Due to the All-Star break and the nuances of the pitching rotation, this was Zito's second start in July. Given his 3-1 mark and 1.80 ERA in his last four outings, the Giants should feel thankful that he'll work more regularly as the season progresses.
The specter of the Giants' last trip, which resulted in a 1-5 record in Washington and Pittsburgh, lingered in the background as they opened this journey. Zito just happened to receive the decision in that lone win, making him the right man for the job in this opener against the Braves.
The Giants can cherish their Division Series triumphs here in 2002 and 2010. But in the regular season, they had built a 19-39-1 record since Turner Field opened in 1997. Zito started and lasted seven innings in their only previous shutout victory in this ballpark, a 5-0 conquest on Aug. 18, 2008. This time, he surrendered three hits and didn't allow a runner to reach scoring position until Freddie Freeman doubled with two outs in the seventh.
Zito (8-6) improved to 4-0 with a 1.64 ERA here as the National League West-leading Giants lengthened their winning streak to four games.
"I think it's coincidence," Zito said of his Turner Field success. "Sometimes you feel good and you end up at the same park a lot."
This also was the Giants' second shutout victory of the season on the road. The first one was Zito's complete-game effort at Colorado on April 8, which was preceded by a season-opening three-game sweep administered by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Giants manager Bruce Bochy attributed these necessary victories to Zito's mettle, not just coincidence.
"He's tough. I mean mentally tough," Bochy said. "He's done a great job for us."
"We all want to be out there when the team's scuffling a little bit," said Zito, who shook off the effects of a bacterial infection that sickened him during the All-Star break. "We all want to be the stopper."
History demonstrated that this was a truly rare triumph for the Giants. According to Bay Area statistician David Feldman, they hadn't engineered a shutout victory this lopsided vs. the Braves since Sept. 29, 1976, when John "The Count" Montefusco pitched a no-hitter in a 9-0 triumph at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, the Braves' previous home.
The Braves' seven-game winning streak was no match for Zito's mastery.
"I didn't know they were on a roll, actually. It's probably better," he said with a faint smile.
Said Atlanta second baseman Dan Uggla, "He mixes it up and still has a good curveball. He just picks and picks and picks. He made pitches when he needed to and kept us off balance all night."
Batting .071 at the time, Zito even contributed an RBI single to the six-run fourth inning that settled matters for the Giants.
The biggest hit in that uprising belonged to Posey, who lashed a bases-loaded double off reliever Luis Avilan to deliver three runs. Posey announced his presence earlier with a pair of run-scoring hits off starter Jair Jurrjens (3-3), a first-inning double and a third-inning single. Posey generated both hits on two-strike counts with two outs.
"He doesn't panic," Bochy said, explaining Posey's productivity in such situations.
A native of Leesburg, Ga., Posey made his only previous Turner Field visit in 2010 and endured the pressure that befalls many players when they return anywhere near home to perform before friends and relatives. He entered Tuesday batting .095 (2-for-21) lifetime against the Braves, including .091 (1-for-11) here. But Posey obliterated those numbers in the first four innings -- as did the rest of the Giants, who ignored their season-long struggles with runners in scoring position to go 7-for-14 in those situations.
"I think I was a little more relaxed, for sure," Posey said.