug. 17, 2006.
Zito, tied for the major league lead in losses, began the season 0-8 with a 6.25 ERA in his first nine starts—including a 5-0 loss at Dodger Stadium on opening day.
“Starting out 0-8 was tough. It wasn’t fun and I wasn’t in a good place,” Zito said. “But it’s important to try to take things that are positive out of a year like this for me. So having a game like this was huge—and going out there next Thursday against Colorado is going to be huge as well. I’m going to take that game very seriously and try to end up on a high note.”
Greg Maddux (7-13) gave up seven runs and nine hits in five innings, preventing the right-hander from getting his 355th career win and breaking a tie with Roger Clemens for eighth place. When Maddux retired Pablo Sandoval on a popup for the second out of the third inning, the four-time Cy Young winner became the 13th pitcher in major league history to reach 5,000 innings.
This was the first matchup between Maddux and Zito, tied for the most starts since 2001 with 272 apiece.
The 29-year-old Zito, one of Oakland’s “Big Three” with Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder, came in with a 5.48 ERA along with an NL-worst 97 walks and 111 runs allowed. The 42-year-old Maddux, one of Atlanta’s “Big Three” with Tom Glavine and John Smoltz, has a 4.31 ERA and will finish with fewer than 10 wins for the first time since 1987.
“They got me,” Maddux said. “I threw a couple of changeups that probably didn’t do what I would have liked them to. They hit some balls that I thought I threw pretty good, and they found holes. I didn’t help us stay in the game.”
Maddux, 1-4 with a 5.71 ERA in six starts since the Dodgers reacquired him from San Diego on Aug. 19, gave up hits to three of his first four batters after pitching seven scoreless innings of two-hit ball last Sunday in a no-decision against Colorado. The third hit was a two-run single by Molina.
“It was big. I mean, Maddux was coming off a great start—seven innings, two hits, no runs—so he was pretty locked in. And to come out and get to him early was huge,” Zito said. “But I didn’t really focus on Maddux. I was just hoping the boys would come out and have good at-bats, which they did. And being able to throw up a couple of zeros early really put the momentum in our corner.”
Sandoval scored right behind Randy Winn on Molina’s hit, leaping sideways to avoid backup catcher Danny Ardoin’s lunging tag following the throw from center fielder Matt Kemp. Maddux and Dodgers manager Joe Torre argued with umpire Alfonso Marquez that the rookie ran out of the baseline, but the call stood.
Former Dodgers leadoff man Dave Roberts made it 3-0 in the second with an RBI single, and the Giants extended the margin to 7-0 during a four-run fifth.
Left fielder Manny Ramirez turned the wrong way on Sandoval’s two-out fly toward the warning track and it went over his head for a two-run double. Molina, in his first season as a full-time cleanup hitter, hit his 15th homer two pitches later to increase career-best RBI total to 92.
“I don’t like talking about being the fourth batter,” Molina said with a laugh. “I don’t see myself as a fourth batter at all. I’m very realistic. I’m doing a job that’s not my type of job. I think I’m more of a fifth or sixth hitter.”
The Giants need nine homers in their final eight games to avoid finishing with fewer than 100 in a non-strike season for the first time since 1980, when Jack Clark and Darrell Evans accounted for 42 of their 80 home runs. … Zito is 100-6 in 127 career starts when getting at least four runs of support. … Dodgers C Russell Martin, 3-for-20 against Zito with seven strikeouts, got the night off.