In his last two starts, Zito had given up four home runs, and it didn't take the lefty too much time on Tuesday to rehash his troubles with the long ball. In the first inning, after a double to Mike Trout and a bunt single by Torii Hunter, Albert Pujols hit his 11th home run of the season over the center-field fence to give the Angels (37-32) the early 3-0 lead.
While Zito (5-5) was missing pitches out of the zone and walking batters in his last start, he seemed to get too much of the zone at times. He was leaving balls up and in prime position for Angels hitters to drive.
"He attacked the zone, but got a little too much of it," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "He struggled from the start with that, just making too many mistakes and got us down there pretty quick. He didn't have his good location, but he was being aggressive in the zone. That's what he wanted to do, maybe just was a little wild in the zone tonight."
In his last three starts (all losses), Zito has given up 17 runs, including five homers, in just 14 1/3 innings, raising his ERA from 2.98 to a 4.35.
After somewhat settling down in the second and third innings, allowing just one run, the lefty's night was over in the fourth when he gave up two hits and a walk to load the bases with one out. George Kontos came in and gave up a bases-clearing triple to Mark Trumbo off the tip of Angel Pagan's glove to make the score 8-1.
Even in the loss, his worst since surrendering eight earned runs on July 16 last season, Zito said he felt he did what he wanted to do on the mound. When looking back at the tape in the clubhouse, he said most of the pitches he made where right where he wanted them.
"I felt good out there," Zito said. "I was aggressive. I was prepared the right way. So this is one where I just say, these guys are big leaguers.
"I mean, obviously results are the main deal here, but we can't always go off them every day. So it's basically, was I aggressive? Was I going to make them beat me? That's what you've got to do up here. You can't afford to back down and then try to come back 2-0 every time and get outs."
Though they got down in a 9-1 hole, the Giants battled back to end Angels starter C.J. Wilson's streak of strong outings. The Giants scored all five runs off Wilson (8-4), who allowed more than two runs for the first time in seven starts. Though only three runs were earned, the righty lasted 6 1/3 innings, giving up a season-high 10 hits.
Down, 9-5, after already having scored two runs in the seventh inning, Pablo Sandoval ripped a line drive with two men in scoring position that would have cut the deficit to two, but Pujols made a quick grab at first base to end the inning.
The Giants (38-31) had another chance to close the gap in the eighth inning with men on second and third and one out, but Scott Downs struck out Gregor Blanco, and Ernesto Frieri got Ryan Theriot to fly to right, ending the inning.
"They did all they can to get back in the game, had some good at-bats," Bochy said. "In the seventh, that ball gets by Pujols, it's a different ballgame."
With a single and a double in his first two at-bats, left fielder Melky Cabrera became the fastest San Francisco Giants player to 100 hits, completing the feat in just 291 at-bats. He broke the previous record of 295 at-bats set by Willie Mays in 1958.
During his five-game hitting streak, Cabrera is batting .435 (10-for-23) with one home run and four RBIs. His .369 season average is tied for first in the Majors, and his three hits also gave him his National League-leading 33rd multihit game of the season.
"This guy has been a machine for us. He's been so consistent," Bochy said. "Pretty amazing he's got 100 hits already. It tells you how good he's been."