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Zito wins fourth straight start as Giants beat Diamondbacks

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Associated Press
9/27/2012 8:14:35 PM
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SAN FRANCISCO -- Barry Zito wants to work on his timing, and that will be his focus while preparing for one last regular-season start.

Where he might fit into San Francisco's four-man playoff rotation, the left-hander figures that will take care of itself. No doubt, he has done his part to play a role in the post-season this time around.

Midseason acquisitions Hunter Pence and Marco Scutaro each hit two-run homers in the second inning to back another solid day by Zito, and the NL West champion San Francisco Giants beat Arizona 7-3 Thursday in their regular-season home finale.

Zito (14-8) won his fourth straight start and sixth consecutive decision since a loss Aug. 2. The 2002 AL Cy Young Award winner with Oakland has his most wins since joining the Giants on a $126 million, seven-year contract before the 2007 season.

Zito was left off the post-season roster for all three rounds during the 2010 World Series championship run. The Giants won for the 10th straight game started by Zito.

"I'll just keep going out there and doing my best, and good things will happen," Zito said.

Manager Bruce Bochy said a decision about the fourth spot in the rotation -- likely between Zito and right-hander Ryan Vogelsong -- likely would come down to the end.

"He's done a great job and had a really nice year," Bochy said of Zito. "He's had a really nice year. He's pitched big games for us and is getting wins when we really needed them so many times."

Buster Posey had a pair of singles and took over the lead in the race for the NL batting title at .333. Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen, who was injured and left a game against the Mets, is at .332.

Scutaro's seventh homer extended his career-best hitting streak to 15 games, while Pence connected for his 22nd against Diamondbacks starter Patrick Corbin.

Scutaro was acquired from the Colorado Rockies on July 27 and Pence came from the Phillies three days later -- and both have provided a big boost in the absence of suspended All-Star game MVP Melky Cabrera. They have combined for 80 RBIs since joining the Giants.

Earlier in the day, the Giants made it official: They won't bring back Cabrera at all during the post-season. His penalty for a positive testosterone test covers the final 45 regular-season games and five in the playoffs if the Giants last that long, or into next season.

Cabrera is hitting .346 but will fall one appearance short of qualifying for the batting title after the rule was recently changed by Major League Baseball and the players' union at his request.

"When Melky was suspended, that was a huge blow to everyone, everyone in San Francisco, and certainly everyone in this clubhouse," Zito said. "We knew that we were going to have to pick it up."

Hector Sanchez hit his first career homer at AT&T Park with a solo shot in the eighth. He also added an RBI double and scored on a passed ball in the six-run second. San Francisco matched its season high for runs in an inning, also done Sept. 20 against Colorado.

Zito allowed a leadoff triple to A.J. Pollock -- the first of his career -- on the fourth pitch of the game but then retired the side in order to escape unscathed.

"We haven't played well enough, that's why we're in the position we're in," Arizona manager Kirk Gibson said. "It's disappointing. I don't know what more I can say about it. We had an opportunity to come in here and beat these guys for the series. They're a very good ballclub. This series is just kind of who we've been."

Zito came through again after San Francisco's 6-0 shutout on Wednesday night. The Giants won for the eighth time in 10 games overall, and now finish the year with three games in San Diego and three at Dodger Stadium. The pitcher also had a single for his fourth hit in 50 at-bats.

"Right on the barrel, just like I planned," he quipped.

Brandon Belt had two hits and started in left field, where he could be used in the playoffs on days catcher Posey moves to first base as he did for this game. Angel Pagan doubled and singled.

Zito allowed three runs and six hits in six innings, struck out three and walked three. Bochy has already said the lefty would be on the playoff roster after being left off for all three rounds in 2010.

Sergio Romo pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his 13th save.

Corbin (6-8), who tossed eight impressive innings to beat the Giants in Arizona on Sept. 16, was knocked around for the second straight start and has lost four of his last five decisions.

NOTES: Scutaro is batting .452 (28 for 62) during his hitting streak. ... Gregor Blanco (24th stolen base) and Pagan (29) pulled off a double-steal in the seventh. ... The teams split the season series 9-9. The D-backs were 12-6 vs. the Dodgers but missed a chance for their first winning series vs. both clubs in the same year since 2005. ... The Giants hit three home runs in a home game for just the third time this year. ... San Francisco drew 3,377,371 fans this season, selling out all 81 home dates to give them a streak of 165 consecutive sellouts dating to the final three-game series of 2010. The club topped the 3 million mark for the 11th time in 13 seasons in the waterfront ballpark.

Barry Zito (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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